Reflecting on Monsters….

Warnings abound as Hurricane Sandy approaches landfall, expected to bring heavy rains and gusting winds from Boston to Washington, DC. In the rolling hills of Virginia, we may even see our first snow. Some are calling this the ‘Frankenstorm’, perhaps because the worst weather may arrive on Halloween. So I was drawn to this amazing art by my friend Jeanne. There are so many layers of meaning in this one image that I hardly know where to start. Both the nautilus and the hurricane are spirals, yet she chose to place the big, scary image in the background. The storm is fades like a ghost while the nautilus takes center stage. Bernoulli called the shape of its shell the spira mirabilis, Latin for ‘miraculous spiral’. The nautilus is born with seven chambers, and grows a new chamber every lunar month. The creature rises by filling the chambers with gas and sinks by filling its chambers with water. Although the shell may appear fragile, a nautilus can withstand water pressures to depths of up to 650 meters, or about seven football fields, below the surface. By comparison, scuba divers can safely dive to only about 40 meters. We see this miraculous spiral again and again in nature, in the nerves of the human cornea, the patterns of sunflower seeds, the shape of a hurricane, the arms of a galaxy. Perhaps it is easier to embrace the tiny miracle, the shell we can grasp in our hands. It’s a whole different story when the same miracle reaches across states, or worst yet, across the void of space. We are tempted to turtle in, to succumb to fear, rather than allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and trust in the Author of Creation. We limit ourselves to what we can see and hear alone, rather than considering the greater truth is often found when we work together. Take time today to ponder the miracle of creation. Look for the patterns that repeat again and again, in the most unexpected places. Share what you see with others, allowing them ot see the world through your eyes. Ask for their opinions before offering your own. Make space to sink and rise, to float above the mania that seems to pervade our days. And always remember, even the scariest monster, looming in our closet last night, may simply vanish like a shadow in the light of day. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Art entitled ‘Fossilized Nautilus Shell Spawning Hurricane (Chaos Theory)’ by Jeanne Mischo ©2012, to see more of her work, go to http://jeannemischo.wordpress.com/

Reflecting on the Pit….

It’s a quiet, peaceful morning, still cool from last night’s rain. I woke early and took a leisurely walk around the yard with our dog. It’s funny how the same view can appear so different over time, or perhaps the view is the same and it’s me that’s different. Like my beautiful yard, this amazing art by my friend Jeanne seems to defy simple explanation. I have been pondering this work for quite awhile, slowly letting go of the analytical and opening up the emotional. The common thread through my contemplations has been the Pit, so often mentioned in the Psalms. I must admit struggling with how this glorious and beautiful work could evoke the image of the Pit. There have been times in my life when the Pit has been all I could see. There was no way out, no past or future, only the present pain. I lost sight of God, but not before I lost sight of the Godly people in my life. I believe the Psalmist speaks of depression, of despair, of hopelessness. You give up on life and in so doing lose your life. Does it really matter if you physically perish once the Pit has swallowed you up? Perhaps you have suffered from depression, or know someone who has. You may be able to look up, to see the vastness above, while another seems only to see the narrowness of their current situation. We are meant to live in community, to be there for one another, to hold each other up in prayer. When we are caught in the Pit, others can see beyond the pain, slowly bring joy back into our lives, turn our eyes back toward God. Take time today to reach out to others, to hold them in your heart, to pray for their concerns. Let go of judgment, simple solutions, expected outcomes. Simply be there for someone else, or ask another to be there for you. Trust that a healing has been prepared, in God’s time, not our own. And remember through it all the words of the Psalm 40:1-3,

I waited patiently for the LORD;
And He inclined to me and heard my cry.
He brought me up out of the Pit of destruction, out of the miry clay,
And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God;
Many will see and fear
And will trust in the LORD.

Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Art entitled ‘Vortex’ by Jeanne Mischo ©2012, used with her permission, to see more of her work, go to http://jeannemischo.wordpress.com/

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 the Cross….

We still have a huge pile of dried branches and leaves in our yard, a pile we had hoped to burn last winter during a hard freeze. A remnant of last year’s growth remains in the midst of the blooming bulbs and flowering trees. So I was drawn to this amazing art by my friend Jeanne, creating a cross from a variety of photos. At first all I noticed the tangle of dried branches in the center. Then my eyes were drawn to the shifting tides that cap the cross. Jeanne’s art always challenges me to look beyond the obvious, and this stunning work was no exception. I was far from comfortable with a cross drained of life, a seemingly random mass of chaos. Yet the more time I spent with this image, the more I began to see the shifting tides in the dried branches. What the world may dismiss as dead and gone is seldom the end of the story. On that first Good Friday, they crucified our Lord, tying him to a cross at Golgotha, the place of the skull. The disciples were lost and dismayed, uncertain of what their future would hold. Yet there was so much more waiting for them, more than what one single body could hold. Take time today to consider new beginnings and possibilities, looking for new life in what may appear to be a tangle of old branches. Through the cross, go beyond what you know to consider what can be. Trust God has provided a path for you to walk in, even when there may not seem to be a human way out of a situation. And remember, all things are possible with Christ, who conquered sin and death on the cross, and who returns again and again, like the shifting tides. Art entitled ‘Cross and Tides’ by Jeanne Mischo ©2012

Reflecting on Heart….

An unseasonably warm day is more than welcome, less than a week after snow flurries. While we may be baffled by the weather, the birds are beyond thrilled. This morning a chorus of birds greeted me, singing their hearts out. So I was drawn to this amazing artwork by my friend Jeanne. I love how she combined an accurate anatomical image of the heart with images of nature. The two toned background emphasizes the left and right sides of the heart, which seems like a vase on top of a table. Our hearts are often taken for granted, despite giving us life one beat at a time, despite holding the longings and desires of this life. We go about our days without giving it a second thought. We expect our heart to work for us, day in day out, both in a physical and emotional sense. Yet without taking time to fill our hearts and nourish our souls, we find our lives, and our hearts, like an empty vase. We can become so overwhelmed by the busy-ness of life, relying on logic and reason to sort out our days, that we can allow haste to run roughshod over our own feelings and the feelings of others. Perhaps that hectic pace hurts us more than we know, damaging us in ways that only surface years later. Take time today to fill your heart with love and compassion. Allow the Holy Spirit to drench your soul, to slow your steps, to bind you together with those you love. Invite the Author of Life to sanctify all of your efforts, creating a chorus of both reason and emotion. And remember, ‘My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever’ ~ Psalm 73:26. Art entitled ‘Sacred Heart’ ©2012, by Jeanne Mischo, used with her permission

Reflecting on Art….

The rain is relentless this morning, drenching the ground and dampening spirits. So I was drawn to this glorious artwork by my friend Jeanne. On a grey, dreary day, bright colors and fanciful images are more than welcome. What does art mean to you? My definition changes almost daily, and I would be hard pressed to use words to describe it. So I humbly defer to my eloquent young friend Colin’s description.

The patterns, the shapes, the colors, the sounds. Art is too simple and short a word for what it is. It is the space beyond knowledge, it is thought, abstract, ethereal, like a dream after waking, slipping through the sieve. It is the place after logic, where mankind proves it’s irrationality, where the complexity of the mind works out it’s contradictions, where humanity is proven. It is what you get when something as complex as a human has to process the information of the world, leaving heavy on the heart or light on the mind, it is the expression of imperfection, a chance at the creation of complex relations between the patterns, the shapes, the colors, the sounds.

Take time today to be creative, to sketch, or sing, or sew. Let go of the end result and immerse yourself in the playful world of art. Allow your soul to seek out the images and sounds that defy rational explanation. And remember, as you get lost in your art, you may sink into the well of your soul, and catch a glimpse of eternal glory. Art entitle ‘Hummingbird’ ©2012 by Jeanne Mischo, quote by Colin Shea-Blymyer

Reflecting on Consequences….

It’s a flat, grey day, with raindrops making music on the window panes. So I was drawn to this amazing artwork by my friend Jeanne, a photograph enhanced by her deft touch. It seems the sky has become a pale stained glass, splittered into shades of blue and white. The wood could be branches or roots, or a bit of both. The hints of bright color draw our eyes past the wood, and we are left to wonder what lies beyond. How often do we allow ourselves to get caught up in the immediate, swayed by a false sense of urgency? We rush to react, rather than taking the time to thoughtfully consider the best response to the current situation. We speak out in anger, saying things we wish we could take back later. In our haste, relationships suffer at the expense of results. We close doors that we wish could remain open, and after too many missteps, may be barred and locked. Each action has a consequence, perhaps not visible today, or even tomorrow. Each choice sets us down a path, and closes off another alternative. It’s easy to get lost, one step at a time. Yet it is just as easy to slowly find your way back. Take time today to thoughtfully respond to what life brings your way. Slow down and allow yourself to consider the possible consequences of your actions. Ask yourself what you might do in the same situation, suspending judgment and carefully choosing your words. And remember, sometimes the most compassionate response is simply a silent embrace. Artwork entitled ‘Axis Mundi’ by Jeanne Mischo, ©2011, used with her permission

Reflecting on Memory….

The morning is damp and grey, and the clay soil is spongy from all the melted snow. As the New Year begins, I seem to float between the past and present, considering what has changed in the last year and what lies ahead. So I was drawn to this fabulous artwork, entitled ‘As if in a Distant Memory’ by my friend Jeanne. I love how the colors blend into one another, interacting and altering elements of the picture. I am always surprised at how the same experience is recalled in such different ways by different people. We may think we are all sharing the same experience, yet how it affects each of us is unique. We may be limited in our perspective by past wounds, or influenced by personal expectations or prejudices. One experience shades another, or blocks our ability to enjoy the present. What we had hoped to put behind us emerges once again. It seems that letting go is like peeling an onion, one layer at a time. Take time today to consider how the past affects your view of the present. Step back and allow your view to broaden, to let go of expectations and judgment. Rather than allowing the past to affect today, let each new experience slowly heal the wounds of your past. And remember, when we are gentle with ourselves and others, even difficult memories become like this watercolor. Art by Jeanne Mischo ©2011, used with her permission

Reflecting on Toy Trains….

It’s a quiet Saturday morning, with a hint of snow in the air. The slate grey sky is banded by icy clouds, reflecting the winter sun. So I was drawn to this amazing picture of a toy train by my friend Jeanne. I love the vibrant colors and the size of the train next to the trees. When I was a small child, we had a beautiful toy train set. In those days, we asked for trains the way children these days ask for an iPod or laptop. We weren’t done decorating for Christmas until the train set was up and running. The adults may have focused on the tree, but all we saw was the train. Jeanne has drawn a child’s perspective – every else pales by comparison, no matter how colorful, no matter how bright. Perhaps the magic of the train set was offering a new perspective. We lived near train tracks and often would wave to the locomotive engineer, or train driver, as the train slowly crept through our neighborhood. Even at a snail’s pace, the train seemed huge, too big to take in all at one time. The toy train gave us a chance to see the big picture, from above, all at once. Take time today to step back and look at an overwhelming concern from all sides. Pray to see through God’s eyes and hear through God’s ears, to forge a solution that is good for all concerned, for the long haul, rather than settling for a quick fix at the expense of others. And remember, it may take more than one trip around to find the right answer. Art entitled ‘Toy Train’ by Jeanne Mischo

Reflecting on Storms….

It’s a beautiful December morning, yet I am drawn to this amazing drawing by my friend Jeanne. 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 seems 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. Take 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 remember, the path to healing is never what we expect, yet we must trust in healing for that path to be revealed. Art entitled ‘Yurt – Girl Faces the Storm’ by Jeanne Mischo

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