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 Blood….Seeking the sacred amidst the ordinary

Ivy in the pines by Anthony Guida
Ivy is a remarkable plant, growing extravagantly even in harsh environments. Ivy is an evergreen, as you can see in this photo by my new friend Anthony. The leaves may lose color in the cold, but there is no doubt life remains vibrant throughout the winter. Ivy represents eternity, fidelity and strong affection, as experienced in marriage and lifelong friendships. What strikes me in this amazing photo are the veins of the ivy, its life blood. I’m from New Jersey and grew up near where this photo was taken in the Pine Barrens. Blood is a big deal there, perhaps even more than most places. Friends are nice, but family is family no matter what. That way of thinking is far from new. It’s the reason families fuss so much over marriage – the two families become one and neither family may appreciate the choices made by young love. How many novels and plays feature parents who would prefer declaring their own child dead rather than accepting their choice in marriage? Still, we did just fine until Jesus came along, upsetting the apple cart in the worst way. Christ teaches that faith may pit parents against children, may sink the family business, may even risk the next generation’s inheritance, God forbid. Yet there is more to it than that. Our faith broadens our family beyond blood. We are brothers and sisters in the faith. So how did all that come out of ivy? I am an active member of the faith community at Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Catlett, VA. I have been an active member of the parish near wherever we have lived for almost fifty years. With all that activity, there are Sundays when I am very grateful for this extended family, especially when we were stationed far from home. There are just as many Sundays where I am not certain I want the family I have, let alone all these extras. Thank God Sunday is the start of a new week because an awful lot happened last week that I would rather forget than begin to deal with. Then before I know it, I am blown away by the generosity and grace of that faith family. I wonder where I would be without it. Like this ivy that is a little worse for wear, blood still courses through the veins of unions forged in faith and adversity. Make time today to consider relationships you hold dear. Reach out and let others know the difference they make in your life. Ask what you can do for those you love, rather than face regrets over missing the mark. Lean on someone for their wisdom and knowledge, even if their health may be less than good. Show them they still make a difference to you despite their struggles. And most of all, hold tight to the vine, trusting in God to get us all through this day and every day together.

Text by Connie Chintall ©2020, All Rights Reserved

Photo entitled ‘Eternal Ivy’ by Anthony Guida©2020, used with his permission, All Rights Reserved. To see more of his work and The Pines, go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/BogIronOutdoors/

Reflecting on Mystery….Seeking the sacred amidst the ordinary

Mystery in the Pines
I have had the great good fortune to live in many locations where words do not do justice to the surroundings. The first was southern New Jersey, in particular,The Pines. Before you get ahead of me, this is not the New Jersey you see from the turnpike, or in the congested areas along the Delaware River or the Atlantic Ocean. This is a wild and mysterious place where the scenery seems to shift from day to day. The area is a large bowl, with most of the land 10 to 12 feet below sea level. Water is everywhere – if not within sight then just a foot or two under the soil. As seasons change and weather does its worst, water forms and reforms the same scenery again and again. Small patches of vegetation crest the wetlands, and on good days the water mirrors the sky above. My new friend Julius caught an especially mysterious scene, one where the rushes have adapted to the flowing water while this tree appears to be struggling. I love this photo because I am not sure where the water ends and the sky begins. I am not even sure if the sun is rising or setting. All I know for sure is that Julius has captured that in between time, when it is not quite bright but definitely not dark. How often does this mortal life or ours feel like the moment caught in this image? We want to live in the light, yet never seem to make it beyond that in between place, not dark, not quite light. We begin the day facing the light, perhaps even taking time to pray, hoping those morning devotions last at least until our second cup of coffee. Then something annoys us, disrupts our routine, disappoints our meager expectations. We rush to react, turning a little each time from the light and peering back into the darkness. I don’t know about you, but the hardest part of my faith journey is simply allowing mystery to exist at all. I like simple answers, yes or no, black or white, good or bad. Yet once I take hold of that simple, straight forward view of life, I lose track of the divine source of that life, the mystery of creation. I fail to hold open a space for grace, to make room for the water of creation to flow through my life and into my veins. Rather than lean on the strength of the Almighty, I wear myself out insisting on the more defined, yet infinitely more difficult path. Then as if God knew I needed the reminder, this Sunday the New Testament reading included this passage:

“No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.” – 1 Corinthians 2:9

Make time today to embrace the uncertainty of this life, trusting in the power of the Holy of Holies to forge a path ahead much better than the one you can create alone. Embrace the unexpected twists and turns, trusting that each step has its own part in the final outcome. Start your day with a simple prayer, seeking to see the Creator in the everyday things of this life, to notice signs of hope and awe rather than doubt and doom. Slow down when you are tempted to speed up, respond rather than react. Most of all, let those sacred moments dwell in your heart and soul. Hold that majesty closer than the temptations of this life, and allow wonder to guide your thoughts, words and actions.

Text by Connie Chintall©2020

Photo entitled ’Majesty and Mystery in The Pines’ by Julius Akras©2020, used with his permission, All Rights Reserved.

To see more of his work and The pines, go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/BogIronOutdoors/

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