Reflecting on Eternal Life….

A Single Drop by Amin BaherAfter rain and more rain, the sun is shining this morning. The yard and deck are coated with tree pollen and oak litter. Today the world seems yellow from top to bottom. So I was drawn to this amazing photo by my friend Amin, of a single drop suspended in the curl of a withered plant. I love how water takes so many different forms, and forgive the engineer in me, different optical properties. This single drop acts as a lens, capturing the world around it in a perfect, circular reflection. Even when withered, this tendril can support the gift of life, clean, clear water. As the rain drenched the earth this week, many have drenched a dear friend in earnest prayers for healing. When the world seemed withered and bare, and all earthly hope seemed in vain, the Holy of Holies brought back my young friend from the abyss. No, there was more to it than that. A great healing has taken place, a loosing of his soul from a disease even the best and brightest do not understand. Such illness can do far worse than ravage the body. Such illness can cripple the soul. This healing of the soul is what we pray for, first and foremost, the healing that we all need to weather the vagaries of this life, the blessed assurance our mortal span is but a single drop in the ocean of eternal life. At times our lives may be as hard as ice, or as evasive as steam, but we are all still flowing through the river of Creation. Make time today to loosen your soul from the moorings of this life, to turn your heart and your eyes and your ears to the Divine in each and every one of us. Let go of the idea that prayer needs a special place or time, or flowery words. Breathe out ‘Almighty’, breathe in your name. Let your breath, your very being become your prayer. And always remember to give thanks for the abundant life we are offered, moment by moment, one drop at a time. Text by Connie Chintall ©2013, Photo entitled ‘A Single Drop’ by Amin Baher ©2012, All Rights Reserved

Reflecting on Water….

Yellow Floating Heart by Stanislav ShinkarenkoMarch has arrived like a lion, with each day choosing a different season. In the past few days, we have gone from a foot of snow to torrential downpour. Even the dog wanted to stay inside this morning rather than getting drenched. So I was drawn to this amazing photo by my far flung friend Stanislav. I love how this single yellow flower remains upright despite the surrounding flood. I can imagine the flower bobbing up and down, emerging after being submerged, patiently waiting for the rushing waters recede. It seems as though such a delicate bloom should be washed away, rather than stretching toward the sunlight after the storm. Like us, the flower would surely prefer a gentle shower, yet life seldom offers such an option. Drought is followed by deluge, followed by drought. So we seek ways to mitigate the extremes, to be sure we have the water we need when we need it. We become stewards of one of life’s most precious resources. It seems to me that prayer is a lot like water. We can wait to pray when life turns sour, only offering our heartfelt petitions when all else fails. Or prayer can be part and parcel of our daily existence, the first place we turn, as close as the breath we breathe and the water we drink. Our God does not impose upon us, or compel us to obey. It’s up to us. We can turn to the Lord as the last resort, or as the first. I don’t know about you, but I struggle with the discipline of daily prayer. It’s easy to put off, easier yet to cut short. Perhaps I make it too complicated, thinking I need a prayer book or certain amount of time to get it right. Yet all we need to pray is our breath. We can pray ‘let go’ as we breathe out, and ‘let God’ as we breathe in. Make time today to pray simply for yourself and others. Choose your own refrain for praying with your breath – perhaps breathing out ‘sorrow’ and in ‘joy’. Open your heart to the steadfast love of the Almighty, trusting God to salvage what humans consider beyond lost. Begin to water your faith with a gentle shower of earnest prayer, even if it’s only an upturned eye, or a heartfelt sigh. And always remember, all it takes is a few seconds of our time for our all merciful God to drench us with grace. Text and by Connie Chintall ©2013, Photo entitled ‘Yellow Floating Heart’ by Stanislav Shinkarenko ©2013, All Rights Reserved, to see more of his work, go to
https://plus.google.com/u/0/113920886778498557572/posts

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 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 Shadows….

The weather has turned suddenly cold, and in many ways, so has my heart. Friends contacted us with such sad news I hardly know what to pray. At times like these, words seem inadequate. I can only offer the beat of a mother’s heart, the blessed assurance of each breath, committing my every movement to prayer. So I was drawn to this amazing photo by my friend David. I love seeing the sturdy trees from this perspective. I can imagine David lying in the cool grass, soaking in the serenity of his surroundings. He captured that moment perfectly with his camera for all of us to see. On days like today, I am tempted to feel as if the trees with bury me, rather than shelter me. I look for light and see only darkness. I question what normally seems so clear. Then almost as an afterthought, I see the sapling in the shade of the grand old oak. What I thought was darkness is simply the shadow of a God more vast than I can begin to imagine, a God with ways above my ways, with thoughts beyond my thoughts. I cling to the wideness in God’s mercy, to steadfast love without beginning or end, to eternal hope that goes beyond reason, to God’s peace that passes all understanding. I pray for healing claiming the promise of abundant life, imploring the same God that conquered sin and death on the cross to intervene where mortals stumble and fall. Pause to join your voice with mine, to pray for a new beginning, to nurture the slender sapling that reaches for the sun above. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo by David Buckwalter, entitled ‘In the Father’s Shadow’ ©2011, used with his permission. To see more of David’s work, go to http://www.buckwalterphotography.com/

Reflecting on the Path Ahead….

It’s a cool, breezy spring morning, perfect for a walk. The trees are swaying in the wind and the birds flit from branch to branch. Even when you can’t see the birds, you’ll surely hear their singing. So I was drawn to this lovely photo by my cousin Patty, of Estelle Manor in New Jersey. I love how the sunlight softly filters through the trees. The path is very well traveled and maintained, with a neat border holding back the undergrowth. I don’t know about you, but this time of year I often pray for discernment. In a few weeks, I will attend my niece’s graduation. She is the first person in my immediate family to earn a doctoral degree. We will also celebrate with friends who are graduating from high school and undergraduate programs. Some have definite plans, and know the path ahead. Others are still searching, uncertain of the best way to proceed. So as the trees sway and the sun filters through the branches, I sit and pray for each one by name, bidding the Holy Spirit to pour down into their hearts, to comfort their souls, to illuminate their minds. I pray using Isaiah 40:27-31:

27Why do you complain, Jacob?
Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the LORD;
my cause is disregarded by my God”?
28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

Most of you know this scripture, or the hymn it’s based on. We often skip over verses 27 and 30, yet we do so at our own peril. All of us, even Christ on the cross, have times when we despair, when we believe God has forsaken us. Yet even when we doubt, God abides, God remains faithful, God loves us without beginning and end. Take time today to pray for discernment and wisdom, for those in transition or in doubt. Forgive those who complain, or fear, or lose faith. Lift one another up in prayer to the everlasting God, the Creator of heaven and earth. And remember, the Son is still there, even when we can’t see Him, shining through the clouds, and filtering through the branches. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo by Patty Steiner

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