Reflecting on Turning….

old-auburn-road-by-cecilia

This early autumn rain washes summer’s green paint from the sugar maple leaves.
It brings brisk gusts of October’s breath to September’s dying days.
Familiar streaks of rain run down unfamiliar windows, and I feel at ease, protected from, and by, the storm.
The thunder, a cold front’s lion roar, frightens off the last lambs of August’s summer flock,
And there, the hapless journey-goers, caught in the downpour, run, or walk with umbrella in hand, striding through rain’s dry shadow.
Sounds are muted by the distant drum-roll of raindrops on roofs, and the noise of traffic – stifled more by torrential curtains, now brought low from nimbus heights.
But soon, the amber rays of sun pierce the smoke-gray clouds and
Reflect
off now more orange leaves.

Poetry by Colin Shea Blymyer©2016, Photo entitled ‘Old Auburn Road’ by Cecilia Carr©2016, to see more of her work, go to http://www.redbubble.com/people/ceciliacarr/portfolio

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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, https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1528945718848.44632.1690881339&type=1

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 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 Silhouettes….

It’s a crisp, clear autumn day. The slanting sun casts long shadows on the tree trunks, accenting the brilliant leaves. So I was drawn to this photo taken by my friend Carole, in Shenandoah National Park. Carole captured what I saw this morning, the stark contrast between light and shadow. In fact, the photo is entitled ‘Colored Silhouettes’. I recall making silhouettes as an art project in grade school. We worked with a partner, standing in profile in front of a projector, while our features were traced on a piece of paper tacked to the wall. We carefully cut along the outline of our faces and mounted the profile on old fashioned paper doilies. I was surprised at my grandmother’s reaction to this project, which frankly I found rather silly at the time. She was so happy to have a ‘silhouette cameo’ of me. What I saw as simply a featureless outline, she saw as a way to capture what was unique about me, without the distractions of a particular expression. Perhaps what makes the silhouette appealing is how an image is transformed by backlighting. We all know how annoying bright light is to our eyes, when viewed head on. Yet how often do we consider how light from other directions informs us and affects how we view our surroundings? Take time today to seek out light all around you. Step outside at lunch time, rather than waiting until after work, when the sun has already set. Focus on what you can see, rather than what you cannot see. Allow the silhouettes created by autumn’s long shadows to open your eyes to the essence of what is before you. Photo by Carole Buckwalter © 2011, used with her permission

Reflecting on Shelter….

It’s another grey, rainy day, after a brief and sunny respite. The dripping, falling leaves are brilliant against the cloudy sky, struggling to hang on, but more often spiraling to the ground. So I was drawn to this photo of the Virginia Tech campus taken by my friend Colin. Look at the trees, some still green, others changing colors, still others already losing their leaves. One tree is red at the top, and still green at the bottom. Like most college campuses, the trees are planted between the buildings. While some trees are exposed to harsh weather, others are sheltered from the cold and wind. I don’t know about you, but I feel most like the two toned tree. I manage to find only partial shelter, often leaving my most vulnerable side the most exposed. I dwell on one aspect too much, often a simple problem that cries for attention, while neglecting another more glaring issue or underlying cause. Before I know it, I’m caught out, at a loss for what to do next. Perhaps I am looking for a human way out, when only a divine answer will do. Take time today to let go of your expectations and seek the shelter and refuge of the Almighty. Look beyond your human perspective, asking to see through God’s eyes and to hear with God’s ears. Let go of your way out to make room for God’s way out. And remember, “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty” Psalm 91:1. Photo by Colin Shea-Blymyer

Reflecting on Haste….

The air is cool and the sun is warm, showing off the glorious autumn colors. Our leaves are finally turning, brilliant against the green dogwoods. So I was drawn to this photo entitled ‘Tree Hugging’ by a follow blogger, Lynda. I love the contrast between the single tree in the sun and the surrounding trees in the shade. The colors almost seem translucent, as though you can see through the vivid leaves to the trees beyond. But more than anything, this tree reminded me of the tree of life, the one tree in the Garden of Eden that none of us has eaten from. Yet instead of flaming swords keeping us at bay, this tree invites us in, asking for a hug. Its singular beauty inspires us to pause, to linger long enough to soak in the miracle of nature. Long ago, just after I left military service, I met an inspired priest named Jasper Pennington. He often preached on haste and its effect on modern life. Jasper was a historian by education and avocation, and saw our lives through a long lens. What others saw as isolated events, he saw as the culmination of 10, or 20, or 50 years of history. Jasper lovingly, persistently, insistently reminded us to be thoughtful in our actions, to take time for those we loved. He wanted us to understand that our actions today affected the arrow of time, often in ways we may not understand for years to come. What we said or did in haste we often regretted, and could not always take back or easily correct. Take time today to truly listen, to be there for one another, to hug a loved one, or even a tree. Soak in the beauty that surrounds you and give thanks for the blessings of this life. We offer so much to God in prayer, so why not offer up our time? Photo by Lynda Jeffers © 2011, used with her permission. See more of her photos at http://lyndajeffersphotography.wordpress.com/

Reflecting on Purple Haze….

The sun is a welcome sight after far too many days of grey, wet weather. The mornings are cool, and the afternoons are warm, leaving everyone to wonder what to wear. So I was drawn to this beautiful picture of a field taken by my cousin Diane. I love the purple haze, a marriage of the tips of the weeds with the morning dew. Even the weeds are wearing autumn garb, sporting the rich colors of the harvest season. Purple is a wardrobe staple for me, a color I wear year round. Wearing purple makes me feel special, lightening my mood and quickening my step. Yet in nature, purple is often a harbinger of turning inward, a warning of cooler days and longer nights. Soon the fields will fade to a dull brown, and frost will replace the morning dew. At first glance, it seems everything is dying away. Yet new life exists amidst the decay. Even as the trees shed their leaves we see the buds of next year’s growth. The winter snows will slowly drench the roots below ground. What was is past, making room for what is and what will be. Take time today to turn inward, to take stock of your heart and soul. Consider what needs to be left behind, allowed to wither away, to make room for new growth. Look for ways to nurture new beginnings, or ways to recreate the here and now. Let your spirit guide you to an unlikely pairing, like the purple haze, and allow the unexpected beauty to soothe your soul. Photo by Diane Brooks Myers

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