Reflecting on Wilderness….

Summer is drawing to a close, on the Friday prior to Labor Day weekend. Leaves are already falling and the nights are cool. I love to hike or boat this time of year, when the days are still warm but not muggy. So I was drawn to this amazing photo by my friend Sarah Gulick, of her trip to the Amazon last year. This photo offers a haunting beauty, a hint of what that trip might have been like. I often ponder a photo for some time before writing about it, and began to wonder if this photo would ever offer up its secrets. Then a few days ago, Sarah posted a video about hiking in Death Valley. Both the photo and video make you yearn for the wilderness, to let go of the every day, to reconnect with the elements. There is a vastness in God’s glory we can so easily lose sight of, an infinite grace reflected in the Psalms.

10 For the LORD God is both sun and shield;
He will give grace and glory
11 No good thing will the LORD withhold
From those who walk with integrity
12 O LORD of hosts,
Happy are they who put their trust in you!
Psalm 84:10-12

We live on top of one another, crowding out the beauty that God’s creation freely offers. Even in the midst of decay or apparent desolation, we are struck by the bounty of nature, a bounty waiting for us to discover. We find hidden recesses, life amidst decay, creeks that may have changed their course. When we share these experiences, we create lasting bonds, an abiding legacy. We learn about one another in ways we never thought possible, and discover places lost deep within ourselves. Take time today to discover a patch of wilderness in an unexpected place. Look for birds and animals on the edge of a pond, or in a stand of trees along your commute. Walk to work rather than driving, or invite someone to walk with you during your lunch break. Get away this weekend, to hike or boat with family and friends. And always remember, even if you can’t get away, you can take time to see the world through Sarah’s eyes. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo by Sarah Gulick ©2011, to see her cinematography in the video entitled ‘Wilderness Hike, Death Valley’, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dClNiEy7Hj0

Reflecting on Freedom….

It’s a quiet, rainy morning here in Virginia. The first signs of fall are emerging, as the children return to school and my husband is immersed in his work. The many shades of green outside my window are part of what I love about Virginia, the green of the grass, the clover, the trees, the flowering shrubs. Yet as the autumn approaches, I long for the flaming skies of the desert, the many sunrises and sunsets I saw, reflected in the sand, especially after a storm. So I was drawn to this amazing image by my friend Robert, taken in Death Valley. Robert took five photos to capture the beauty of this scene, using a variety of filters. Now you may say the result does not represent what Robert saw that day, but I must respectfully disagree. Our eyes are such miraculous organs, capable of such a wide range of perception, that our technology can only grasp what our eyes automatically see in smaller increments. Robert seamlessly stitched these images together to capture the awe and beauty of the scene, the majesty of God’s creation. Just as one photo cannot hold the beauty of this scene, one life cannot hold the vastness of true freedom. We are blessed to live in a free, democratic country, ruled by the people and for the people. That freedom is something many take for granted, failing to understand the full meaning of living free. To embrace that promise, we must accept that we are more free together than any of us choose to be individually. One person may choose to live in the midst of skyscrapers, while another longs for open spaces. Our careers are matters of choice; we are free to push ourselves as much or as little as we like. Most importantly, we are free to choose how we express our faith. Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism – all are free to worship the Author of Creation in their own way. Freedom means accepting others are different, accepting that those differences are what make this nation great. We are truly free when we honor and respect the faith of others, in the same manner we would hope they would honor and respect our faith. When I pledged to serve my country in the military, this is the freedom I sought to preserve, even if it meant laying down my own life. Take time today to give thanks for your freedom and what that means in your own life. Seek to understand another who is different from you, listening and learning what their choices mean for them. Embrace the promise of freedom for all, not just a select few, seeking to serve others less fortunate than yourself. And always remember to keep your eyes open, because it takes much more than one look to see beyond our own backyard. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo entitled ‘Fire on the Flats’, taken in Death Valley National Park by Robert H Clark ©2012, used with his permission. To see more of his work, check out his blog at http://roberthclarkphotographyblog.com/.

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