Reflecting on Storms….

Yurt - Girl Faces the Storm by Jeanne Mischo

It’s a beautiful summer morning, yet I am drawn to this amazing drawing by y friend Jeanne. Her art is often featured in this blog, art that challenges me and enhances my personal devotions. It’s difficult to say if the drawing is set in the distant past or distant future, if the storm is made of snow or sand, if the scene is a remote village or a planet from another galaxy.  It may seem odd to focus on storms when the weather is just the opposite.  Yet how often do we carry around a storm inside, despite the apparent calm that surrounds us? Inner turmoil has a timeless quality, persistent beyond all reason. You aren’t sure if it’s day or night, or even what is going on around you. The gloom can blot out everything, leading to self absorption and social isolation.  We may turtle in, hoping to wait out the storm, not realizing we take the storm into the shell with us. Others may choose to place themselves in difficult situations, to mirror their souls in their surroundings. Some even convince themselves they deserve to suffer. Yet all the while, the answer lies within, a healing has been prepared, abundant life awaits.  We must simply open our hearts and souls to the Holy of Holies, to lay down our burdens at the foot of the cross, to acknowledge the sovereignty of the Most High. Make time today to look beyond the storm within.  Allow yourself to rest in God’s love, to accept the peace of God that passes all understanding. Let go of what you have come to expect and allow the Holy Spirit to open your eyes and ears.  And always remember, the path to healing is never what we expect, yet we must trust in healing for that path to be revealed. Text by Connie Chintall ©2015 Art entitled ‘Yurt – Girl Faces the Storm’ by Jeanne Mischo ©2011

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Reflecting on Fairytales….

Megan in Wonderland by Dawn DuffieldThere are times in our lives when we all need stories. We recall fairytales from our childhood, favorite stories we could not grasp or fully embrace at the time. Then our adult lives are torn asunder. Tragedy strikes, painstaking plans run amuck, or we slowly grind to a halt. When life turns topsy turvy, we truly comprehend the transformative power of the story. So I was drawn to this amazing image by my friend Dawn. I love how relaxed Megan looks in the midst of a fantastic, over the top scene. The only concession to the fantasy of her surroundings might be her tutu. Perhaps Megan is a modern day princess, resting before she goes off to slay the dragon on her own. This surreal garden may simply be a detour on her long and arduous journey. Tomorrow we will attend the funeral of a friend who passed from this world very suddenly and unexpectedly. She was away on business at the time, so the funeral was delayed for about a week. In the midst of this tragedy, my husband and I bought a lake home, the culmination of a lifelong dream. Our lake home feels a lot like this garden, an oasis in the desert. I ended up at the lake for the business side of buying a house. I spent the morning waiting on technicians to sort out the phone and utilities. I found myself lost in the view, lost in my emotions, lost to the world as we know it. I was transported out of the nightmare into a safe corner where the dreams are still sweet, where kings and queens still slay dragons, where wood violets still bring a smile to my sad face. Make time today to nurture the sweet dreams of your soul. Water and till the garden of good memories. Weed out the nightmares that seek to creep in and choke out the brave and the innocent and the compassionate. Let the tiniest of flowers stand guard at the gate of your heart.  And always remember, all it takes is one story, a story that reaches across time, to quiet your mind before bedtime.  Text by Connie Chintall ©2015, photo by Dawn Duffield©2011, entitled ‘Megan in Wonderland’, to see more of her work, go to http://www.projectdawnphotography.com

Reflecting on Glimpses….

Kerrville Cross by Eric JordanIt’s a beautiful, crystal clear morning on Long Beach Island in New Jersey. The journey here has brought me to a mixture of times long since past and times yet to come. So I was drawn to this amazing photo by my high school friend Eric of the cross located on Interstate Highway 10 in Kerrville, TX. I love how he caught the light streaming through the top of this enormous cross. As an engineer, I am awed by the openwork metal construction, by the daring of the builders to take on a task so many others would forsake. It is so easy to see the empty, solid cross as the whole story, rather than simply the beginning of the story. It’s tempting to dwell on the past, on how we got to the empty cross. It’s what we know for sure, what we can easily account for. Instead the empty cross is a glimpse of eternity, the beginning of a glorious and wonderful story that starts here and now. A very wise child taught me that eternity is not linear time without beginning or end. Eternity is all times happening right now, simultaneously, miraculously, spectacularly. Rather than standing at a single point, looking back or looking forward, the Almighty can perceived all times, all places, all souls, all at once. Make time today to glimpse eternity through the window of the resurrection cross. Root yourself firmly in the here and now, in the intersection between our linear perception of time and God’s all encompassing eternity. Let go of your meager human solutions to make room for the Divine, to follow God’s plan rather than your own. Open your heart to the Mystery, to seek consolation rather than comprehension. And always remember, each and every time we turn afresh to the steadfast love of Alpha and Omega, we find infinitely more than we can hope for, or even begin to imagine. Text by Connie Chintall ©2013, Photo by Eric Jordan, of the Kerrville Cross. To learn more about this amazing cross, go to http://thecrossatkerrville.org/home/

Reflecting on Tides….

Shipwreck by Jeanne MischoSpring has flown and summer is upon us, which means sticky, hot days here in Virginia. So rather than face the heat, I return to the blog after a month long absence. Please forgive my neglect. It has been a month filled with happy activities surrounding my daughter’s high school graduation. So it may seem odd that I am drawn to this haunting image by my friend Jeanne. Like most of her art, it takes time to find words worthy of her craft. For almost a year, this drawing has been my screensaver, sometimes welcome, other times an abrupt collision with reality. I am uncertain if it is dawn or dusk, if the tides are rising or falling, if the ship has just arrived or is long abandoned. All I know for sure is the ship is stuck in the shoals, rather than floating along in the channel. Will the ship be able to break free if the tides rise high enough? Or is it shunted in the shallows forever? Is the ship weighed down with rust and ruin, or simply covered with a thin film of leaf litter and grime? I, for one, hope we are viewing the dawn, rather than the dusk, a diversion rather than a destination, a short reprieve rather than final sentence. Like F Scott Fitzgerald, I choose to reserve judgment, because ‘Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope”. I trust the hull remains sound even when the surface has weathered one too many storms. Make time today to clear the litter from your soul, to make your way back into the deep channel, instead of remaining in the stagnant shallows. Allow the Holy Spirit to lift the tides of your life to a new level, to show you a way beyond a situation you thought was impossible to cope with or move beyond. Trust in the sovereignty of the Almighty to guide your steps and guard your heart for what lies ahead. Let go of your meager expectations and make room for more than you could begin to imagine or even hope for. And always remember to look with the heart and not just the eyes, or you might miss the beauty that lies beneath a weathered exterior. Text by Connie Chintall ©2013, Art entitled ‘Shipwreck’ by Jeanne Mischo ©2013, All Rights Reserved. To see more of her work, go to http://jeannemischo.wordpress.com/

Reflecting on the Road Home….

Road Home by Steve UlleniusScience and technology are often portrayed in opposition to faith, something to be avoided, a temptation we could do without. Yet every aspect of life offers us an opportunity for good or evil. We love legends and myths because these stories endure across time, illuminating a greater truth about our human condition, showing us that each day we are facing a battle between good and evil. So I was intrigued by this amazing photo by my friend Steve. He took five frames of the same scene and combined them, to obtain a High Dynamic Range (HDR) image. I love the rich colors against dark clouds. The barn, the trees, the fields plowed under for winter, glow against the looming sky. Yet what first drew me to this image is the pothole in the drive. How often do we let something small impede our progress? We look down, instead of ahead, and lose our way home. We look for a well kept cottage when our true destination may be a weathered barn. Like Steve, perhaps we need to slow down and take more than one quick look. We need to persist in our quest, endure and overcome the obstacles, look beyond outward appearances. Make time today to choose a random act of kindness over a hasty and impatient response. Slow down and breathe in the love of God, thankful for what life brings, focusing on just this moment. Take one thing at a time, stay on the right path, do good even when no one else notices or bothers to say thank you. And always remember, it’s when we look beyond the rust and peeled paint that we find the Christ child, laid in a manger, the tiny miracle that brought salvation to the world. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo entitled ‘Framed’ by Steve Ullenius, All Rights Reserved

Reflecting on the Center….

Being with Trees by Heidi Anne MorrisI sit in a chair that faces the window for my morning devotions. Our home is surrounded by trees, and I can view a large stand from that window. When there are no words for my prayers, I often feel the trees pray for me. Their roots penetrate into the strength of the earth, while their limbs reach for the heavens. So I was drawn to this haunting photo by my friend Heidi Anne, part of her ‘Being with Trees’ series. I love the muted colors and the delicate branches, enfolded in dense fog. All we can see is the trees – whatever lies beyond is shrouded in mystery. Lately my view has been a lot like this photo. Our morning fog has persisted throughout the day, making me wonder if we are living in England again, instead of Virginia. Yet perhaps I need to see that fog right now, to focus solely on what is in front of me, letting go of what lies beyond, trusting the God has hold of the rest. We are sorting through the mess left by the problems of a few weeks back, another medical test, another doctor appointment, another call to the insurance company. It’s easy to get lost in the details of life, to allow a totaled car or a nagging physical condition to steal your joy. So even when I’m overwhelmed, even when I’m so angry I can spit, I sit in that chair and look out on the trees. I pray the daily office of Morning Prayer aloud, until a word or phrase touches my heart and I fall silent. Then it’s just me and the trees. There are mornings when my feet feel rooted to the center of the earth, and my heart soars to the heavens. Other mornings are filled with silent tears, an aching heart, an angry groan. Then I notice that trees stand strong, swaying in the wind, reaching out to one another and to God. I recall others lift me in prayer, as I lift them in prayer. No matter what life brings, I am praying with all those who believe, united in the center, our roots inexplicably intertwined. Make time and space today for God. Seek out your center, letting go of what weighs down your heart. Pray for your own concerns and lift up the concerns of those you love, even those who annoy and trouble you. Believe in the prayer of others when you have no prayers of your own. And remember, no matter what life brings, when we make room for God, when we unite with all those who seek the Center, we find ourselves enfolded in go’o’d. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo entitled ‘Being with Trees’, Heidi Anne Morris ©2012, used with her permission, voted one of Google’s Top Ten. To see more of her work, go to http://www.heidiannemorris.com/

Reflecting on Wholeness….

Amathus ay Sunset by Tomasz HuczekThis life is full of twists and turns, unexpected joy and crushing sadness. We never know what awaits us, from day to day. A morning that begins with soaring promise can end in disaster; another morning that seems bleak beyond despair can end on top of the world. So I was drawn to this amazing photo by my friend Tomasz. His photos have been featured in previous posts, most often pictures of Kourion Beach. So I was intrigued by this photo of Amathus, one of the most ancient royal cities of Cyprus. In the midst of widespread devastation, we find a single, intact earthen jar, somehow enduring across all time. I have been struggling with an age old dilemma, why bad things happen to good people, to those who love and trust in the Lord God, and live upright and ethical lives. My prayers have been peppered with outright rage, bone crushing sadness and endless intercessions for a miracle. In many ways, these prayers resemble heated conversations with my family and closest friends. I lash out in anger, only to realize I’m not mad at them, but rather beyond frustrated with a situation I cannot control. I can vent my anger safely with those I love most, those who know me best, those who love me because of my faults, rather than in spite of them. So the psalms that begin in anger and end in praise and trust in God don’t seem so farfetched these days. I wrestle with how life has dealt such a cruel blow, as I cling to God’s mercy without beginning or end. Again and again, I turn away from the affliction that causes such anger, and give thanks for the healing that has been prepared. I question how this all can happen, while trusting that God has provided in ways I cannot begin to understand. Most of all, I cling to the blessed assurance that wholeness remains in this broken world, a wholeness born of steadfast love that was, and is, and always will be. Make time today to pour out your heart to the Almighty, the Architect of the Universe. You don’t need to hold back your anger – the Alpha and Omega is vast enough to bear it all. Leave your worldly concerns, the heaviest burdens of this broken life, in the palm of the Most High, and ask the All Merciful to draw you close to the Heart of All Hearts. And always remember, even when we are lost in great darkness, surrounded by brokenness we believe is beyond repair, our everlasting God remains in our midst, ready to bring us into the light and make us whole. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo by Tomasz Huczek ©2012, to see more of his photos, go to http://tomasz.cc/

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

Reflecting on Health….

Good health is something we all take for granted, until there’s a problem. Perhaps our health deteriorates over time, part of the inevitable decline of old age. Some of us may experience chronic health concerns, issues we may have dealt with since childhood. Yet what we struggle with most is a sudden, unexpected illness or injury, leaving us or those we love grappling with debilitating consequences. So I was drawn to this mesmerizing drawing by my friend Jeanne. I love how the bird is perched at an odd angle, deftly clinging to the branch against all odds. The compass rose is the centerpiece of a roulette wheel, with the needle missing. Instead of indicating true north, our direction is determined by sheer luck. I find myself wondering if the bird plucked out the compass needle, or if the bird holds the roulette ball in its beak. Then of course there is the background. This capricious scene plays out against solid wood, a firm and strong foundation. I’m reminded of a quilted wall hanging I made for my sister years ago, using fabric from garments I had sewn for the family. Each square contains a different birdhouse, but there were no birds in the original pattern. So I added them to the quilt, using the smallest of scraps, mostly from ties I had made for my father as a young girl. Somehow the bird pattern was reversed, and the birds in her wall hanging are upside down. I began to tear out my work to start over, then thought better of it and left the birds as they were. There was a playful quality to their odd orientation, a suggestion of motion that would be missing otherwise. It seemed the birds were swooping down, frolicking on the wind. It can be difficult to see the wonder of creation when ill health comes your way. Your body becomes the birdhouse without a bird, a burden instead of a joy. We become lost in the details of caring for ourselves or others, struggling to get from one place to another, to perform simple daily functions, to bathe and to eat. It takes someone from outside our encapsulated world to set us straight. Make time today to call a friend or family member who is recovering from ill health. Offer to bring them a meal, to run an errand, to just stop by and break up the day. Share your own story of healing and redemption, and how others helped you in your hour of need. Lift them up in prayer, helping them to hold fast to the healing that has been prepared for them. Most of all, recall we are all anchored to a firm foundation, entrusted to a God that offers healing and mercy without beginning or end. And always remember, when true north seems all but lost, and we know not where to turn, that same God eternally draws us ever closer to him, until we are one with His heart. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Art entitled ‘A Little Disoriented All of the Time’ by Jeanne Mischo ©2012, to see more of her work, go to http://jeannemischo.wordpress.com/

Reflecting on Defeat….

Hurricane Sandy has left terrible devastation in its wake. I hardly feel right complaining about what we have experienced in Virginia. Lack of power and downed trees pale in comparison to the flooding and fires in New Jersey and New York. The Jersey shore of my childhood has literally washed away. So I was drawn to this beautiful photo by my cousin Patty in New Jersey. At first glance, the sky seems ominous, then you notice the sun peeking through. The storm is giving way to blue skies. There is hope in the midst of despair. Perhaps defeat feels like this storm, a storm within. Instead of looming clouds and howling winds, thoughts and feelings swirl within. We strive to do well, then stumble, perhaps even take a big fall. Yet that misstep is not what defeats us. Success means continuing on past failure, learning from what we did wrong. Thomas Edison is revered for inventing the incandescent light bulb, yet he was one of over twenty inventors working on this same quest. He recognized the need for an efficient and affordable device, inventing multiple components we now take for granted. Thomas Edison was not the first to ‘discover’ the light bulb, yet he succeeded because he was the most persistent, most flexible, and possibly most cunning of all. He saw the sun peeking through when everyone else focused on the storm. He kept trying when others gave up. Make time today to realize your dreams. Accept disappointments and setbacks as part of the journey of this life, as a way for you to learn. Understand that each attempt is another step toward your goal. Trust the Holy of Holies to illuminate the path ahead, to guide you through the storm, to give you hope when it is all too easy to despair. And always remember to look for the Son, shining through even the bleakest of storms. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo by Patty Steiner

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