Reflecting on Eternity….

Rain has been pouring down for twelve days start. While I’m less than thrilled, the plants absolutely love it. So I was drawn to this photo of a Japanese princess flower, taken by my friend Carole. I love the vibrant color, and the drops of moisture caught in the petals. This striking flower grows on a vine-like evergreen. Even when the flowers are not in bloom, you are treated to beautiful foliage. Carole took a lot of time and care to take this photo. She had to let go of everything else but that moment, and immerse herself in her quest. The flower drew her in, and the rest of the world and time as we know it melted away. Some scholars call eternity the simultaneous now, meaning that God is not governed by the arrow of time. It’s as if the Author of Creation lives in a vast mansion, with each room representing a moment in human history. So eternity intersects with our human condition in the here and now. Perhaps the cross is a symbol of this intersection, with the horizontal portion representing the human condition of linear time, and the vertical portion representing the eternal, simultaneous now. When we let go of the past and stop fretting about the future, we empty our souls before the Holy of Holies. We leave behind the arrow of time and briefly enter into eternity. We have all experienced such breathtaking moments, when we are overwhelmed by emotion or awed by incomprehensible beauty. Take time today to let random beauty or kindness draw you in. Linger in that moment and the eternal now, emptying yourself to everything but that experience. Pause to cultivate a breathtaking moment, and transform your daily routine into an eternal, vibrant blessing. Photo by Carole Buckwalter © 2011

Advertisements

Reflecting on Discipline…..

It’s another grey day, and I am so tempted to stay in bed. Even our dog isn’t sure about getting up and going out. So I was drawn to this photo taken by my sister Lana of my niece Natalie playing water polo. She looks so strong, with her upper torso above the water, intently aiming the ball before releasing it. Her opponent is rushing toward her, to foil the play. I don’t know how good of a swimmer you are, or if you have ever tread water for an extended period of time. It’s harder than it looks, and these students are playing a game while managing to remain afloat. Yet they didn’t simply show up at the pool the day of the game. They practiced and built up skills over time, learning ways to conserve energy and maintain balance, working together toward a common goal. At the same time, they are learning the value of discipline, commitment, persistence. It seems to me that prayer is a lot like water polo. There is a strength and sense of balance that comes with daily practice. The commitment to prayer, day in, day out, prepares us to pray in times when life seems impossible. As we pray for others, we become part of a team, an impenetrable fortress filled with prayer warriors. We see how God answers the prayers of others, and our faith is renewed and strengthened by others that pray for us. When difficult times descend upon us, we not only remain afloat, we rise above temptation and persevere. Take time today to offer a simple prayer for those you know and love, and for those you encounter. Let go of your idea of what prayer should be, and allow your prayers to take their own form. Take on the discipline of prayer today, and every day, and you’ll be amazed at how it will strengthen your heart and soul. Photo by Lana Sarchiapone

Reflecting on Distraction….

The leaves are beginning to turn and the ground is losing its green hue, even in the midst of so much rain. The air has an earthy smell, of damp soil and decay. Yet there is so much life if you look for it. So I was drawn to this photo of a young deer by my friend Alexz. The deer is headed in one direction as it gazes back in another direction. The meadow grass is almost as tall as its back, blending in with the deer’s coloring. Without a careful look, it would be easy to miss this deer. How often are we heading in one direction while looking in another? Or thinking about everything except what we are doing right now? We leave home without something we badly need during the day. There can be times when we are so distracted we leave behind something essential, like a passport when departing on an overseas trip. We can become curt and impatient with others, through no fault of their own. We are simply frustrated that we allowed ourselves to become distracted. Psalm 42 begins with the image of a deer, saying our souls yearn for the Lord in the same way the deer longs for cool, clear water. The psalmist is downcast, he longs for the Lord because he has lost his sense of purpose, his true north. He fondly recalls days spent in the House of the Lord, full of joy and contentment. He calls out to God, asking for direction, putting his hope in the Lord. Take time today to focus on what is truly important to you. Don’t get ahead of yourself, just complete what you need to do right now. Write down what needs to be done later, and let go of it until then. Sanctify your work, making all you do a form of prayer, allowing the cool, clear water of God to flow through you and direct you. And even when you aren’t looking where you’re going, you know God is. Photo by Alexz Jade

Reflecting on Connection….

It’s another misty morning here in Virginia. On days like this, it’s easy to understand why our mountains are called the Blue Ridge. So I was drawn to this amazing photo taken by my friend David. While the sky clears and the sun sets, fog still clings to the rolling hills. Our area is bisected by tall towers that carry power to Pennsylvania and beyond. The towers raise more than a little controversy, and most folks mention their presence with disdain. Yet David entitled this photo ‘Electric Angels’. In what others find a nuisance, he finds reassurance. He is not alone. Another friend, Bryan Jacobs, sings ‘Jesus on the Mainline’, as the last track of his blues album ‘Remington Steel’. Both men express our deep seated need to connect. Our hearts crave connections to one another, and to God. When we lack that connection, we don’t just lose God, we lose ourselves. The tiniest frustration becomes devastating, and we are paralyzed by the smallest setback. Yet all it takes is a single sigh, an upturned look, a muffled cry. Christ is always there, whether we know it or not, waiting for us to plug back in. We may feel as though we have been sidetracked, but Christ calls us back onto the mainline, the central artery of life. Take time today to tap into God’s power line. Call out to Christ and allow the Holy Spirit to fill your heart and feed your soul. Join Jesus on the mainline, and leave your blues behind. Photo by David Buckwalter © 2011

Reflecting on Fog….

As one rainy day follows another, our morning fog rivals the fog we met in the English countryside. So I was drawn to this photo taken by my friend Sarah in the Amazon. I love how the tree in the foreground stands out, so distinct in contrast to the misty scenery in the background. I can imagine certain sounds being muffled, while other sounds are amplified or distorted. The boat seems so inviting, offering a chance to float aimlessly on calm waters. Fog offers an invitation to turn inward, to let go of the long view and soak in the here and now. My grandmother used to say that fog was a blanket God used to cover a corner of the world. It’s almost as if God is inviting you to pull up the covers and hit the snooze button one more time. Yet there is such temptation to rush out of the house and through our day. We speed up only to be caught at the next red light along with everyone else, or cut off someone to get a parking space a few feet closer to the door. We want everything to add up just so, for all the facts to line up and make perfect sense. The true essence of life defies such simple bookkeeping. Our hearts are regulated by a more subtle and complex arithmetic. The greater truth lies in embracing the mystery, and accepting that our view is limited, and often obscured. Only the Most High sees all and understands all. Take time today to turn inward, to lead with your heart rather than with your mind. Allow the mystery of life to enfold you, and thank God for your blessings, for those who fill your life with love. Feel free to pour out your heart in prayer, knowing that the fog that surrounds you is simply a wonderful, mysterious blanket of God’s love. Photo by Sarah Gulick

Reflecting on Struggle….

Another band of showers is blowing through our area this morning. A slow and steady rain is soaking our deck and yard. It is one of those days when staying in bed and curling up with a good book seems like the best option. So I was drawn to this photo taken by my friend Laura. It seems like most restaurants have these claw machines near the entrance. To win, you must position the claw over the desired prize, drop the claw to grasp it, then raise the claw and drop it over the exit chute. Of course, all these tasks must be performed on a time limit. I don’t know about you, but I have never seen anyone win a prize. It seems to me that life can be a lot like this claw machine. We try the same things over and over again, expecting a different answer this time. We rely on our own efforts, hoping at last we will be wiser or faster or simply lucky. We set up time limits, and add even more pressure to difficult situations. Yet we encounter so much in life that defies a human solution. We overestimate our ability to control the world around us, setting ourselves up as God. Perhaps what we truly struggle against is letting go of control. Yet when we do, the divine solution is more than we can ever hope for, or even imagine. God offers a way out that satisfies all, answering all of our prayers. Take time today to let go of what burdens your soul. Let go of your current situation or problem, and let God guide you and guard your heart. Allow the answers to unfold in God’s time, not yours. And when you are tempted to take back control, remember this silly claw machine. Photo by Laura Walters

Reflecting on Calm….

Last night the cooler weather sent storms blowing through our area. As the rain subsided, the heavy clouds reflected the beautiful autumn sunset. So I was drawn to this photo of the early evening sky taken by my friend Ginnie. The clouds seem to go on forever, with the colors so bright that even the trees in the foreground can’t obscure our vision. Sometimes life seems to consist of nothing but storms. We get so caught up in one crisis after another that it can become a bad habit. There can even be days when we’ll manufacture a crisis if life doesn’t conveniently provide one. Yet in the midst of even the most discouraging predicaments, we can carve out time to be calm, to enjoy the beauty between the storms. Last night, as the rain turned the evening commute into a quagmire, my daughter Tori and I waited out the storm in one of our favorite restaurants, eating comfort food. By the time we made our way home, the traffic had cleared out and the skies were ablaze with color. Perhaps the commuters did not have the luxury of stopping. Being stuck in traffic must feel a lot like the disciples caught in the storm while Christ slept. Yet when the disciples called out, Christ calmed not only the storm, but their fears as well. Take time today to look for the beauty that surrounds you, to listen to your favorite music, or read a book. Give yourself permission to pause and enjoy a favorite pastime. Call out to Christ, and allow the healing power of God to conquer your fears and calm your storm. Photo by Virginia Hendrix

Reflecting on Steadfast Love….

Six of our old oak trees were felled this past week. I will especially miss the large tree close to our back deck, a tree that provided such welcome shade. Yet what was once a hardy oak tree had become a danger to our home. So I was drawn to this photo taken by my friend Leigh. She is an amazing quilter, creating art out of what others would consider simply scraps. This bunny reminds me of the book The Runaway Bunny, written by Margaret Wise Brown. This beautifully illustrated book was one of my daughter Tori’s favorites as a small child. Each time the bunny runs away from the mother, the mother responds “”if you run away, I will run after you”. Some consider the book a testament to a mother’s undying love, while others consider the story an allegory of the soul being pursued by God. No matter where we go, no matter how far we stray from the path provided for us, God will be there. This children’s story captures the essence of Psalm 139, in a way that all of us can understand. Many years ago, our parish made a quilt for our priest’s 25th wedding anniversary. Each of us made a block with scripture about love. In researching the Bible verses, I almost always found the phrase ‘steadfast love’. Steadfast means assured, continuous, fixed in purpose, unwavering. No matter what, God loves us. God’s love does not depend on our accomplishments, or our kindness, or loving God in return. Like the runaway bunny, we may seek to wander off, only to learn God has been with us all along. Take time today to rest in God’s steadfast love. For just a moment, stop running away, stop running at all. Pause to take in your surroundings, to simply be in the moment. In a world where nothing remains the same, allow yourself to be comforted by steadfast love. Photo and quilt by Leigh Hooper Darcy

Reflecting on the Path Ahead….

Autumn has definitely arrived, with rainy evenings and cool, clear mornings. The ground is soaked and almost spongy. So I was drawn to this photo taken by my friend Carole of a path at Montpelier. There is nothing like rain to make the orange soil of Virginia look even more orange, and the bark on the trees look almost black. The equestrian fence that lines this path has been blackened with ash, echoing the color of the bark. The leaves and grass are so bright you could almost mistake this picture for a spring scene. Yet we must remember this stark contrast was created by a storm. As Christians, we are promised abundant life, a life full of not only contentment and satisfaction but also of frustrations and disappointments. We are called to live that life to the fullest, to open our hearts to what the path ahead brings. There will be days of joy and days of sadness. We cannot close our hearts to one without losing the other. Yet how often do we succumb to this temptation, or know others that do? We can even fall into the Pit called depression, shutting down and withdrawing from emotional engagement. Depression is not sadness, depression is overarching, long standing, seemingly impossible to shake. Sometimes depression is brought on by life events, or a series of stressful circumstances. It’s almost as if the path is lost, and life is played out on the sidelines. Some believe the apostle Paul suffered from depression, that depression is the ‘thorn in his side’, not physical illness. Yet this is the same Paul who established the early church and wrote or contributed to a large portion of the New Testament. Take time today to listen to your heart, to claim the promise of abundant life. Pay attention to how you feel inside, and consider the path ahead. And remember that sometimes that path is best informed by the storms we experience in life. To quote the famous author Willa Cather, ‘There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm’. Photo by Carole Buckwalter © 2011

Reflecting on the Day After….

Thunderstorms rolled through the area last night, moving on and leaving us with a picture perfect September day. Many churches, including ours, offered special services in remembrance of September 11th. So I was drawn to this photo of the twin towers taken by my husband Mark over twenty years ago. On a day trip to New York City, we went to the top of one of the towers. The view of the city skyline was amazing. As we left, Mark lay down on the ground and took this photo looking up. He said it was the only way to take it all in. So today, the day after the anniversary, I wonder if looking up is the only way to take it all in. There is no human answer to what happened, or why it happened. We were living in the north of England on September 11, 2001. It was surreal to be so far away when something so frightening was happening here at home. Yet perhaps God provided us another view of what it means to live beyond terrorism. The English have long dealt with this fact of life. Our family was surrounded by love, with folks we barely knew asking after us and making sure we were comforted so far from home. Flowers were left at the gate of the post, or tucked into the fencing. What I heard most, or perhaps remember most, was the firm resolve that only love could conquer such fear. I used to think that hate was the opposite of love. Now I believe that fear is the opposite, or perhaps the absence of love. Love is like a light that blots out the darkness of fear. Yet such love is only possible through faith in God. Take time today to choose love over fear, to shine light on someone in darkness. Open your heart to their story and allow yourself to be vulnerable. And remember to look up, it’s the only way to take it all in. Photo by Mark Lindsey

Previous Older Entries

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 702 other followers