Reflecting on Transformation….

Rain by Kira SkalaLife has been full of surprises in the past few months. I always enjoy a pleasant surprise, but I must admit I do not do well with unexpected losses. When we seem to be drowning in bad news, I struggle to celebrate the good news. At times like these I look for answers. I wonder why life is so difficult and challenging for some, while others sail along, often obvious to the suffering that goes on around them. Perhaps I could manage to wrap my head around one or two of these shocking revelations, but not one after the other. As a Christian I look for redemption in the midst of suffering because I believe God offers more than answers. God offers transformation. God takes life that must end in death and transforms it into eternal life. I believe that eternal life starts now, not after we physically die and pass on. This life offers us inexplicable moments of joy at times when suffering seems bound to crush our hearts and souls. We hit the end of our rope, loosen our grip and expect to fall into the abyss. At that point we let go of what we expect the answer to be, of when that answer will arrive, of who will provide solace, of how grace will open up a path where we see only the Pit. Grace pours through the pain and we find ourselves safely in God’s embrace. Time seems to lose its meaning as we become lost in the wonder and awe. In all this darkness we have been searching for the Holy Spirit in light, only to find the God we seek has been drenching our hearts in Spirit filled water. We no longer need that worn out image of the Spirit as light. We need a Spirit of baptism to wash away the anguish and pain and fill us with joy. Make time today to open your heart to the Almighty, letting go of any and all expectations. Pray for the Holy Spirit to soothe your soul and fill your heart with the peace of God that passes all understanding. Look at what God brings into your life, suspending judgment and holding open space for God’s grace and mercy. And always remember, when we let go of our answer to prayer, God transforms our lives in ways beyond our understanding. Text by Connie Chintall ©2015, photo entitled ‘Rain’ by Kira Skala ©2015, All Rights Reserved

Reflecting on Trust….

On Her Back in the Tub Cropped

Trust is easy to come by when things are going well. We build on good experiences and come to expect the same. Then life throws us a curve ball and we get hit in the face. What we thought we understood, what we had become used to, vanishes in an instant. It’s as if one bad experience erases the good that came before. We forget the good when overwhelmed by the bad. Yet in such difficult times trust may be exactly what we need. If we turtle in, we close ourselves off to both the bad and the good. We must open our hearts to receive the healing balm of the Holy Spirit. Like this small child in a tub, we must trust the water is no deeper than is safe. She lies back and enjoys her bath, looking up at the adult she relies on to make sure all is well. Her Mona Lisa smile says so much more than a toothy grin. Even her eyes are smiling up at us. She knows she is loved and all is right with the world. Perhaps as adults we lose sight of the true meaning of trust. Trust is defined as a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability of strength of something or someone. When we focus on the vagaries of this life, we obscure our view of God. We seek pat answers to complex questions. We go back to asking ‘why’, that why of a child, the why used in place of every question. If we can’t trust life, how can we rely on this mysterious, inexplicable God? Make time today to lie back and look up. Open the eyes and ears of your heart to the Holy Spirit, the Advocate who grants us faith to hold open a space for grace. Look for a reality greater than your surroundings. Seek out and cultivate beauty to strengthen your soul for the challenges ahead. And always remember, when we claim the promise of living water, we are never in over our heads.

Photo by an anonymous friend, Text by Connie Chintall ©2015

Reflecting on Water….

It’s so dry that the clay in my yard is turning to dust. The endless streams of pollen from our blooming trees are mixing with that dust, turning everything the brightest shade of yellow. It’s funny how we take some things for granted until they are in short supply, like water. So I was drawn to this amazing photograph by my friend Jeanne, showing water flowing from the base of a stone structure, slowly filtering into the cloudy pool below. Water is how I think of the Holy Spirit. When life becomes overwhelming, I pray for God to pour down his Holy Spirit, to drench me, to wash away the dust of life that clings to my skin. I recall drinking well water out of a metal cup as a small child, coming in from the heat of the day after playing outside. The sweet and slightly metallic taste of pure, cold water refreshed me better than anything. Perhaps God’s love is like that long, cool drink of water. We wander off to work or play, immersed in our endless activities, until we are overcome by thirst. Sometimes we seek to quench that thirst with worldly things, becoming more and more lost, less and less satisfied. We may even begin to doubt in God’s love, perhaps even wonder if God exists at all. Yet God remains, steadfast, faithful to the end. Take time today to turn again, to seek out God’s face, to open our hearts to His love, a love that was, and is, and always will be, a love without beginning or end. Take a long, cool drink of that love, allowing the Holy Spirit to drench your heart and cleanse your soul. And remember, just like water, God’s love is everywhere, always waiting for us to return, no matter how lost or busy we become. Photo entitled ‘Water Study’ by Jeanne Mischo, ©2012

Reflecting on Discernment….

The heat has returned with a vengeance today. At nine this morning, it is already as hot as yesterday afternoon. I can’t imagine doing much of anything outside, let alone working. So I was drawn to this photo of an iron forger taken by my cousin Diane. Jerry creates wrought iron that is both beautiful and incredibly strong. He is slowly twisting a piece of iron, keeping a respectful distance from fire hot enough to soften metal. Even though he stands off to one side to avoid the blast of heat from the forge, the glow of the fire still illuminates him. At first, you may think he is only using one hand, but if you look more closely, his whole body is alert and involved in his work. So I am reminded of my favorite hymn, ‘Humbly I Adore Thee’. During the many moves we made while Mark and I served in the military, our first task was always to find a new church home. Over the years, the ‘right’ church was always playing that hymn the Sunday we visited. The lyrics remind us that our conception of the Most Holy is only a glimpse of the glory to be revealed when we meet our Maker face to face. In our mortal life, our vision and hearing is limited, our understanding of the infinite God only finite. Like the iron forger, we stand off to one side, illuminated by the fire of the Holy Spirit, but not consumed by its flames. As mere mortals, we are unable to discern or understand what is best for us, especially when we are in the middle of stressful circumstances or relationships. Yet even a glimpse of the immortal can make all the difference in the world. Take time today to allow the fire of the Holy Spirit to light the path that has been prepared for you, trusting that the Most High knows and sees all. Photo by Diane Brooks Myers

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