Reflecting on Mist….

It’s a wet, grey day. The rain seems to be cycling through, alternating between drenching and a fine mist. Everything is shrouded in light fog, forcing you to look closely to see anything at all. So I was drawn to this photo of electrical towers by my friend David. I love how the base of the towers can be seen more clearly than the top. The part that is grounded is within easy reach, while we must take time to see the part that reaches for the sky. How often do we settle for what we can readily attain, without making the effort to dig deeper? The dishes and clothes need washing, the bills need paying, not to mention our work outside the home. We convince ourselves we are too tired to bother, that there isn’t time for anything else. Yet we can find time for the computer, or games on our phone, or the television. We tune out instead of plugging in to the true power source. Our God is vast beyond imagining, sovereign over all creation, more powerful than our meager efforts combined. When I first went to see Sister Louise, my spiritual director for many years, I complained about how everything was out of control, how there simply were not enough hours in the day. Gently, persistently, she encouraged me to pray, not using flowery words or a prescribed routine, but by simply emptying my mind to make room for God. On the next visit, I explained the best I could do was two minutes of silence. Twenty years later, I am still encouraged by her reply, ‘That is an eternity to God. The Almighty can do a lot with 120 seconds’. Take time today to be still and rest in God’s love. Plug into the true power source by unplugging from the busy-ness of life. And remember, whatever time you give, no matter how brief, is an eternity to God. Photo entitled ‘Vaporous’ by David Buckwalter


Reflecting on Waiting….

What glorious weather we had last weekend! It’s hard to believe it is almost December, especially after the freak snow storm last month. So I was drawn to this beautiful photo of the lake house view taken by my friend Joseph. I love how the early morning sun lights up the clouds and the surface of the lake, bathing everything in vibrant color. There are many mornings when I would rather roll over and sleep in, than rise to see the early morning light. Yet I sacrifice the in between time, the hush before the start of the day. Life begins at home in this tranquil, serene, in between time, not when we rush out of the house to arrive at work. That quiet time is hard to come by these days, when we are all overscheduled and overwhelmed by the conflicting demands of life. We rush onto the next task, skipping over things we meant to do, and often need to do. We even skip over Advent and start Christmas the day after Thanksgiving. We must be reminded that our church calendar begins with Advent, a time of expectations, of preparation, of quiet reflection. When we celebrate Advent, we find Christmas is worth waiting for. To quote the Reverend Canon Susan Goff, “When we wait, God breaks through in unexpected ways to bless and renew us. [Waiting] is not a hollow barrenness that is just killing time until something better comes along. Our waiting, instead, is pregnant, expectant, charged and filled with blessings that will, in God’s time, be revealed.” Take time today to wait upon the Lord, to make space for God in those in between times. Expect God in the midst of unexpected delays. Allow stillness to soak into your soul and to fill your heart. And remember as you wait that Christ’s life began to change his mother Mary long before he was placed in the manger. Photo by Joseph Syzdek

Reflecting on Gratitude….

The sun has chased away the damp early morning, casting long shadows and highlighting the brilliant fall colors. So I was drawn to this amazing photo by Jimmy Turner, Senior Director of Gardens at the Dallas Arboretum. You are looking at a mosaic made of pumpkins and squash, part of their Cinderella Village. I love the texture and patterns, subtly and playfully wrapping around one another. Jimmy’s mosaic points to the greater splendor of our surroundings, the whimsical beauty of creation. God pours out his love all around us, calling out to us to see, and hear, and smell. We can simply pass on by, too busy to notice what has been placed right in front of us, or let nature draw us into deeper communion with the Almighty. When we embrace the bounty of our world, our hearts swell with gratitude and love. I don’t know about you, but I see what Jimmy has created as a powerful form of prayer. The squash may not last, but the effects of creating the mosaic will. Take time today with nature, to focus on a single leaf or the intricate detail of a pumpkin. Let everything else melt away, to make space in your soul for God. Open your heart to see the world anew, and allow the healing balm of the ultimate Physician to renew your soul. And remember to thank God for the blessing of this life, today and always. Mosaic entitled ‘Pumpkin Posies in a Pot’ by Jimmy Turner with Rosemary Teo and Lee Harms, photo by Jimmy Turner. To see more,

Reflecting on Vision….

It’s a wet morning, with the distant view shrouded in mist and fog. I found myself focusing on the last of the leaves, spiraling downward in the wind and rain. So I was drawn to this photo taken by my friend David. Just like this morning, only the leaf in the foreground is in focus. The background is obscured, a blur of radiant color. How often do we hear ‘don’t miss the forest for the trees’? How can we focus on a single leaf if we are cautioned against looking at the whole tree? My grandmother used to say fog was a blanket God used to cover the world, a call to let go of the bigger picture and turn inward. On days like today, she would move more deliberately, slowing her pace and pausing to drink in the here and now. We become so accustomed to looking ahead, to worrying about the next ten items on our ‘to do’ list, that we lose sight of today. Perhaps we are reluctant to turn inward, concerned there are too many skeletons waiting for us there. It’s easier to rush around, to keep busy, to lose ourselves in a false sense of accomplishment. It’s better to leave the depths of our souls lost in the shadows. It’s all simply more than we can handle. Yet true healing involves one step at a time. If we trust a healing has been prepared for us, we also must believe that healing is custom made for us. The human way calls us to take on too much, all at once. The divine way is patient, measured, persistent. The same God that is, and was, and always will be, offers a healing that is more than we can imagine or hope for. Take time today to pause and appreciate the simple things in life, a hot cup of tea, a wet stone, the last leaves of autumn. Allow what you see to turn your vision inward. Plunge the depths of your soul, allowing the Holy Spirit to shed light into the dark corners of your heart. And remember God is taking care of the forest, so you can focus on one leaf at a time. Photo by David Buckwalter © 2011, used with permission

Reflecting on Resurrection….

It’s a dreary fall day, so I am glad we took the opportunity to go hiking last week. School was out for election day, and the weather was remarkable. We headed up to Shenandoah National Park, a short drive from our home. While my daughter and her boyfriend were scurrying over rocks, I encountered this unusual tree on the path. I was surprised to see how the branches had recovered from so severe of a pruning, growing straight up instead of continuing along their natural curve. Perhaps the branch had be removed to clear the path. Then I noticed the matching branch on the opposite side, and finally saw how these branches formed a cross. Yet there was more than just a cross. I was looking at resurrection, renewal, continuing life. This tree chose to grow upward, to respond to the struggles of life through rebirth. Rather than continue on the same old path, this tree had changed direction and flourished. I don’t know about you, but I believe the greatest good news of the Gospel is this – we don’t get what we deserve. The wages of sin are death, and we all sin. I know sin is not a popular topic these days, so bear with me. We sin when we fall short, when what we attempt to accomplish is less than perfect. We sin when we hurt others, intentionally, and yes, even unintentionally. We hurt those closest to us; we compromise our relationships with one another and with God. We are comfortable with ‘to err is human’, but are unwilling to accept that to err is to sin. So I take comfort in knowing I do not get what I deserve, in knowing that our Savior conquered sin and death on the cross. Take time today to confess your sins, to repent and grow in a new direction. Accept God’s endless forgiveness and learn to forgive yourself through the healing power of the Holy Spirit. Claim the promise of resurrected life, today and every day. And remember to start your prayer as the Benedictines taught us, ‘today, we begin again’. Photo by Connie Chintall

Reflecting on Military Service….

Four years ago my daughter’s middle school class offered a touching and memorable ceremony to honor our veterans. We live near Washington, DC, so many active duty military were present. A letter was sent home asking if family members would like to be included in the ceremony. That day I did not ask to be remembered, although I served 11 years on active duty and another 6 in the reserves. Instead, I asked my father to be remembered for his time in the Navy during World War II. My father’s health was declining and he had limited energy on the best of days. Yet he chose to stand through most of the ceremony, to honor the children who chose to honor him. The band played patriotic songs and a medley of service marches spurred a friendly rivalry. Then a number of students took the stage one by one. Each student briefly offered their particular hope or dream, to become a doctor, or a fire fighter, or ballet dancer. Then they thanked the veterans for giving them the chance to live out their dreams. My father had admired a number of quilts that lined the walls, each block made by the students to reflect an American value. Much to his surprise, he went home with one of those quilts, deeply touched by the personal nature of this tribute. We did not know it at the time, but that was Dad’s last Veteran’s Day. Take time today to thank a veteran for serving our country, for wounds seen and unseen. Consider the impact of their service and sacrifices on your life, each and every day. And remember to pass on the stories of those who have gone before us, for we stand on the shoulder of giants. Photo by David Buckwalter © 2011

Reflecting on Color….

It’s brilliant, sunny autumn morning. The leaves remaining on the trees are alive with color, simply vibrant in the early morning light. So I was drawn to this photo by my friend Carole, entitled ‘Autumn on Fire’. I love the contrast between the dangling branch, full of yellow and orange leaves, and the green fields in the background. The colors seem to jump out at you, refusing to be ignored. This morning I am enjoying the bright, over the top, colors. I am well rested, taking advantage of the extra hour of sleep after daylight savings time. Yet there are days when these same bright colors seem to exhaust me, offering more than I can take in. Rather than feeling included, part of the scene, I feel intruded upon, almost assaulted. I can feel the same way about social situations. There are times when I thrive on social interaction, and others when I would prefer to be alone, curled up in front of the fire with a good book. Where is the tipping point between inclusion and intrusion? When does reaching out becomes trespassing? Perhaps the answer varies from person to person, and day to day. Difficult circumstances can lead one person to seek the company of others, while another prefers to be alone. We must listen with all of our being, with our hearts, and souls and minds, to know what to say, or whether to say anything at all. We want to do something, to fix the problem, to get past the awkwardness. Yet often all we need is someone to sit with us, to simply be with us. Take time today to practice holy listening, to let go of your need to be in the foreground. Pray to hear with God’s ears, to see with God’s eyes, to feel with God’s heart. Simply be there for another, and let go of everything but the here and now. And remember to look beyond the colorful leaves to the beautiful green fields, waiting silently in the background. Photo by Carole Buckwalter © 2011, used with permission

Reflecting on Continuity….

Leaves are raining down against a slate grey horizon this morning. If clear skies weren’t forecasted for this evening, I would wonder if snow was on the way. It seems our autumn weather will be very short lived this year. So I was drawn to this beautiful drawing entitled ‘Sea Urchins Exploring the Cosmos’ by a new friend Jeanne. The background color eerily matches the morning sky. I love the bold sea urchins, placed in the stars rather than the water. I am an engineer by training and profession, spending many years working on satellite systems. Like most engineers of my generation, I was transfixed by the days of early space exploration, and especially the Apollo missions to the moon. What really struck me about this drawing was how the sea urchins resemble the earliest satellites. Perhaps the engineers chose a globe shape to echo the planets, extending antennas in all directions once the satellite was deployed. Like the sea urchins, these satellites found their way using long spines, reaching out to learn about their surroundings. While Jeanne’s imagination may seem a stretch to some, this engineer finds comfort in the continuity between art and science. We cannot build what we cannot imagine. Take time today to open your mind to new ideas and seek out creative expression. Allow the Author of Creation to inspire and empower you, using nature as a blueprint to shoot for the stars. Let go of what is and embrace what can be. And remember all it takes to reach out, like the sea urchin, is one spine at a time. Art by Jeanne Mischo

Reflecting on Shadows….

The sun is a welcome sight after the cold and wet days this weekend. I enjoyed a nice walk with a visiting friend, happy to be outdoors in the cold, crisp air. So I was drawn to this photo of an unsuspecting subject taken by my friend Mary in Put-in-Bay, Ohio. I love the warm colors and sharply outlined shadows. If you look closely, you can see the brim of a hat. On the table, there are plenty of drinks waiting for friends who haven’t yet arrived or are out of the picture. Today is All Saint’s Day, the day we remember those who have passed from this life to the next. In some cultures, the Christian tradition of All Saint’s has been combined with the ancient remembrances of the dead in a celebration called Dios de los Muertos, or Days of the Dead. There is a carnival atmosphere, as communities celebrate for three days, eating ghoulish sweets, resembling skulls and bones. It’s as if Halloween and All Saint’s run together, making fun of our own mortality while accepting the reality of death by grieving loved ones. There are three days each year when all laugh and cry together. Perhaps we need a holiday like that, rather than grieving haphazardly, on our own. Like this shadow, our memories swirl around us. The strangest things can bring fresh grief, like an old sweepstakes entry or a sugar packet tucked in a shirt pocket. We look around for the source of the shadow, then realize that only the shadow remains. Yet the more we resist grief, the more it persists. We can’t get around it; we simply must get through it. Take time today to remember a loved one that has passed on, or to comfort another lost in grief. Give thanks for those who passed before you, shaped your life, and made you who you are today. Let laughter and tears blend together, like the celebration of Dios de los Muertos. And remember you can’t feel the joy without accepting the pain. We are promised abundant life, not a bowl of cherries. Photo by Mary Staley

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