Reflecting on Frost….

Sometimes life floats along, and all seems well with the world. We chase our dreams, get married, have babies, buy our first home. We feel as if life will last forever, that nothing can touch us, let alone hurt us. We win because it never occurs to us we could lose. Then one day, the phone rings, or a doctor calls us into the office, and cold grips our hearts. We find there is a mountain we can’t climb, an obstacle we can’t avoid. Frost clings to us and we learn we are no more resilient than a delicate flower. Leaves lose their shape and drape over our petals, rather than reaching for the sun. In this amazing photo, my friend Gailen caught the first frost, when the leaves fold but the blossoms remain steadfast. Yet there is a double meaning here. Asters are also known as frost flowers, and have long been considered enchanted. English myths tell us fairies slept under their petals after they closed at sunset. Asters are traditionally placed upon the graves of French soldiers as a symbol to represent a reversal of the outcome of their battles. In Victorian times, the aster became a symbol of patience or anticipation. This delicate, wild looking flower is a symbol of persistence. True strength is born out of tribulation, when we pick ourselves up and continue to believe when all else tells us to despair. We learn to truly enjoy each messy, frustrating moment, understanding all we can count on is our next breath. We accept the gift of abundant life, not perfect or neat, but messy, heartbreaking, amazing, hilarious, all at the same time. We allow ourselves to grief, to rejoice, to let go, to begin again. We trust that the sun will chase away the cold, and that this too shall pass. Make time today to enjoy what life brings your way. Stop to consider the miracles of creation that surround us all, the flowers, the birds, even the clouds in the sky. Thank God for these amazing bodies we walk around in, for the health that we so often take for granted. And remember to remain patient like the asters, even when the leaves around you droop. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo entitled ‘Good Morning Asters’ by Gailen Mapes ©2012, used with his permission

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Reflecting on Prayer….

School is out and I am thankful for quiet mornings, a chance to slow down rather than rush off. The days have been cool and clear, with picture perfect skies. There seem to be birds everywhere, birds you can hear singing even when you can’t see them. So I was drawn to this extraordinary photo by my friend Gailen, of two birds perched in a tree. You couldn’t ask for more of a contrast between these two birds. One seems to be angry, shouting at the other, with more than its open beak can hold. Yet what really got my attention was the other bird’s reaction. Rather than slinking away or hiding, the second bird is leaning forward, carefully listening to every word, regardless of the volume or tone of voice. How often do we shout out what we want, insisting that every detail is just so? We demand rather than ask, shut down rather than opening up, talk rather than listening. How we interact with others often carries over into how we offer our prayers to God. We scream to be heard, imagining God is so far away, or simply not listening. We expect God to slink off and hide, offering a human reaction to our anger and disappointment. Yet God is right there with us, as close as our next breath. God is vast beyond our imagining, powerful beyond belief. No matter how we feel or what we say, God can handle it, from you, from me, from all seven billion of us at the same time. Take time today to talk to God, without concern about your tone of voice or the words you use. Let go of what weighs down your soul and burdens your heart, trusting the Holy of Holies to comfort and guide you. Hang in there and work though it, like the Psalmist, starting out in a shout, then ending in song. And remember, through it all, God is eagerly listening, leaning toward you to hear every word. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo entitled ‘I’m Listening’ by Gailen Mapes ©2012, used with his permission

Reflecting on Fluff….

It’s a bright, clear morning, much colder than yesterday. We seem to be oscillating between winter and spring, uncertain how to dress from day to day. We may need a heavy coat this morning, only to find that same coat a burden by early afternoon. So I was drawn to this amazing photo by my new friend Gailen, capturing cattails as a strange mixture of the whimsical and the sturdy. Cattails stood watch over many of my childhood adventures, lazy days spent messing about in the creek. I loved to see the birds take shelter in the stands of cattails, sometimes growing over ten feet tall. In the early spring, birds would pluck the fluff to line their nests, spreading seeds that closely resemble their own feathers. It can be difficult to distinguish between the whimsical and the sturdy, between wants and needs. What appears to be excess may be truly necessary, something my grandmother called ‘holy waste’. Time spent in what others consider frivolous pursuits may be healing to the soul, allowing an old wound to transform into a new creation. One person’s fluff may be another’s substance, bringing beauty and joy into an otherwise drab existence. Take time today for your fluff, to sing instead of speaking, to dance instead of walking. Let healing light shine in your heart, opening your soul to new beginnings, claiming the promise of abundant life. And remember, if we can let go of the burdens that weigh us down, we can float like a feather in the wind, spreading seeds of new creation. Photo entitled ‘Cattails with Flying Fluff’ ©2012 by Gailen Mapes All Rights Reserved, used by permission

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