Reflecting on Abundant Life….

It’s been a warm, wet spring, alternating between storms and beautiful clear days. Like the weather, we have been riding a roller coaster of emotions, with many happy events interspersed with some sad moments. So I was drawn to this striking photo by my friend Luis. I love the huge moon, hanging low in the sky. The tree looks like lace, with new leaves still unfolding. Then there are the birds, perched in the highest branches, hoping for the best view. I wonder what it was like for the first bird. Perhaps that bird was simply looking to be alone, to find a perch away from all the others. Sad or unwelcome news can be overwhelming, and our first response may be to turtle in. All we want to do is dwell on our misfortunes, or the harshness of this life. Then a few others arrive, and we attempt to be polite. We may not even talk about what’s bothering us, yet in the end, their company is a great comfort. Slowly we let go of our defenses, we relax into the moment. We look up, we look beyond. And in the midst of our sorrow, there is a moon that is so huge it should fall out of the sky. We are awestruck by the beauty and majesty of God’s creation, and we begin to pray, to open ourselves to God’s possibilities, to let go of our human perspective, to trust in the power and grace of the Almighty. After all, Christ did not promise us a perfect life, a life without sadness or pain. Christ offered us abundant life. When we embrace that promise, we find all things are possible. We are empowered to deal with what life brings, able to enjoy the happy moments, even while persevering through sadness and pain. Take time today to embrace the fullness of life, the celebrations, the joys, the losses, the disappointments. Let go of what you expected and let God show you the path that has been prepared for you. Pray for faith in what lies beyond your capabilities and understanding, trusting that God will provide others to walk with you in times of need or confusion. And remember, even when all seems lost, we only need to look up to see beyond. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo entitled Influjo by Luis Gonzalez ©2012, used with his permission

A Memorial Day Remembrance….

For many of us, Memorial Day is a tough holiday. We may have lost loved ones in conflict, or experienced combat firsthand. While we are called to remember those who served, some of us may prefer to forget painful experiences. Unfortunately, for those that survive, forgetting is not always an option. Something small can key a long buried memory, something simple. Perhaps a news item about someone that looks like a person long gone, or a place or situation that seems ordinary to everyone else, yet menacing beyond belief to a combat veteran. So I was touched by this photo of Mr. Coty’s grave. He served in Viet Nam and the effects of that experience haunted him and affected his family. Not every day, or all the time. Yet perhaps the randomness was the toughest part. His daughter and grandson visited the grave this weekend, and left flowers. So today we remember, because for those who serve, it may be too painful to remember. With humble hearts we thank you for your service, not knowing the price that was paid. With faithful hearts, we pray for healing and wholeness that is only possible through the grace and mercy of God. Text by Connie Chintall ©2011, Photo by Renee Coty

Reflecting on Rain….

It’s been raining for almost two weeks, with thunderstorms rolling through our area. We badly need the rain since last winter was so warm. Yet it’s easy to allow the rain get you down. So I was drawn to this beautiful photo by my friend Lynda. I love how she captured the raindrop bouncing back off of the deck, with a hint of her lovely garden in the background. The few flower petals scattered across the deck remain steadfast, defying the rain. It’s easy to lose sight of the beauty beyond the pain, to focus on the negative at the expense of the positive. How often have you heard someone saying, ‘How could you spoil such a perfect day’? Yet it’s the person asking the question that is spoiling the day. As a young executive, I soon learned each day would be a mixed bag, some good, some bad. The only way to remain motivated was to focus on the positive. I’m sure you’ll agree it’s easier said than done. So I began to pray for an image, or a Bible verse, to hang onto to. I began to see the frightened disciples in the boat, in the midst of a storm. At first, I was disappointed. Really, God, really, things are not as bad as all that! Yet I stuck with it and claimed that image. So much of bad behavior results from fear, or our reactions to another’s fear. We were all stuck in the same boat, yet we were all safe in that same boat, with Christ asleep in the stern. Even when the heavens open and our boat may be tossed about, our Lord and God is with us, knowing that all we fear can be quelled in an instant. Take time today to embrace God’s love, without beginning or end, a love that drives out all fear. Pray for an image or word to encourage you, for a love letter from God. Allow the Holy Spirit to shine through you, to shine for those that travel with you in this life. Respond in love to their fears, rather than reacting with your own fear. And remember, even the worst storm is but a little thing to the same God that conquered sin and death on the cross. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo entitled ‘Water, Water Everywhere’ by Lynda Jeffers ©2012, used with her permission.

Reflecting on Detachment….

It’s a cool, breezy spring morning. The sun is warm on my face, but the air is refreshing. I love taking a stroll on mornings like this, enjoying whatever God places in my path. So I was drawn to this amazing photo by my friend Tomas, of Aphrodite Rock in Cyprus. I love how the larger rock seems to float over the smaller rock, how the two are together, yet apart from the rest of the scene. I often find myself alone these days, after many years of finding myself constantly surrounded by others. My daughter will be a senior in high school next year, so my role is shifting. I do less and listen more. I need to keep in touch, but not hover. Like Aphrodite’s rock, contact remains, but it is a light touch, rather than a smothering presence. During this time of transition, I am finally learning the meaning of Christian detachment. I confess to being baffled by this concept for many years, often viewing detachment as something cold and impartial. How can anyone remain at arm’s length, yet still create real and permanent good? Yet when we draw our attention away from our fellow man, we make room for the loving touch of the Creator. We allow the Holy Spirit to drench our souls and soothe our hearts, to provide inspiration for the continuing effort to live a good and upright life. The second stanza of Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘If’ comes to mind:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools;

Take time today to draw apart from the world, to spend time alone with your thought and prayers. Allow the Holy of Holies to guide your steps and guard your heart, showing you the path that has been prepared for you. Open your mind and soul to what God places in your path, even if it’s a turtle or a snail, seeking to learn from the bounty of God’s creation. And remember, even when life is discouraging and our efforts seem fruitless, we are making slow and steady progress in God’s time, not ours. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo by Tomasz Huczek ©2012, to see more of his photos, go to http://tomasz.cc/, poetry by Rudyard Kipling

Reflecting on the Unexpected….

Sunlight dances across our yard, as the trees sway in the wind. Even from my office window, the blooming clover catches my eye. You’d think my yard was a stage, with the sun acting as a roving spotlight. So I was drawn to this lovely photo by my sister Cheryl. She lives near Tampa, FL, an area I know well. One of her favorite places is Honeymoon Island, just off the coast of Dunedin Beach. The only way to get to this little island is to swim, or wait for low tide and wade out. At first, you may wonder if it’s worth the bother. Yet once you venture there, you understand the attraction. The beach is often isolated, with plants thriving close to the surf. Dried sea grass mixes with the sand, creating beautiful patterns and a slight crunch under your feet. And of course, people aren’t the only interlopers. It seems Cheryl found a morning glory, in the midst of the native plants. How often do we rush through our days, failing to see what God places in our paths? Lists rule our existence; appointments swallow up our time. We may find ourselves stuck waiting, and all too quickly become so angry we are unable to enjoy the bit of time that opened up in our day. We fail to see God in these in between times. Instead of taking the opportunity to wade out of our lists, we feel more and more overwhelmed, more and more unable to accomplish what we need to do. Yet some of the most successful and creative people seem to hold a very different view. John Lennon said, ‘Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans’. Take time today to find your Honeymoon Island, to stop for just a few moments to look and listen to what surrounds you. Expect the unexpected, welcome the unusual, seek beauty in the midst of chaos. Allow the Holy Spirit to fill your heart and inspire your soul, showing you how to thrive in the sand of this life. And remember, in the end, we are all interlopers on this journey of faith, justified by faith and saved by grace. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo by Cheryl Lindsey

Reflecting on the Path Ahead….

It’s a cool, breezy spring morning, perfect for a walk. The trees are swaying in the wind and the birds flit from branch to branch. Even when you can’t see the birds, you’ll surely hear their singing. So I was drawn to this lovely photo by my cousin Patty, of Estelle Manor in New Jersey. I love how the sunlight softly filters through the trees. The path is very well traveled and maintained, with a neat border holding back the undergrowth. I don’t know about you, but this time of year I often pray for discernment. In a few weeks, I will attend my niece’s graduation. She is the first person in my immediate family to earn a doctoral degree. We will also celebrate with friends who are graduating from high school and undergraduate programs. Some have definite plans, and know the path ahead. Others are still searching, uncertain of the best way to proceed. So as the trees sway and the sun filters through the branches, I sit and pray for each one by name, bidding the Holy Spirit to pour down into their hearts, to comfort their souls, to illuminate their minds. I pray using Isaiah 40:27-31:

27Why do you complain, Jacob?
Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the LORD;
my cause is disregarded by my God”?
28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

Most of you know this scripture, or the hymn it’s based on. We often skip over verses 27 and 30, yet we do so at our own peril. All of us, even Christ on the cross, have times when we despair, when we believe God has forsaken us. Yet even when we doubt, God abides, God remains faithful, God loves us without beginning and end. Take time today to pray for discernment and wisdom, for those in transition or in doubt. Forgive those who complain, or fear, or lose faith. Lift one another up in prayer to the everlasting God, the Creator of heaven and earth. And remember, the Son is still there, even when we can’t see Him, shining through the clouds, and filtering through the branches. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo by Patty Steiner

Reflecting on Time….

Warm spring weather has arrived once again. A chorus of birds greeted me as I walked the dog this morning, slowly wandering around our yard. So I was drawn to this original artwork by my friend Colin. I love the vivid colors and the progression of images. We start with an imposing gear on the left, powered by our straining muscles. Then enlightenment leads to a more delicate gear, powered by our minds. Finally our imagination leads us to a gear large enough to hold our whole planet and the space surrounding it. I don’t know about you, but when I let time rule my actions, brawn trumps brains. I tend to run roughshod over others, pushing and shoving to get my own way, on my schedule, not theirs. I talk more than listen, act without thinking, and generally make a mess of things. Whatever short term gains I think I made are soon lost in the mess left for later. If I convince myself I have no time, then I rush through life, existing rather than living. The issue is seldom how much time I have, rather than my attitude toward time. As a young working mother, I often felt this way. Then one morning, I decided to make time to pray. I began to pray in the car when I arrived at work, before heading into the office. At first, I asked God to give me more time. I’m sorry to say this approach failed miserably. Then I prayed to spend my time God’s way, not my way. Things slowly began to change, in barely perceptible yet very significant ways. I became more present to each moment, more dynamic and creative in response to stressful situations. Take time today to offer yourself to God, to allow the Holy Spirit to work through you and in you. Let go of your agenda to make room for the Creator’s plan, allowing the Almighty to guide your ways and guard your heart. And remember, when life seems overwhelming, that each moment, each breath, each sigh is filled to overflowing with a world of possibilities. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Art entitled ‘Gears of Time’ by Colin Shea-Blymyer ©2012

Reflecting on Faith….

It’s another rainy morning, a morning when that second cup of coffee is more of a necessity than a luxury. We need the rain after such a long dry spell, but it surely saps my motivation. So I was drawn to this amazing photo of a bald eagle by my new friend Jeffrey, capturing the moment just prior to flight. I love how the eagle proudly puffs up its chest, leaning forward beyond all reason. The sun lights up his wings, extended toward heaven, each feather distinct. The back is gracefully arched, the tail lifted. There are so many details to notice, yet all we really see is a stunning bird ready to defy gravity, to once again take flight. It seems to me that faith is a lot like this majestic bird. Rather than safely remaining on our perch, we must lean out of our comfort zone, into the wind, at the risk of falling face first. We must arch our backs, and look ahead. We must strain upward, asking for the Holy Spirit to empower us, rather than relying on our own strength and endurance. But most of all, we must believe. We must be willing to forge ahead, assured that God works for good in all things for those who love and obey Him. Take time today to let go of what is weighing you down, leaving your burdens at the foot of the cross. Trust that the Author of Creation, the same God that deigned to take human form, knows every corner of your heart and soul, and cares about every aspect of your life. Let the Holy of Holies soothe your soul and heal your heart, guiding and guarding you each step of the way. And remember, we all have days when we need to ask God to give us faith, praying ‘I believe, help my unbelief’ Mark 9:24

Text by Connie Chintall, ©2012,
Photo entitled ‘Eagle Flight’ by Jeffrey Foltice, ©2012, to see more of his work, go to http://photonatureblog.com/

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

Join 700 other followers