Reflecting on Bounty….

Fall colors always bring me up short. It seems backward that the brightest colors appear just before the frost, a last hurrah before the grey and brown of winter. So I was drawn to this beautiful photo by my friend Kay, full of pumpkins and gourds, cabbages and mums. The shopkeeper has included all of the sturdy fall offerings, flowers that hold up in spite of the cold, pumpkins that last until you tire of them or decide to bake a pie or make soup. Yet most of all, I am struck by the bounty, the overflowing plenty we often take for granted day by day. We are beyond blessed in this nation of wealth and privilege. Yet across the globe, many struggle to just get by, working long hours at difficult and dangerous jobs for low wages. Their food for the day would barely satisfy us for one meal. Clean water means carrying a heavy burden, if available at all. Many households may share a single latrine, often little more than a crude outhouse. My first parish was St Mary’s in Burlington, New Jersey. Our priest, Father Greene, would challenge us all to donate the amount of money we would spend on food in one day to alleviate world hunger. He would fast on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, leading by example, depriving himself for one day to gain empathy for those who hungered day in, day out. Some of us high school students tried to fast as well. I only made it to lunchtime, yet that effort was not wasted. I began to understand how all consuming hunger can be, if only for a few classes one morning at school. Make time today to help those less fortunate in your community and around the world. Pray to see others as God sees them, to hear with God’s ears, to hold them with God’s arms, close to God’s heart. Look for a way to feed the hungry, not just for the holidays, but year round. Start a food drive, volunteer at a soup kitchen, make meals for the homeless. Give out of gratitude for what you have been given. And remember, when you’re tempted not to bother, “for everyone to whom much is given, of him shall much be required’ (Luke 12:48). Text by Connie Chintall, Photo by Kay Brickey

Reflecting on Frost….

Today is one of those cold, clear days. Even when I left for the gym, there was still frost on the ground. So I was drawn to this amazing photo of ice on a wild grape vine taken by my friend Cecilia. I love how the ice crystals look like tiny snowflakes, delicately poised on the twisted vines. Water in all its forms is one of the most miraculous and beautiful parts of life. As liquid, water finds its own way, flowing here and there, following the path of least resistance. As steam, water creates the electricity that allows my computer and yours to operate. Yet frozen water remains the most amazing and mysterious. Snow has ten times the volume of rain, and ice is even more perplexing. I never cease to be amazed by how ponds and creeks freeze over, or the way light glistens on icicles, or how dew can form early morning frost. I love to hear the ground crunch beneath my feet as I walk the dog. I love to see frost illuminated by the slanting winter sun as I enjoy my second cup of coffee. And I miss how frost formed on the windows of my childhood home, reminding us Christmas was right around the corner. Take time today to look closely at what you often take for granted. Stop to consider how something simple is just a miracle we see every day. Look for vibrant life where others might only see the cold and frozen. And remember we receive the gift of life, one drop, one breath, at a time. Photo by Cecilia Carr

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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