Reflecting on New Birth….

It turned cold over the weekend, with frost on the fields as we drove to church on Sunday. The leaves are falling furiously, reminding us the truly cold weather is just around the corner. So I was drawn to this amazing photo of our newest friend Miles, taken by his grandfather Terry. I love how the baby’s feet are gently cupped in Mom’s hands. Just like the marching band at football games, her hands form a heart. The students say hello to their friends using this gesture, as a way to acknowledge them while still maintaining the required discipline. So it goes with parenting, from the very beginning. There is a gentle balance between love and discipline, between indulgence and obedience. Our hearts soar with the birth of a baby, overwhelmed that the Author of Creation has deigned to work through us to create new life. Yet our heart is also heavy with the weight of responsibility this new life brings. We begin a delicate dance, establishing routines and learning ways to soothe and comfort the child. It’s sort of like playing an instrument in marching band, combining music with the military precision of drill. Take time today to consider what appears to be a contradiction. Look past the simple solution, requiring you to choose either one way or another. Invite the Author of Creation into your apparent dilemma, allowing the Holy Spirit to inspire you to create a new beginning, a new birth. Photo by Terry Wayne Jones

Reflecting on Perspective….

Today is the third day of a long, glorious weekend. We are experiencing the warm, crisp fall weather that draws folks out of the city and into the mountains. The leaves are just beginning to change, and we’re past the hot, humid days of summer. So I was drawn to this interesting photo of a spider, taken by my sister Lana. At first glance, you may be reminded of an old science fiction movie, where giant alien spiders are attacking the earth. Instead, the spider is crawling on the screen in her front window, overlooking her neighbor’s house across the street. What you see depends on your perspective. While some are thankful for this lovely weather, others are complaining that winter is almost here, or lamenting that summer is already over. The wonder of the present moment is drowned out by concerns about the future or regrets about the past. Something tiny can loom over you, casting a shadow over all your experiences. Yet tackling a problem head on is not always the best method. We may need to allow a situation to unfold, or create distance from the immediate concern. Yet that takes patience, discipline and time. While stories of incredible leaps of faith may raise our spirits, what we most often require is baby steps of faith, one day at a time. Take time today to create perspective on your current situation, and to enjoy the gift of the present moment. Let go of regrets about the past and concerns about the future. Trust that all shall be well in God’s time, not our time, one baby step at a time. Photo by Lana Sarchiapone

Reflecting on Discipline…..

It’s another grey day, and I am so tempted to stay in bed. Even our dog isn’t sure about getting up and going out. So I was drawn to this photo taken by my sister Lana of my niece Natalie playing water polo. She looks so strong, with her upper torso above the water, intently aiming the ball before releasing it. Her opponent is rushing toward her, to foil the play. I don’t know how good of a swimmer you are, or if you have ever tread water for an extended period of time. It’s harder than it looks, and these students are playing a game while managing to remain afloat. Yet they didn’t simply show up at the pool the day of the game. They practiced and built up skills over time, learning ways to conserve energy and maintain balance, working together toward a common goal. At the same time, they are learning the value of discipline, commitment, persistence. It seems to me that prayer is a lot like water polo. There is a strength and sense of balance that comes with daily practice. The commitment to prayer, day in, day out, prepares us to pray in times when life seems impossible. As we pray for others, we become part of a team, an impenetrable fortress filled with prayer warriors. We see how God answers the prayers of others, and our faith is renewed and strengthened by others that pray for us. When difficult times descend upon us, we not only remain afloat, we rise above temptation and persevere. Take time today to offer a simple prayer for those you know and love, and for those you encounter. Let go of your idea of what prayer should be, and allow your prayers to take their own form. Take on the discipline of prayer today, and every day, and you’ll be amazed at how it will strengthen your heart and soul. Photo by Lana Sarchiapone

Reflecting on Discernment….

Temperatures are dropping and we are expecting rain all this week. The rain has turned cold, and the ground stays wet even between showers. The leaves are starting to drop, helped along by the storms. So I was drawn to this photo of a turtle making his way across the damp ground. My photos of turtles usually look like a picture of a rock. Perhaps I am in too much of a rush, or too clumsy. I startle the poor thing into drawing back into its shell. Box turtles can completely close their shells to protect themselves from enemies. Without looking closely, the shell blends in, almost disappearing from sight. Perhaps that is why box turtles can live to be 100 years old. In this amazing photo, the turtle is looking straight at us, as curious about us as we are about him. It seems to me that discernment is a lot like being a turtle. We look all around for answers, chasing one clue after another. Or perhaps we stew over the difficult questions of life in solitude, losing sight of everything else. We are tempted to settle for an either/or solution, when the real way out means both/and. True discernment takes time, both time apart and in community. Just as our faith includes both public worship and private prayer time, discernment involves both public and private moments. When we seek God’s will, what we seek is the still, small voice, not loud, clamoring chaos. God is eternally consistent – we are never directed to violate God’s laws. God is persistent – forget second chances, God will give you more chances that you can ever imagine. God is community – His will for you is confirmed through other believers. True discernment requires us to slow down, to tread carefully, to listen to our own hearts and to others. Take time today to discern God’s will for you. Slow down and move deliberately, carefully listening for that still, small voice. Heed the words of others, even though the conversation may seem unrelated or trivial. And trust that in time, the answer will be looking straight at you, just like this turtle. Photo by LadyBugCrossing

Reflecting on Food….

The temperatures dropped into the 50’s last night, making for good sleeping weather. The frogs and insects are serenading us in the early evening, their last songs before the cold weather sets in. Summer is not all that is ending here in Fauquier County. So I was drawn to this photo of chickens at a family owned farm taken by my friend Sarah. These chickens don’t have much in common with the Dolly Parton variety often sold in the supermarkets. No growth hormones or strange chemical cocktails for these chickens, just their feed and some scraps of vegetables. I like knowing the farmers that grow our food. Our family eats locally grown food as much as possible. We believe that buying local and eating local is one of the best ways to be good stewards of creation. We support our neighbors and friends, and reduce the distance from the farm to our dinner plates. Folks talk about conservation, and neglect to consider how much fuel goes into their food. Local produce in the grocery stores sometimes means grown in the US, not grown in your county or state. Even the farmer’s markets include trucked in produce to meet the expectation that any and all fruits and vegetables should be available year round. So I am sad to say that a farmer’s cooperative that greatly aided in our quest to eat locally is closing. Farmergirls.net offered a way to easily purchase food from a variety of local farms and kitchens. This service was web based, with vendors posting what was available each week and customers using an online shopping cart to choose their purchases. Our local food was then sorted and bagged for pick up. Farmergirls.net sought to connect people with local farms, and they have succeeded in doing just that. Many customers now deal with the farms directly, rather than going through the cooperative. Many families now purchase more than their produce locally, buying meat, eggs and dairy from local farms. But not all of us have time to stop at half a dozen locations, and Farmergirls.net will be sorely missed. Take time today to consider where your food was produced, and what went into it. Learn more about buying local and eating local. Start small, perhaps with apples this autumn, or some local honey. If you prefer to eat out, learn more about your favorite restaurant. Support your local farms and learn what a difference it makes to your dinner table. Photo by Sarah Gulick

Reflecting on Parenting….

Today is filled with yet another round of packing. Tori is headed off to Music and Drama Camp at Shrinemont, the Episcopal retreat center here in Virginia. Tori has attended this same camp, with many of the same kids, each summer since middle school. While camp is a reunion of sorts for Tori, it is just another part of letting go for me. Parenting is not for the faint of heart. In all other relationships, our goal is to grow closer to one another. In parenting, our goal is to slowly let go, to provide a safe place for our child to grow into an independent and responsible adult. So I was drawn to this photo of my friend Lindsey surf fishing at the beach. Lindsey is the mother of two high spirited little boys. Lindsey also teaches fitness classes at a local gym. She is a strong lady, physically, mentally and spiritually. That’s what it takes to be a good parent. We must stick to our principles and beliefs to be able to slowly let go, to cast out our doubts and worries and trust in our children. If we have taken the time to not only show our love but also create a sound framework of discipline, our children learn to love and discipline themselves. It’s a lot like surf fishing. Just because you are on your feet doesn’t mean you’re planted in one spot. You move up and down the beach, keeping an eye out for activity and relying on trial and error until you find the right time and place to reel in your catch. As parents, we mostly watch and wait, only reeling in our children when necessary, correcting them with love and gentleness. Take time today to consider what parenting means to you. Give thanks for those who have guided you through periods of growth in your own life, either as a child or as someone in the midst of a difficult transition. And in all things, give thanks to God, our Abba Father and Creator. Photo by Britanny Boger

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