Reflecting on the Long View…

Long View by Jeff McCord
This past weekend at the lake was a welcome change of scenery. Yes, we are still under the stay at home order, but that does not prohibit travel between personal residences. As time goes by, I appreciate a view of the water more than ever. So I was drawn to the view from my good friend Jeff’s cottage in upstate New York. He and his wife Martha frequently post views of their pond as the seasons change. I have been mulling over this view since early spring. We can see the shore near to us very clearly, while the far shore is shrouded in fog. As long as we focus on what is at hand, that far shore, that long view, will never come into focus.

As a young woman, I wondered if there was a difference between people raised near water and those raised in land locked areas. It seemed to me water offered more possibilities than land and more land. I grew up along the Delaware River in New Jersey. Some of my most cherished childhood memories involve an old jon boat with a 5 horsepower Sears motor. We would gather up change to get enough money for fuel, pack a lunch and head to the boat launch. In the middle of the Delaware River, there was Burlington Island. The island had a wide beach and an area sheltered from the current where we could safely swim. I recall fishing from that boat and the few times I was permitted to join my Uncle Bill to hunt ducks. Those early mornings always felt so mysterious. The river was almost always covered in thick fog. Yet I loved being on the water with him. A calm came over my uncle that I seldom saw, a calm that left me with a feeling that all was well with the world.

Looking beyond what is right in front of us requires strong grounding in the present moment. Perhaps our current penchant for grasping the easy reward stems from a deep insecurity in our present situation. Why not indulge that temptation, take what is right in front of you, lash out in anger? What is the point of looking beyond the here and now? After all, the future is fuzzy at best, catastrophic at worst. If we doubt our present, what we can see and touch and hear and smell, how can we begin to conceive of an unknown future?

Safely taking the long view requires two elements, applied liberally and often. The first is hope and the second is security. We must believe there are better days to come, days worth the current sacrifice to realize. We must also feel safe enough to risk the present for the future. At least for me, both are difficult if not impossible without faith. That is a tough word to define, let alone practice. Yet without practice, our faith withers and dies.

Faith for me means spending time with God listening more than talking. Prayers for others take the form of lifting them into the light rather than offering specific requests. I end with a prayer for those we love from the Book of Common Prayer Online

Almighty God, we entrust all who are dear to us to thy
never-failing care and love, for this life and the life to come,
knowing that thou art doing for them better things than we
can desire or pray for; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

That life to come is not just the afterlife – it is the future we trust and believe in. Make time to open your hearts and minds to new beginnings. Let go of what was and start to look forward, beyond today and tomorrow. Ask yourself what changes are better than what was. Begin to form a new future, a future based on the past but not limited by that past. Trust yourself to be a small part of the Almighty’s whole, expecting God to do immeasurably more than all we can begin to imagine or know to ask for.

Text by Connie Chintall ©2020, All Rights Reserved

Photo entitled ‘The Long View’ by Jeffrey Roswell McCord©2020, used with his permission, All Rights Reserved. Check out his novels on Amazon at Jeffrey Roswell McCord

Reflecting on Normal….

Pretty in Pink by sis97y
The sky has been amazing during our enforced time at home. The full moon this month is called the Pink Moon or the Egg Moon, the moon that presides over the first breath of spring. So I was drawn to this amazing photo by a new friend sis92y. This photo reminds me of why we first moved to Fauquier county, over 25 years ago. My husband and I started a family here, and I fondly recall walking my newborn daughter in the stroller in our lovely neighborhood. It seems like a distant memory of a time and place that may never be again, a more simple and innocent time. I wonder where this pandemic will lead – what will the new normal be?

Unlike my introverted friends, I am finding staying at home more and more difficult. I have worked from home for a number of years, so you would think this current situation isn’t much different. Yet an extrovert who works from home also adds plenty of social interaction into their routine. I practice yoga at a local studio most weekdays. On Wednesdays there is the prayer shawl meeting, then Thursday mornings there is chapel with breakfast and discussion. You get the idea – if I have to work alone, I can surely find a way to make time for social interaction. In my mind I fully understand the need for social distancing. In my heart it feels like I am wearing shoes at least two sizes too small.

I think things out by interacting with others. Talking brings matters into focus, helps sift the wheat from the chaff. Alone I find myself down rabbit holes like Alice in Wonderland, playing chess with life and getting too far ahead of myself. What will childhood be like for my grandchildren, as yet unborn? Will their restrictions cost more than the risks they seek to avoid? Will freedoms I took for granted become unimaginable to them? Of course the short answer is none of us know what lies ahead or even when to expect this current lockdown to subside. If that short-term result eludes us, what good is there in pondering a distant future that may never be realized?

Then I go back to this mysterious moon, this not so simple reflection of the sun, changing shape and size month to month, season to season. This moon reflects the ever constant sun, changing aspect even as the sun abides. If the moon changes without effort, why am I making this so difficult? Rather than focusing on what is, or was, or will be, I must go back to the basis of what works – being intentional about social interaction. I need to use technology to do what I cannot do in person right now.

Make time today to embrace technology to bridge the gap. Read bedtime stories to the little ones over video chat. Host a virtual dinner party. Celebrate birthdays or an anniversary with a dance party online. Let those you love know what they mean to you, speaking from the depths of your heart.

Allow the Holy Spirit to fill your heart and mind, rather than the latest news. Pray for one another, knowing when we pray, we are only a heartbeat away. Pray for more than just protection; pray for blessings that break through the darkness and uncertainty. Pray for the divine to permeate the days and nights ahead. Most of all, pray for the new normal, a normal where each of us may see Christ in everyone that we encounter, rather than just those we hold dear.

Text by Connie Chintall ©2020, All Rights Reserved

Photo entitled ‘Pretty in Pink’ by sis92y©2020, used with her permission, All Rights Reserved. To see more of her work, go to https://www.deviantart.com/sis92y/gallery

Reflecting on Trespasses….

Viral Encroachment by Kira Skala
Abstract art can be tough for me. I tend to use my head over my heart, so the images are not easy to understand or rationalize. Yet this abstract watercolor by my dear friend Kira hit home at first glance. My heart grieves for the world we have left behind as this virus has encircled the globe. My head cannot begin to wrap around what we are going through or where we will end up. Kira calls her work ‘Viral Encroachment’ – a fit title to explain how this tiny organism has taken hold of our daily lives. Something we cannot see has changed everything we can see. An unseen force has taken over, very slowly then all at once. I pondered the sort of things that work that way, piling up over time until the burden is intolerable. Each incident is not that big of a deal until you get to the last straw that tips you over the edge.

We pray about those little indiscretions every Sunday as part of the service. In the Lord’s Prayer, we ask God to ‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us’. Other translations substitute debt or sin for trespass, but what are we really talking about? It was time to go back to the original text in Greek. It was time to ask our parish priest, Pete. In his words:

The Greek word is paraptoma: para = around or alongside; ptoma = slip, trip, or fall. Literally, it means to fall alongside of or more simply, to fall away from. Idiomatically, though, it gets tricky, especially for translators. It’s a verb, action, trying hard to be a noun, thing. Thus we get something like “slips” or “lapses.” For once, the King James translators weren’t that far off the mark when they came up with “debts,” in the sense of things worthy of grudges. Sadly, using the word “sin” really defeats the purpose, as it doesn’t look like what we think Jesus was trying to convey, but there it is.

The really interesting thing, at least to me, is that trespassing implies a moving forward into forbidden territory, whereas paraptoma suggests an accidental falling away from the good. It’s almost as if the translation is opposite Jesus’ intent: a paraptoma is, for all intents and purposes, an accident; a trespass is an intended wrongful act. – Reverend Doctor Peter R. Gustin

This virus cannot move on its own – people carry it from place to place, from person to person. You are contagious once you contract the virus, but symptoms may take a week or more to appear. Surfaces can hold the virus and be picked up by another person touching an affected area. All of this sounds a lot more like a series of little accidents, careless indiscretions, thoughtless actions. Each incident doesn’t seem like much but over time we end up with more than we could begin to imagine possible. It is easy to succumb to fear, to look for someone to blame. Yet are we really angry at any single individual, or are we simply furious at the whole situation?

Make time today to hold open space for grace. Consider each little act more like an accident. Forgive as you wish to be forgiven. Take precautions to safeguard yourself and others out of love instead of fear. Look for new ways to socially connect in the current climate of social distancing. Take time to check in with one another, especially folks we would normally see on a regular basis. Most of all, let each of us lean on God’s strength rather than our own. As Brother Lawrence would say ‘My only chance of success is with you, Lord, for alone I shall surely fail’.

Text by Connie Chintall ©2020, All Rights Reserved

Greek origin of ‘trepasses’, reflection by the Reverend Doctor Peter R. Gustin

Watercolor entitled ‘Viral Encroachment’ by Kira Skala©2020, used with her permission, All Rights Reserved.

Reflecting on Infinity….

Beach and Beyond by Gillian Barr Nov 2019
As time goes by, I find the simplest things bring up more than one memory or association. The longer I live, the more I bring along with me, the more that can weigh me down or lift me up. This photo of the sunset on the beach near San Diego is a good example. I recall visiting my friend Gillian when she was ordained and probably walking on that same beach. I think back to work trips to San Diego, always a respite from the office in LA. Yet today one memory stands out more than the others. As a young officer and later as the wife of an officer, I spent almost eight years living near the beach in Los Angeles. I frequently ran or biked along the beach after work, passing the same scenery on the way out and the way back. This time of year, the sun was low in the sky, prompting me to be distracted by the scenery yet also cautious of delaying too long. The evening brought the homeless to their perches along the path. Some were friendly, others were at best benign. Either way, it was not the place to be as a young woman after dark. Yet while the sand harbored the lost, the sea and the sky stopped me in my tracks, like the lone bird in this photo. I would stand in awe of the majesty opening before me, too large to conceive of with my mind. The symphony of waves crashing along the beach drowned out the cares of the day and my heart and soul were renewed. Perhaps to open my heart I needed a scene larger than my imagination, a scene that continued beyond the horizon to distant shores on the other side of the world. I need a glimpse of the infinite to even begin to understand the Holy of Holies, to let go of my rational mind and to see and hear the Alpha and Omega with my heart. Make time today to ponder beauty and majesty in your surroundings. Perhaps there is a place to pause along your commute, or a short walk from home. Pluck a bloom or pick up a leaf, resting in the colors and intricacy of the tiniest thing. Consider taking a photo and folding a piece of creation into your daily work. Most of all, let yourself be surprised by what seeks you out – our Lord is waiting to enfold you at every turn.

Text by Connie Chintall ©2019, photo collage entitled ’Beyond the Sea and Shore’ by Gillian Barr©2019, used with her permission, All Rights Reserved

Reflecting on Wildflowers….Seeking the sacred amidst the ordinary

P1020886Every so often my husband and I make a list of places we want to visit. We learned while living overseas that if we only travel to places we both want to go then we will travel much less often. I have always wanted to go to the Himalayas, the roof of the world. I wasn’t interested in conquering a mountain or pushing myself to the limit physically. I wanted to visit a place where faith is woven into everyday life. Since I was traveling on my own, I joined a tour by Road Scholar to Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan. This photo best captures what Tibet felt like to me. For the past 60 years, Tibet has been part of China. I expected to see and feel deep faith in this part of the world, but I also felt a great sorrow. We left the city of Lhasa to visit a family with a small farm and a nunnery in the hills. This photo is taken on a bathroom stop on the side of the road. We had driven past groups of tall buildings that looked like they were made out of Legos. While we were staying in the old part of Lhasa on one side of the river, these high rises centered around the new train station on the other side of the river. Han Chinese are settling there, creating their own city and culture. Yet despite the relentless influx of new settlers, the wildflower of faith will not be contained. It seems as if the sturdy fence is the old city, helping to prop up the wildflowers, while the Lego buildings are the chicken wire fence, hoping to keep out the wildflowers. Yet no matter what fence you add to the landscape, their ancient faith will not be contained. Like the wildflowers, faith finds its own way, stopping you in your tracks. Not long after we left this spot we arrived at a small nunnery. We found the nuns chanting to celebrate Buddha Descending, a holy day commemorating when Buddha appeared to his mother after his death. She is revered as the mother of all Buddhas, the shining example of wisdom married to compassion. As I listened to the nuns chant, my heart burst open until it seemed as though the whole world fit inside it. All at once my heart knew that what happens to one of us happens to all of us. Me as an individual is just as much of an illusion as borders on a map or faiths by different names. We are all one in the eyes of the Divine. Make time today to break down the fences that seek to contain the wildflowers of faith. Step out of your comfort zone and reach out to someone different from you on the outside, while so much the same on the inside. Stop to look and listen with your heart rather than your mind. And don’t be surprised if the one image that sticks with you afterward also happens to be the most mundane.

Text and photo by Connie Chintall ©2019, used with permission, All Rights Reserved

Reflecting on Urgent


I love to walk and one of my favorite places to walk is along the water. There is always a distant view and just the sound of water is relaxing. Walking along in the breeze to the rhythm of crashing waves seems to drown out any worries or concerns. The natural ebb and flow of life unfolds before me and all the urgent matters that were screaming for my attention fade into the background. Yet even on such a pleasant walk sooner or later I happen upon something that demands my attention.

This amazing photo by my cousin Patty is one of those arresting images that has consumed my morning devotions for almost three months. The waves have taken over this stump, all that is left of a once mighty tree. The sturdy rings developed over decades have split and opened out. Shells and feathers are caught in the opening folds, wedging themselves further and further into the grain of the wood.

I don’t know about you, but there are days when I feel like the urgent has chopped down my tree trunk and left me as a stump. I feel battered by ceaseless waves of who knows how many interruptions and over reactions, until like this stump, it seems I have lost the integrity of my purpose and strength. Worse yet, I find my requests met with the question – is this urgent? Honestly I answer it can wait, but that means the matter is neither urgent or important to them. I find myself having to ask again to even get the matter taken care of. It seems unless the matter is urgent, it cannot be important.

I harken back to the Eisenhower decision matrix, made more famous by Stephen Covey in ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’, shown below:


Eisenhower said we are to spend the most time in Quadrant 2 – Focus. Proper planning eliminates most emergencies or prepares us so well that even the worst scenarios are easily and calmly handed.

So what is the problem? Do I lack a good understanding of what is important to me? Do I allow distractions to overwhelm me and subsume my days? And how does all this have anything to do with the sacred? At least for me making time for prayer and devotion, the most important way to spend my time, only happens if I start my day that way. That quiet time grounds me in what is the most important matter for me – am I aligned with God’s will for me and those I love? Am I walking as a child of the light, or am I blotting out God’s will in favor of my own?

Let’s face it – that tree was in trouble long before the trunk was cut down. That once mighty tree has shrunken into a rotting stump, without roots to provide nutrition or branches to reach out to the sun. How easily do we focus on our own branches, reaching out to others, at the expenses of the strength in our roots? Even good works can starve our prayer time, just becoming another urgent item to react to.

Make time today to shore up your strength. Sit quietly or take a walk, letting nature seep into your soul. Listen more than you speak; respond before you react; love more than you judge. And always remember, we can only love others as much as we love ourselves. Let us root ourselves in that divine love that has no beginning or end. May we lean on God’s strength to fortify our trunks and offer sturdy branches to others.

Text by Connie Chintall ©2019, Eisenhower decision matrix in common use, photo entitled ’Washing Out with the Tide’ by Patty Steiner ©2019, used with her permission, All Rights Reserved

Reflecting on Doubt….

Stairway to Heaven by Rick MartinEaster has come and gone and we are working our way through the Gospels concerning Christ’s appearances after the resurrection. I have always had trouble with the scripture in John 20. We find the disciples huddled together in an upper room with the door bolted out of fear. I wonder how far out of the way they went to find a place to hide. Was the staircase to that room like the one in this photo? Were they in an old, abandoned home? Did they seek out the last place anyone would look? Did they dare to climb up old and rickety stairs rather than risk being found out? And where was Thomas that day? Out for a pack of smokes? What if Thomas was the only one who was not afraid, not hiding away? What if Thomas was continuing the ministry? After all, Christ wasn’t there anymore and someone had to do it. He was a hands-on sort of guy. He needed to be in the middle of things, so see and hear what was going on for himself. We all know that Thomas, the one who either doesn’t show up for the committee meeting or can’t sit still while the rest of the folks try to work through the details. The Thomas who says ‘We need to get going, we can figure it out as we go along, why bother planning when everything will change anyway?’. Then one week, something truly eye opening happens at the meeting. The rest of us are excited and try to explain it, but all we hear is doubt. Are you sure it was really that spectacular? Thomas voices his doubts and asks the burning questions that no one wants to hear but must be shouted out. Without that lone voice, the rest of us remain closed off and nothing changes. Thomas spoke out, Thomas got it. That next week he remained with his friends. He saw the risen Lord. Is the end of that Gospel a rebuke or simply a reminder of how Thomas was created? Christ meets Thomas, just as he is, gently reaching out to say your service is great, may your worship be just as great. None of us can root that service in the Risen Lord in isolation. We must root ourselves in community to deepen our faith and fuel our work. Thomas was the man God called him to be. He was the hands and feet of the kingdom. He needed to see and touch to know the Risen Lord. Christ sends him out to be present to those who do not need to see and feel, because those of great faith and less action are no less Christ’s own. Make time today to live into who God made you to be. Spend time with those like you and those least like you, meeting each one where they are. Embrace each and every soul for who God made them to be. And always remember to refrain from judging those who rub you the wrong way, trusting God is teaching you both where you fit into His Kingdom. Text by Connie Chintall ©2019, photo entitled ’Stairway to Heaven’ by Rick Martin ©2018-2019, used with his permission, All Rights Reserved. To see more of Rick’s work, go to http://www.abandonedanddesertedinvirginia.com/

Reflecting on Fractured….

Underneath it All by Buck 20181004Crisp, clear mornings make for perfect football weather and a welcome relief from the endless rain and oppressive heat of this past summer. Yet I find myself stuck in a funk, grieving for my father who passed away ten years ago this month. He led a full life and died at ninety in our home, so it isn’t about him at all. I can’t say he was cheated or taken too soon. It’s me that feels the loss so keenly this month. It’s when life brings burdens that I cannot relieve that I miss my father the most. Two of those I love dearly are facing health crises, dealing with pain and uncertainty. I feel helpless to make a difference, except to sit and pray. Before you ask, both of these friends would jump to say those prayers make a difference. I firmly believe in the power of prayer yet the suffering in the interim is sometimes more than I can begin to fathom. Yet I persevere, knowing that God has provided a healing for them both. I believe because I have experienced such healing myself, again and again. I may seem put together and wise, but underneath it all, there are fractures that run deep. I say I am fractured not broken, the word more often used in hymns and sermons. The bones all remain in place. They still hold me up and carry me around, but there are days when I can feel each and every crack. Yet God shines through my words and actions most when I reach out in my own weakness. I surrender to the wideness in God’s mercy, letting go of my own limited understanding and trusting this is not the end of the story. I pray and wait, ponder and mull, choosing my words carefully. Sometimes I pray for God’s words rather than my own, because I have no words at all. Often I pray with my breath, reaching out to God as I breathe out, receiving blessing and protection for those in need of prayer as I breathe in. So where does my father enter into all this? His silly laugh would cut through all this serious nonsense and break the tension, or he would tell a story that would make a memory so vivid you would think you were there all over again. He would lift me out of the moment so I could gain more perspective and carry on. Make time today to lift another up in prayer. Ask how you can help make a difference. Trust God to make up the difference when you fall short. Tell a story that brings back a happy memory or make a new memory. Most of all, offer up your fractures, allowing God’s light to shine through the cracks in your heart and soul. Text by Connie Chintall ©2018, art entitled ‘Underneath It All’ by David Buckwalter©2018, incorporating art by Leigh Hooper, used with their permission, All Rights Reserved. To see more of David’s work, go to https://www.buckwalterphotographyva.com/

Reflecting on the Way Out….

Way Out by Rick Martin Sep17
Life is never as neat and tidy as I would like it. My attention shifts from one aspect to the next, usually resulting in total neglect of at least one part of my life. I start to eat healthy, but can’t manage to exercise. I take time for morning prayer, but neglect to keep in touch with friends. It seems I am much better at focusing on one part of my life than I am at balancing the many parts of my life. So I was drawn to this incredible photograph by my friend Rick. He seeks out abandoned and deserted places and turns what others see as a lost cause into beautiful art. I look at his work and wonder about who might have lived there and what their lives must have been like. Most of all, I am intrigued by how light affects how I see the image. I have been turning my attention to long neglected areas of my life, cleaning out clutter and dealing with ancient memories that clutter brings up. Perhaps I hang onto things because I dread thinking about what those things remind me of. It is easier to box up the stuff and the past that goes with it than to the time to sift through it. Somehow I have wound myself into the darkest corner of that house of memories, with not enough light to discern what I am looking at, let alone what I need to address. And of course, I expect the way out to be simple, a single step, a single turning, a single change of heart. Yet how can that be when it took me forever and a day to get here? Why do I expect the way out to be any less complicated than the way in? A part of me has been dealing with the monsters in the closet, whether I chose to turn my conscious thoughts toward them or not. Unpacking the way out will take time and more than a little space for grace. Take time today to peek around the corner and take a look at what you hide in the shadows. Tomorrow or next week, clear out the cobwebs and clutter that gets in the way. When you are ready, wipe away the dust and look at that old memory calmly and clearly. Most of all, be gentle with yourself and let go of what happens next. Hold open space for something new and unexpected. Open your heart to a future beyond what you can imagine or hope for, a future that embraces the past rather than remaining trapped by that past. And always remember, it starts with just one step out of the darkness, one day at a time. Text by Connie Chintall ©2017, photo entitled ‘Way Out’ by Rick Martin©2017, used with his permission, All Rights Reserved. To see more of Rick’s work, go to http://www.rickmartin.com or http://www.abandonedanddesertedinvirginia.com

Reflecting on the Edge….

Boys on the EdgeIt has been many years since I have lived on the edge. As a young airman working on the flight line in 1978, I was living on the edge in more ways than one. I was one of only two women repairing electronics on fighter aircraft. My pay was so low I couldn’t afford a car. I rode a bicycle to work for over two years. I was taking college courses and working crazy hours because we were on alert from the Iran hostage crisis. That edge wasn’t a cliff or a wall. That edge shifted and snuck up on you, like ocean waves along the shore. So this peaceful photo of my friend Timmy and his son on the beach at Lewes draws me back to times on the edge. Most important of all, it brings me back to other memories of that stage in my life. I recall riding horses in the desert with my friend Rose, the other woman who worked with me. I recall spectacular sunrises over the hills almost every morning. I recall barbequed quail for breakfast after shifts that lasted way too long. It was a time of extremes, a time of strain and struggle, but also a time of intense friendships and great beauty. My military service formed me in ways I still do not fully understand or appreciate. I know the edge when it arrives. I know how to orient myself and push forward when others crumble and fall. Most of all, I know how important it is to take time to walk on the beach and allow the beauty to seep into your soul. Pause to enjoy what life has to offer you here and now, and share that moment of awe and beauty with those you cherish and love. Make a memory that will sustain you the next time you face that edge. Text by Connie Chintall ©2017, photo entitled ‘Boys on the Edge’ of Timothy and Sid Miller by Ingrid Miller©2017, used with her permission, All Rights Reserved.

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