Reflecting on Wilderness….

Summer is drawing to a close, on the Friday prior to Labor Day weekend. Leaves are already falling and the nights are cool. I love to hike or boat this time of year, when the days are still warm but not muggy. So I was drawn to this amazing photo by my friend Sarah Gulick, of her trip to the Amazon last year. This photo offers a haunting beauty, a hint of what that trip might have been like. I often ponder a photo for some time before writing about it, and began to wonder if this photo would ever offer up its secrets. Then a few days ago, Sarah posted a video about hiking in Death Valley. Both the photo and video make you yearn for the wilderness, to let go of the every day, to reconnect with the elements. There is a vastness in God’s glory we can so easily lose sight of, an infinite grace reflected in the Psalms.

10 For the LORD God is both sun and shield;
He will give grace and glory
11 No good thing will the LORD withhold
From those who walk with integrity
12 O LORD of hosts,
Happy are they who put their trust in you!
Psalm 84:10-12

We live on top of one another, crowding out the beauty that God’s creation freely offers. Even in the midst of decay or apparent desolation, we are struck by the bounty of nature, a bounty waiting for us to discover. We find hidden recesses, life amidst decay, creeks that may have changed their course. When we share these experiences, we create lasting bonds, an abiding legacy. We learn about one another in ways we never thought possible, and discover places lost deep within ourselves. Take time today to discover a patch of wilderness in an unexpected place. Look for birds and animals on the edge of a pond, or in a stand of trees along your commute. Walk to work rather than driving, or invite someone to walk with you during your lunch break. Get away this weekend, to hike or boat with family and friends. And always remember, even if you can’t get away, you can take time to see the world through Sarah’s eyes. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo by Sarah Gulick ©2011, to see her cinematography in the video entitled ‘Wilderness Hike, Death Valley’, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dClNiEy7Hj0

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Reflecting on Infinity….

The first week of school is behind us, without any major problems or concerns. Tomorrow we will spend the day at the lake, probably our last swimming day out before the weather turns cold. As we spend more time indoors, I seem to turn inward, to spend more time pondering the things my mind alone cannot grasp. So I was drawn to this amazing image by my friend Heidi Anne, a swirl of more colors that you can imagine, creating an abstract beauty. I am reminded of a rafting trip in Alaska, where the water was milky from volcanic ash. I look again and see summer squash in tangled vines, moss growing amidst decaying leaves, perhaps rose petals and day lilies. In one image, she offers us the bounty of creation, unfolding and changing before our eyes. The greatest truths of our world are like this image, deeper and more complex than we can begin to see with our eyes alone. The pursuit of truth and faith has unfolded over eons, as we seek the Author of Creation. We must approach the vastness of the Holy of Holies with love, loving God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind, and with all our strength (Matthew 12:30). Christ took the first commandment and turned it into a rule of life, a way to open ourselves to the endless mercy and grace of God. We cannot fold ourselves around the infinite; we can only allow ourselves to be enfolded. I don’t know about you, but I like to be in control. I like to be in charge. Yet in this life the human solution offers so much less than what we are capable of through the Alpha and Omega. When we let go, and let God, life flows in a way we never thought possible. Healing light flows into us, then through us, love informs all we do. Take time today to ponder the vastness of creation. Join your heart and soul with your mind, then turn toward the Almighty with all your strength. Let go of whatever burdens you carry, allowing the vastness of God to make your load light. And always remember, when you feel painted into a corner, all you need to do is look up for a way out. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Art entitled ‘ Infinite Color’ by Heidi Anne Morris ©2012, used with her permission. To see more of her work, go to http://www.heidiannemorris.com/

Reflecting on Freedom….

It’s a quiet, rainy morning here in Virginia. The first signs of fall are emerging, as the children return to school and my husband is immersed in his work. The many shades of green outside my window are part of what I love about Virginia, the green of the grass, the clover, the trees, the flowering shrubs. Yet as the autumn approaches, I long for the flaming skies of the desert, the many sunrises and sunsets I saw, reflected in the sand, especially after a storm. So I was drawn to this amazing image by my friend Robert, taken in Death Valley. Robert took five photos to capture the beauty of this scene, using a variety of filters. Now you may say the result does not represent what Robert saw that day, but I must respectfully disagree. Our eyes are such miraculous organs, capable of such a wide range of perception, that our technology can only grasp what our eyes automatically see in smaller increments. Robert seamlessly stitched these images together to capture the awe and beauty of the scene, the majesty of God’s creation. Just as one photo cannot hold the beauty of this scene, one life cannot hold the vastness of true freedom. We are blessed to live in a free, democratic country, ruled by the people and for the people. That freedom is something many take for granted, failing to understand the full meaning of living free. To embrace that promise, we must accept that we are more free together than any of us choose to be individually. One person may choose to live in the midst of skyscrapers, while another longs for open spaces. Our careers are matters of choice; we are free to push ourselves as much or as little as we like. Most importantly, we are free to choose how we express our faith. Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism – all are free to worship the Author of Creation in their own way. Freedom means accepting others are different, accepting that those differences are what make this nation great. We are truly free when we honor and respect the faith of others, in the same manner we would hope they would honor and respect our faith. When I pledged to serve my country in the military, this is the freedom I sought to preserve, even if it meant laying down my own life. Take time today to give thanks for your freedom and what that means in your own life. Seek to understand another who is different from you, listening and learning what their choices mean for them. Embrace the promise of freedom for all, not just a select few, seeking to serve others less fortunate than yourself. And always remember to keep your eyes open, because it takes much more than one look to see beyond our own backyard. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo entitled ‘Fire on the Flats’, taken in Death Valley National Park by Robert H Clark ©2012, used with his permission. To see more of his work, check out his blog at http://roberthclarkphotographyblog.com/.

Reflecting on Lace….

The sun has returned after a few days of overcast skies. Clouds did not bring rain, so the fields remain parched and dry. Yet while the crops wither, one hardy plant seems to thrive along the roadsides, Queen Anne’s Lace. So I was drawn to this beautiful photo by my friend Jeffrey Foltice, showing both open and closed blooms. When closed the bloom looks like a tiny bird’s nest, with thin green leaves that remind me of feathers. Once open, you find a delicate and intricate pattern of tiny flowers, overlapping and crowding one another, yet strong enough to withstand wind and rain. My grandmother loved this flower, frequently commenting that beauty can be found in the most unexpected places. Yet what one person calls a flower another might consider an invasive weed. This ‘flower’ is actually a European transplant, commonly called wild carrot. You can even eat the taproot, since the root is in fact a carrot. Folks even argue about the origin of the name, some saying the delicate bloom is named after an English monarch, others attributing the name to St Anne, the mother of Mary and grandmother of Jesus. St Anne is the patron saint of lace makers and mothers, referred to as the ‘queen of heaven’. All this controversy and diversity of opinions was far from lost on my grandmother, my Nana. She passed on almost forty years ago, yet her legacy lives on. She taught me to think, to question, to dig deeply, especially what others take for shallow and straight forward. Perhaps this blog started then, driving along country roads with my Nana. I learned to take time looking at a matter from all sides, listening and learning, day by day, expecting my understanding to evolve over time, with new experiences and new friends. Take time today to seek the truth, from inside of your heart and from those around you. Soak in the simple beauty of nature, as you drive to work, looking out your office window, or in the corner of your garden. And always remember to listen carefully and thoughtfully to the oldest and youngest among us. You’d be surprised what you might learn. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo entitled ‘Queen Anne’s Lace’ by Jeffrey Foltice ©2012, used with his permission, to see more of his work, go to http://photonatureblog.com/

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