Reflecting on Protection….

Cedar Run in Fauquier County, VA

Cedar Run in Fauquier County, VA

It’s a cool, rainy day and the leaves have already begun to fall. Before long we will have misty mornings and bare branches, grey days and cold nights. So I was drawn to this lovely photo of Cedar Run by my friend Cecilia. I love how the branches shelter the water, leaning in toward one another, reaching across the breach. Our county is full of unexpected places like this one, places that jump out and demand your attention. The sense of awe overwhelms, the serenity seeps into your bones, the peace pervades your very soul. It seems to me that prayer is a lot like this beautiful scene. Perhaps we set aside a particular time or place, hoping consistency will chase away the worries of the world. Or we steal a few moments in the parking lot, no longer at home, not yet at work. Yet even in the most disciplined practice, there are times when prayer runs dry, times when the monkey chatter drowns out that still, small voice. Then when we least expect it, we turn a corner and God stops us short, reminding us to pause and reflect, to give thanks for this very moment of life, this precious gift of the here and now. We plead for blessings, forgetting what we really need is protection, from ourselves, from distractions, from the busy-ness of life. Yet through it all, the Holy Comforter remains steadfast, ever present, ever ready for us to turn again toward the light. Make time today to seek consolation rather than comprehension, leading with your heart instead of your head. Focus on the gift of life, offered to you one breath at a time, or the soles of your feet, firmly planted and secure. Give thanks for the simple things in this life, good food, clean water, a warm, dry place to sleep. And always remember, when we pray for blessings and protection, we find a peace that always consoles, a peace beyond comprehension. Text by Connie Chintall ©2013, Photo entitled ‘Calm, Cool Place’ by Cecilia Carr ©2013

Reflecting on Fathers….

While the heat of the summer has arrived, the humidity is thankfully absent. I’m thankful we have such a beautiful day to celebrate our fathers. So I was drawn to this amazing photo by my friend Heidi Anne, of a small child walking with her Dad. I love how her hair is caught in the wind, how small and relaxed she appears. The father is wearing business clothes, and perhaps that’s what reminded me of my father. Daddy seldom wore anything other than long pants, and usually wore a tie. The only times I recall when he didn’t wear a tie were long summer days spent on Burlington Island, enjoying the cool breeze even on the hottest of days. Daddy would pack up the John boat with all manner of supplies, whatever my sisters and I thought we ‘needed’ for the day. We would fire up the Sears motor and head across the Delaware, landing between the two islands where we could safely swim. Sometimes we would wander off into the woods, or search for the soft, white clay that gathered in pockets beneath the shallow water. My sister loved that clay, and we brought home more of it than you can begin to imagine. One day, there was too much for one trip. Daddy took my Mom and sisters over, returning for me and the gear. On the way back, we hit something under the water and damaged the motor beyond repair. Daddy and I rowed back, side by side. I realize now how difficult that must have been. He was vastly stronger than I was, and had to adjust his stroke to mine. Yet he knew it was better to keep me occupied than to allow me to fret and feel helpless. Daddy was there for me, even if it meant taking twice as long to get there. And best of all, he laughed about the whole mess, from wrecking the motor to our hapless paddling home. Take time today to let your father know what he means to you, to remember a time when an accident turned into an adventure. Thank your father for the lessons you have learned from him, for the part he has played in the person you have grow to be. Honor him today by sharing a special memory, a silly story, or a favorite photo. And remember, even if your father has passed on, that while life may end, love never dies. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo entitled ‘One Life, One Love” by Heidi Anne Morris ©2012, used with her permission, to see more of her work, visit http://www.redbubble.com/people/heidiannemorris

Reflecting on Rhythm….

The March wind is roaring outside my office window. It’s what Winnie the Pooh would call a blustery day. Even the majestic oaks are dancing in the wind, yet it’s the tiny branches of our poplar that caught my eye. So I was drawn to this magical photograph by my friend Luis, part of his series called ‘The Secret Life of Plants’. I am always amazing at how plants can be incredibly strong, yet still remain supple. Even the tiniest branches sway in their own peculiar rhythm, twisting and turning in response to the wind. We must let go of the specifics to detect this rhythm, looking at the same branch over time, until each particular image blurs together. At first, it may seem we have lost more than we gain, until patterns begin to emerge. We notice the graceful arch of a single branch is echoed in the scene all around us, the curve of the treetops reminds us of the shapes of passing clouds, the same colors appear all around us, popping up in the most unexpected places. The same Creator who blessed us with life calls out to us through the bounty and blessings of nature. Whatever name you give the Author of the Universe, whatever faith tradition you call your own, we all recognize the unity of our world. The same shapes and rhythms sing across the galaxy, from the tiny subatomic particles being discovered each day, to the far reaches of outer space. Take time today to see and hear the rhythm of creation. Pause to soak in the beauty of a single bloom, or to gaze at the stars. Listen to the sound of water splashing on rocks, or birds singing in the trees. And remember when we let go of our human perception, when it all begins to blur together, the rhythm of the Almighty will shine through, showing us more beauty than we ever can imagine. Photo by Luis Gonzalez, part of a series called ‘The Secret Life of Plants’

Reflecting on Focus….

It’s a cold, clear morning after a week of snow and rain. The weather has been alternating between winter and spring, sometimes in the same day. So I was drawn to this beautiful photo of Kourion Beach in Cyprus taken by my new friend Tomasz. I love the contrast between the frothy surf at low tide and the storm clouds rolling in from the horizon. The blond boulders stand out against the dark pebbles and sand, echoing the shapes of the clouds above. Yet the surf seems serene while the clouds seem menacing. It can be difficult to focus on the peace that lies beneath our feet when storm clouds gather overhead. Each day offers a strange mixture of experiences, some pleasant, some awkward, some downright awful. We can choose to focus on the unpleasant, allowing disappointment to overshadow even the most delightful parts of our day. Or we can allow the delight to outshine even our most outrageous experiences. I know, saying it and doing it are two very different things. That’s true, if we simply seek a human solution. It’s only when we suspend judgment, and trust in the sovereignty of God, that we can see past the difficulties of life and open our hearts to give thanks. Take time today to focus on the simple blessings of life. Call a friend to just talk, or offer to help another in need. Allow the Holy Spirit to fill you with each breath in, and release anxiety with each breath out. And remember, when we see the world through a grateful heart, we find peace right beneath our feet. Photo by Tomasz Huczek, to see more of his photos, go to http://tomasz.cc/

Reflecting on Waiting….

What glorious weather we had last weekend! It’s hard to believe it is almost December, especially after the freak snow storm last month. So I was drawn to this beautiful photo of the lake house view taken by my friend Joseph. I love how the early morning sun lights up the clouds and the surface of the lake, bathing everything in vibrant color. There are many mornings when I would rather roll over and sleep in, than rise to see the early morning light. Yet I sacrifice the in between time, the hush before the start of the day. Life begins at home in this tranquil, serene, in between time, not when we rush out of the house to arrive at work. That quiet time is hard to come by these days, when we are all overscheduled and overwhelmed by the conflicting demands of life. We rush onto the next task, skipping over things we meant to do, and often need to do. We even skip over Advent and start Christmas the day after Thanksgiving. We must be reminded that our church calendar begins with Advent, a time of expectations, of preparation, of quiet reflection. When we celebrate Advent, we find Christmas is worth waiting for. To quote the Reverend Canon Susan Goff, “When we wait, God breaks through in unexpected ways to bless and renew us. [Waiting] is not a hollow barrenness that is just killing time until something better comes along. Our waiting, instead, is pregnant, expectant, charged and filled with blessings that will, in God’s time, be revealed.” Take time today to wait upon the Lord, to make space for God in those in between times. Expect God in the midst of unexpected delays. Allow stillness to soak into your soul and to fill your heart. And remember as you wait that Christ’s life began to change his mother Mary long before he was placed in the manger. Photo by Joseph Syzdek

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 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 Storms….

This weekend the weather was sunny and cool, perfect football weather. The sun was particularly welcome after a long series of storms, culminating in 6 inches of rain in one hour. So I was drawn to this photo taken by my friend Carole. She is an amazing photographer, often capturing something the rest of us fail to notice. It’s still raining, pouring in fact, yet the sun is shining. Most of us would be looking up into the sky for a rainbow, while Carole is looking straight ahead, at glistening raindrops cascading downward like tiny crystals. I love the contrast between the bright sky and the tree trunk, soaked to a dark black by the rain. Sometimes we simply get used to storms. We come to expect storms, even create a storm where none exists. We stop looking for the sun, because we seem to forget the sun is always there, hidden behind the clouds. Perhaps we even lose hope, or just run out of gas. Yet we may simply be looking for answers in the wrong places, or seeking to change what we humanly cannot change. We want the answer to be our solution, tied up neatly in a bow. More often, the way out slowly unfolds and evolves, changing us and changing our life in the process. Take time today to look at what is right in front of you, and ponder what answers lie within your current situation. Let go of your storm, trusting the Son is always there for you. And remember the rainbow, God’s covenant of steadfast love, may take the form of hundreds of tiny raindrops, glistening in the sun. Photo by Carole Buckwalter © 2011

Reflecting on Hugs….

It’s been a quiet week here at home, with both my husband and daughter off in different directions. It seems a bit lonely, and a lot short on hugs. So I was drawn to this photo of my friend Seth and his family, taken by his wife Chris. Seth is hugging his brother and his son George, making his brother into a hug sandwich. When my daughter Tori was younger, my husband and I would hug each other with her in the middle, making her into the salami in the hug sandwich. So I was struck by this photo, with father and son surrounding brother and uncle. How often do we yearn for such all encompassing love? We look in all the wrong places, thinking only the mighty and strong can provide sheltering protection and security. We hide our emotions from our children, saying it is better to spare them the hurt and pain. Yet even a young child can make a world of difference. A child doesn’t try to fix the problem, or talk you out of it. A child simply climbs into your lap and snuggles into your neck, or haphazardly dries your tears. Who can remember what was so earth shattering when you see a child’s eyes light up? Perhaps Seth’s most important role is taking young George to visit his uncle, to bring the wonder of a young boy into his life. Take time today for the little children in your life. Let go of your worldly concerns and adult responsibilities, and just allow yourself to be a child once again. Chances are there will be a hug or two waiting for you. Photo by Christine Correll Guanu

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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