Reflecting on Decisions….

Should I stay or should I go Ullenius
Decisions are part of everyday life, but not every decision is simple or straight forward. The toughest choices we all face in light of the Coronavirus involve when and if to venture from our homes. At this stage, we all understand we need to keep our distance, yet there are matters that seem to weigh more heavily as each day goes by. This photo by my friend Steve seems to capture the dilemma we all face. I grew up with streetlights like the one in this photo. There was one on the corner outside my bedroom window. I spent many a day at that window, home from school sick with everyone worried the common cold would escalate into bronchitis. I have asthma, so even a cold is far from common. This type of streetlight seems a bit bare bones to me, although the birds were always big fans. The birds ganged up on the pole, until there was no longer room for even one more to fit. Then they would all rustle their wings and at least one would take flight. As soon as that bird left, another bird would crowd into the makeshift flock. What was so great about this particular perch? Why did they all crowd in together? At first, I thought that it was a great place for the birds to spot insects, but it seemed the bird who was crowded out took off into the sky rather than toward the ground. Perhaps those lonely days I spent in my room as a young child were the beginning of these reflections. There is only so long you can read, and the only television was downstairs in the living room. So the view out that bedroom window became my television, for better or for worse. Now we all seem to be stuck inside and wanting to go out and play, or work, or to buy just a few more groceries. Perhaps there are more pressing matters, a sick and frail friend or family member you long to visit one last time. If decisions are already tough, then how difficult are they when the stakes are so high? In times like these, we must consider both our own interests and the common good, perhaps considerations in conflict with one another. The situation continues to evolve, so a decision we delay until tomorrow may no longer be an option. Like the refrain from this song by The Clash:

Darling, you got to let me know
Should I stay or should I go?
If you say that you are mine
I’ll be here ’til the end of time
So you got to let me know
Should I stay or should I go?

We may leave, only to be stuck at that location for the foreseeable future. We risk a longer separation than we expect as restrictions tighten. So perhaps we need to simplify the whole decision process – are you willing to spend six to twelve weeks with the folks you are with at home? If you leave, are you willing to spend that long with your coworkers? Patients? Shoppers? Make time to consider what is truly important to your heart, not your head. Avoid overthinking the situation or getting ahead of yourself. Make decisions as needed, and once you make a decision, let it go. Enjoy the present and what it has to offer you. Cultivate beauty in your surroundings and be intentional in your actions and especially your words. Address concerns head on rather than belittling them or avoiding a tough conversation. Lean on God’s strength rather than your own, inviting the Holy Spirit into your midst to guide and guard you and those you hold dear, this day and always.

Text by Connie Chintall ©2020, All Rights Reserved

Lyrics from ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go?’ by The Clash

Photo entitled ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’ by Steve Ullenius©2020, used with his permission, All Rights Reserved.

Reflecting on Second Chances….

red door by Betsey Karl 20200305
So much of what we see and do today is over in an instant. The idea of working hard toward a long term goal seems out of step with our fast paced lifestyle and the technology that fuels our every interaction. My new friend Betsey has captured just the opposite of the frantic pace of our lives. She has wandered in the wilderness of the Pine Barrens to discover a long deserted home, a home that would have fallen apart if not made from stone. Yet what draws me into this amazing photo is the door, if you could still call it a door. Perhaps all we see is old wood pieced together to close up the place. I am puzzled by the leaning lumber, half in and half out. Most of all, I wonder why anyone bothered to paint this ‘door’ red. It seems like a lot of trouble for a place that is just boarded up. Who knows what we would find inside? I can hear my father calling to me as a small child, telling me to leave it alone, worried there might be a raccoon inside. All we really know for sure is nature is more at home here now than whoever lived here long ago.

Then my memory shifts to my first trip to London with my husband not long after we married. After wandering the markets and taking in the sights, we ended up at St. Paul’s Cathedral for Evensong. The choir boys filed in in various states of dress, some so proper they hardly seemed like children, others barely in their vestments with hair still ruffled from hastily pulling them on over their heads. Then the service began and their voices transported us to heaven. I don’t recall what scriptures were read or the Psalm appointed for that day. I simply recall how bright and beautiful the world felt at that moment. After the service, we were invited to have a look around. In the north transept, we came upon Hunt’s life size painting ‘Jesus the Light of the World’ behind the altar in the Middlesex Chapel.

Light of the World postcard1479481232.png

Revelations 3:20 is inscribed along the bottom of the altar piece.

‘Behold I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice and open the door I will come into him and will sup with him and him with me.’

Like Betsey’s door, this door has no handle. It can only be opened from within. Christ knocks and waits, but for how long? His foot is already turned away from the door. How long will He remain? How many times has He knocked? How many chances does the man within deserve?

The world’s answer is short and sweet. Better hurry up – make up your mind. Who knows if you will ever get a second chance? Grab what you can, while you can before it’s too late. God’s answer offers more than just a second chance. God remains while we wander, get lost, or simply can’t be bothered. God waits for us to pry open the door, to cut loose the overgrowth, to turn again to our Creator. Perhaps the artist says it best.

“I painted the picture with what I thought, unworthy though I was, to be by Divine command, and not simply as a good Subject. The door in the painting has no handle, and can therefore be opened only from the inside, representing “the obstinately shut mind” – William Holman Hunt

Make time today to consider what you are worth, in the eyes of the Divine rather than the eyes of the world. Allow yourself to soak in the beauty that abounds with every step you take. Let go of the need to decide right this moment, to judge rather than be present, to turn away rather than face the facts. Trust that whatever this day brings, you will always have a second chance, then a third, then a fourth, as many chances as it takes, until then end of time.

Text by Connie Chintall ©2020, All Rights Reserved

Photo entitled ‘Red Door’ by Betsey Karl©2020, used with her permission, All Rights Reserved. To see more of her work and The Pines, go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/BogIronOutdoors/

‘Jesus the Light of the World’, by William Holman Hunt, Middlesex Chapel Altarpiece, St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, England, not used for commercial purposes. To see more of St. Paul’s, go to their virtual tour:

https://www.explore-stpauls.net/oct03/textMM/LightWorldN.htm

 

 

Reflecting on the View….

Swaying Aspens by Adrienne O'Hara
Watercolor has always fascinated me. It requires patience and talent, or perhaps a cultivation of both. I love to linger over a beautiful view, yet my talents do not allow me to capture that scene through art. My dear friend Adrienne recently took up watercolor, and this is the result of one of her initial efforts. You can see she casually took a photo of her work, not worrying if the piece was exactly square. Perhaps that is really what art is all about – letting go of the need to be ever so tidy and neat. She abandoned her notion of what she saw and let the scene flow into her eyes and out through her hands onto the paper. I can almost see the aspens swaying in the wind. This watercolor reminds me of our time in England. My daughter started school there and I was fortunate to spend many lovely days on field trips with her class. Sometimes we would visit a small museum or a business, the sort of field trip we are used to here in the United States. Then one beautiful spring morning we took a walk in the woods with a picnic lunch. We walked for a long time until we came upon a bend in the creek. The forest floor was carpeted in wildflowers and the leaves and grass were that amazing bright green of new growth. The teacher asked the children to find a view they liked and to take out their sketchbooks. She had made similar requests at the museums we visited. Pick something you really like and sketch it. She believed we captured the essence of what we saw by lingering over it, by using our hands to secure it in our minds. There was serious learning in museum sketches but what was today about? Leave it to the English to fold serious learning into a walk in the woods. The other chaperone was an avid gardener, no, more than that, an amateur botanist. Soon I could see not only sketches, but also the Latin names for each plant at the bottom. Later the children were given the opportunity to watercolor their sketches. Quite an impressive request of second graders, with equally impressive results. My now 25 year old daughter has a degree in architecture and works with a construction company. She models the parts of the building design where there can be conflicts, such as plumbing and electrical. Her work literally helps the team see inside of the walls. I wonder if her career began with those field trips and her sketches. She may not paint, but every day she uses an eye trained to keenly observe the scene at hand. She can see details that elude the rest of us, but perhaps we all can learn to linger a little longer to breathe in the essence of now. Make time today to slow down and soak in your surroundings. Hold open space for the beauty around you, whether it is the whole scene or just a single blade of grass. Allow your prayers to be joined with the prayers of creation, as it is written:

“Let heaven and earth praise Him, the seas and everything that moves in it” – Psalm 69:34

Most of all, let the same Creator who formed each of us in the womb guide us through the gift of His bountiful creation.

Text by Connie Chintall ©2020, All Rights Reserved

Watercolor entitled ’Swaying Aspens’ by Adrienne O’Hara©2020, used with her permission, All Rights Reserved.

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

Join 229 other followers