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 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

Reflecting on Flight….

It’s a cold, clear morning, with frost on the ground. The trees are bathed in soft sunlight, giving the whole scene a dreamlike appearance. So I was drawn to this amazing photo by my new friend Steve. I did not think a still photo was capable of capturing the intricate motion of flight. High speed video may reveal each specific movement, yet it cannot portray the fluid nature of seemingly effortless motion. Ii don’t know about you, but the notion of flight simply eludes me. As an engineer, I studied control theory extensively, taking many courses through the aerospace department. What I learned is how much we do not know or understand. Our universe is governed by two numbers we cannot fathom; even our most complex math is simply an approximation of reality. We must build complicated structures with even more complicated electronics to achieve what a bird accomplishes day in, day out. Our engineering triumph requires the same lens as this photo. We must step back, taking in the entire picture, accepting our perception is full of flaws and imperfections, always slightly out of focus. To succeed, we must remain mindful of our limited glimpse of reality, all the while resisting the temptation to be overly precise. Take time today to ponder the vastness and simplicity of God’s creation. Stop to soak in the graceful arch of a bird taking flight, or the limb of a tree stretching toward the sun. And remember, when words fail you, reciting the never ending digits of π may be the purest form of prayer. Photo entitled ‘Dreaming of Flight’ by Steve Ullenius

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