Reflecting on Regrets….

Whistelstop by BuckFor far too long I have been pondering what it means to have regrets. Perhaps I should begin with my regrets over taking so long between posts. That may seem like a silly place to start, until you take a hard look at the definition of the word regret. The word regret originates in the French word ‘regreter’, meaning bewail the dead. Regret focused on our feelings toward the dead, or more likely our actions or words to those now deceased. In more recent times, we tend to talk about our own past when we use the word regret. We bewail the lost opportunities of our youth, the paths not taken, the words we ought to have left unsaid. Yet it seems to me regret is not all that simple. I keep going over the words of the general confession.

Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.

For a very long time, I treated those words like a checklist. Okay, what did I think this week? What did I say? And of course, what did I do? What had I left undone? Each one of these questions was considered separately, in isolation from the others. Each week there are things I said that hurt others, things I thought and didn’t say, things I did or didn’t do. I just never considered them together, especially not the last two. I thought regret was more about what I didn’t do that what I did, but now I am not so sure. The two go together. If there are things I wish I had done, why didn’t I do them? At least for me it ends up I didn’t take the time or make the commitment. I was too busy doing other things that seemed important, but were they really? Too often I allow my hours and days to be filled with soul sucking nonsense, rather than setting aside time for the small joys that make life worth living. I rush past a crying child to answer the phone. I cut off a friend who just needs to talk because I want to speak more than listen. I pass up an opportunity to take a chance because I prefer the comfort of my routine. Then something small reaches out and touches my heart and soul. This photo of the train station in Louisa, VA by my friend David caught me up short. I walk past this station every time I go to the farmer’s market but until this photo, I never really saw it. Make time today to look and listen to what God places in your path. Slow down and soak in the miracle of this life, breath by breath, moment by moment. Create intentional time for the small comforts of this life. Breathe in joy and breathe out busy-ness. Most of all, let the unending mercy of God enfold you and work through you. Let go of your own agenda and let the wisdom of God determine what needs to be done and left undone. Text by Connie Chintall ©2017, photo entitled ‘Whistlestop’ by David Buckwalter©2016, used with his permission, All Rights Reserved. To see more of David’s work, go to http://www.buckphotographyva.com/

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Reflecting on Between….

pooh-corner-by-david-buckwalterI am spending a lot of time in between. I find myself caught between anger and reconciliation, thought and action, solitude and togetherness. The world baffles and confuses me, and I find myself at odds with what I thought I knew for certain and the inconceivable. Over the years I have sought out time to pause and reflect, at first in concentrated blocks at retreats, now in my daily routine. I start my day in quiet reflection, listening rather than talking to God. There are days when I can simply drop into silence and peace. Other days I struggle, emptying my mind of one worry after another only to find two crop up in their place. At times like these, my little prayer corner is simply not enough. I cannot quiet my mind while my body remains still. So I walk and pray, looking for God to speak to me through creation. At first I mumble and even curse, railing at God to sweep away what plagues me. I may not even lift my head to look around. My pace is fast and my mind remains frenzied. Then I come upon a bend in the road that forces me to look up. Standing in the rough, my eyes behold the glory of our world. My mind grows still, my heart softens and my soul is revived. If I pause long enough, God’s grace sweeps through me. There may not be any insights or solutions, but there is a renewed sense of hope and all encompassing love. The between time may be holding open space for God’s grace, allowing the Holy Spirit to craft a better solution than any human mind can conceive. Make time today to walk with God, listening for your place in the kingdom rather than simply listing your wants and needs in this broken world. Breathe out your burdens, breathe in God’s grace. Let God work through you in His time, not yours. Most of all, trust that the Holy Spirit fills the hearts of each and every one of us, regardless of our frailty, or perhaps because of it. Text by Connie Chintall©2016, Photo entitled ‘Pooh Corner’ by David Buckwalter©2016, All Rights Reserved. To see more of David’s work, go to http://www.buckwalterphotographyva.com/

Reflecting on Shadows….

The weather has turned suddenly cold, and in many ways, so has my heart. Friends contacted us with such sad news I hardly know what to pray. At times like these, words seem inadequate. I can only offer the beat of a mother’s heart, the blessed assurance of each breath, committing my every movement to prayer. So I was drawn to this amazing photo by my friend David. I love seeing the sturdy trees from this perspective. I can imagine David lying in the cool grass, soaking in the serenity of his surroundings. He captured that moment perfectly with his camera for all of us to see. On days like today, I am tempted to feel as if the trees with bury me, rather than shelter me. I look for light and see only darkness. I question what normally seems so clear. Then almost as an afterthought, I see the sapling in the shade of the grand old oak. What I thought was darkness is simply the shadow of a God more vast than I can begin to imagine, a God with ways above my ways, with thoughts beyond my thoughts. I cling to the wideness in God’s mercy, to steadfast love without beginning or end, to eternal hope that goes beyond reason, to God’s peace that passes all understanding. I pray for healing claiming the promise of abundant life, imploring the same God that conquered sin and death on the cross to intervene where mortals stumble and fall. Pause to join your voice with mine, to pray for a new beginning, to nurture the slender sapling that reaches for the sun above. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo by David Buckwalter, entitled ‘In the Father’s Shadow’ ©2011, used with his permission. To see more of David’s work, go to http://www.buckwalterphotography.com/

Reflecting on Blur….

Life is rushing by these days, filled with more activities than are worth mentioning. Like the leaves falling from the trees, my to-do list is never ending. It’s easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of life. So I was drawn to this amazing photo of a dragonfly by my friend David, taken in Connecticut last year. I can almost feel the motion as the dragonfly glides above a tranquil pond. Yet that glide is powered by rapidly beating wings, so rapid that the wings blur in this photo. Dragonflies have always amazed me. During the most frantic periods of my life, a dragonfly appears. I’m talking about times when I always need to be somewhere else, and invariably get caught in traffic. Times when I burn dinner while on the phone longer than expected. Times spent on the computer while vacationing, jotting notes before a dance performance, trying to solve a problem long distance to avoid a trip. Perhaps I have wandered around the corner of a building, looking for a bit of privacy, only to find a dragonfly briefly balanced on the top of a sign. If I remained calm, that dragonfly will linger long enough for me to marvel at the colors and intricacy of God’s creation. If I listen more than I talk, respond rather than react, stop instead of rushing ahead, I am able to embrace the vastness of God’s power, without beginning or end. If we allow the frantic pace of life to overtake us, everything becomes one big blur. We turn into human doings, instead of human beings. All of life loses its luster, becomes drained of color and zest. Take time today to pause and soak in the world around you, to make room for Almighty to work in your life. Give the Holy of Holies your time, your worries, your past, your future. Let go of what weighs you down, what burdens your heart and consumes your joy. Soak in this instant, and accept the gift of life one breath at a time. And always remember when life gets frantic, trust in our Creator, who glides us over our obstacles and smooths our path ahead. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo by David Buckwalter ©2011, used with his permission. To see more of David’s work, go to http://www.buckwalterphotography.com/

Reflecting on Anger….

It’s a bright, sunny morning, and I have a full day planned. I’m feeling better than I did yesterday, when I was ready to hand our dog off to whoever would take him. It’s funny how anger can warp your perspective. So I was drawn to this high dynamic range (HDR) photo taken by my friend David Buckwalter. I love how the colors pop against the sky, how details are emphasized, how a picture becomes a painting. David took this photo of a shot furnace at Fort Griswold State Park in Groton, CT. This morning I feel a bit ridiculous, after expending way too much energy on anger, rather than on resolving the problem. Our dog Hobbes has decided the new dining room carpet is a good place to relieve himself. The carpet’s colors camouflaged the stains, until my nose detected the problem this weekend. So I spent yesterday shampooing the carpets, after finding other hidden offenses. Just when I was ready to start cooking supper, the dog returned to the scene of the crime and defiled my nice, clean carpet. Before you ask, the dog is still here, although it’s a small wonder my family still is. I was far from pleasant company last night. There is nothing that frustrates me more than wasted work, especially when it’s difficult, manual labor. And truth be told, I started the job angry, because I was mad at myself for not figuring it out sooner. Getting past anger takes time and perspective. Anger may feel like strong emotion, but is often more of a chain reaction. We feel something now, then link this incident to others from the past, make judgments about ourselves and others, then over react. What we see and hear becomes like this photo, the dynamic range of our reactions is off the scale. Or perhaps we vent our frustration about one situation elsewhere, losing our temper in a safer place and time. Take time today to step back from anger, to consider your initial emotion, be it frustration, or disappointment, or fear. Look at the surrounding circumstances, relationships, and past history, to understand what set you off. Pray for God’s perspective, to see all sides, rather than just your own. And remember, when we invite the Holy Spirit to burn in our souls, we become a steadfast flame, instead of a shot furnace. Photo by David Buckwalter ©2011, used with his permission

Reflecting on the Horizon….

It’s milder this morning, and the sky is a brilliant blue. At first glance, it seems there isn’t a cloud in the sky. Then you notice wispy ice clouds overhead, racing with the wind. So I was drawn to this photo of the Opequon River Estuary in Connecticut taken by my friend David. I love how the deep red sky is reflected in the water. It feels like you can see forever, as if the horizon were pushed back further than you could imagine possible. I don’t know about you, but such beauty stops me cold. Sometimes I am uncertain how long I remain gazing at such a sight. I get lost in the swirls of the ice clouds, as the color slowly changes with the rising sun. My first assignment in the military was in the desert in Nevada, working night shift on the flight line. That shift allowed me to see the sun rise and set almost every day for three years. The skies in the desert are amazing, full of color and strange light, sometimes reflecting off the mica in the desert sand. Even the toughest guys would be stopped in their tracks during sunrise. Take time today to gaze at the horizon, to look beyond the here and now. Let go of the limits of this life and whatever hems you in. Allow the Almighty to show you a way out of your current situation, a way beyond mere human conception. And remember, what seems impossible to us is but a little thing to the same God that offers us infinite beauty at the start of each new day. Photo by David Buckwalter ©2011, used with his permission

Reflecting on Stars….

I had the luxury of sleeping in on this cold and clear morning, after a weekend of celebration with friends and neighbors. My husband’s company party was Saturday night, with over 600 folks gathering at the National Portrait Gallery. We returned home for our neighbor’s annual Christmas gathering, small by comparison. In the midst of all this socializing, I am drawn to a remarkable long exposure photo taken by my friend David. A short glance focuses your attention on the clouds on the horizon, while the traces of stars above dominate the longer view. I love visiting with friends and a chance to catch up. Yet there are times when the noise overwhelms any effort to connect, when distractions prevent any real conversation. My friend Paulina said it best in her Facebook post, “loving another Sunday morning when the silence is so loud and everything is magnified: the bright blue sky, the crisp looking air outside (through the window). Don’t want to move. I might disturb the peace”. Take time today to make room for God’s peace that passes all understanding. Allow the silence to soak into your soul and draw your heart into the eternal now. And remember, the clouds may be on the horizon, but the stars are always here, to light our path through the darkness. Quote by Paulina Duker, Photo entitled Star Trails vs Incoming Clouds by David Buckwalter © 2011, used with his permission

Reflecting on Mist….

It’s a wet, grey day. The rain seems to be cycling through, alternating between drenching and a fine mist. Everything is shrouded in light fog, forcing you to look closely to see anything at all. So I was drawn to this photo of electrical towers by my friend David. I love how the base of the towers can be seen more clearly than the top. The part that is grounded is within easy reach, while we must take time to see the part that reaches for the sky. How often do we settle for what we can readily attain, without making the effort to dig deeper? The dishes and clothes need washing, the bills need paying, not to mention our work outside the home. We convince ourselves we are too tired to bother, that there isn’t time for anything else. Yet we can find time for the computer, or games on our phone, or the television. We tune out instead of plugging in to the true power source. Our God is vast beyond imagining, sovereign over all creation, more powerful than our meager efforts combined. When I first went to see Sister Louise, my spiritual director for many years, I complained about how everything was out of control, how there simply were not enough hours in the day. Gently, persistently, she encouraged me to pray, not using flowery words or a prescribed routine, but by simply emptying my mind to make room for God. On the next visit, I explained the best I could do was two minutes of silence. Twenty years later, I am still encouraged by her reply, ‘That is an eternity to God. The Almighty can do a lot with 120 seconds’. Take time today to be still and rest in God’s love. Plug into the true power source by unplugging from the busy-ness of life. And remember, whatever time you give, no matter how brief, is an eternity to God. Photo entitled ‘Vaporous’ by David Buckwalter

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 Military Service….

Four years ago my daughter’s middle school class offered a touching and memorable ceremony to honor our veterans. We live near Washington, DC, so many active duty military were present. A letter was sent home asking if family members would like to be included in the ceremony. That day I did not ask to be remembered, although I served 11 years on active duty and another 6 in the reserves. Instead, I asked my father to be remembered for his time in the Navy during World War II. My father’s health was declining and he had limited energy on the best of days. Yet he chose to stand through most of the ceremony, to honor the children who chose to honor him. The band played patriotic songs and a medley of service marches spurred a friendly rivalry. Then a number of students took the stage one by one. Each student briefly offered their particular hope or dream, to become a doctor, or a fire fighter, or ballet dancer. Then they thanked the veterans for giving them the chance to live out their dreams. My father had admired a number of quilts that lined the walls, each block made by the students to reflect an American value. Much to his surprise, he went home with one of those quilts, deeply touched by the personal nature of this tribute. We did not know it at the time, but that was Dad’s last Veteran’s Day. Take time today to thank a veteran for serving our country, for wounds seen and unseen. Consider the impact of their service and sacrifices on your life, each and every day. And remember to pass on the stories of those who have gone before us, for we stand on the shoulder of giants. Photo by David Buckwalter © 2011

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