Reflecting on Abundant Life….

It’s been a warm, wet spring, alternating between storms and beautiful clear days. Like the weather, we have been riding a roller coaster of emotions, with many happy events interspersed with some sad moments. So I was drawn to this striking photo by my friend Luis. I love the huge moon, hanging low in the sky. The tree looks like lace, with new leaves still unfolding. Then there are the birds, perched in the highest branches, hoping for the best view. I wonder what it was like for the first bird. Perhaps that bird was simply looking to be alone, to find a perch away from all the others. Sad or unwelcome news can be overwhelming, and our first response may be to turtle in. All we want to do is dwell on our misfortunes, or the harshness of this life. Then a few others arrive, and we attempt to be polite. We may not even talk about what’s bothering us, yet in the end, their company is a great comfort. Slowly we let go of our defenses, we relax into the moment. We look up, we look beyond. And in the midst of our sorrow, there is a moon that is so huge it should fall out of the sky. We are awestruck by the beauty and majesty of God’s creation, and we begin to pray, to open ourselves to God’s possibilities, to let go of our human perspective, to trust in the power and grace of the Almighty. After all, Christ did not promise us a perfect life, a life without sadness or pain. Christ offered us abundant life. When we embrace that promise, we find all things are possible. We are empowered to deal with what life brings, able to enjoy the happy moments, even while persevering through sadness and pain. Take time today to embrace the fullness of life, the celebrations, the joys, the losses, the disappointments. Let go of what you expected and let God show you the path that has been prepared for you. Pray for faith in what lies beyond your capabilities and understanding, trusting that God will provide others to walk with you in times of need or confusion. And remember, even when all seems lost, we only need to look up to see beyond. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo entitled Influjo by Luis Gonzalez ©2012, used with his permission

Reflecting on Companions….

It’s a cold, grey day filled with steady rain. I rarely get much accomplished on days like this, preferring to curl up with a book or let my mind wander to other times and places. So I was drawn to this photo of a father and daughter by my friend Luis. I love the beautiful clouds and setting sun, and how this pair has stopped to soak in the scenery. They are together, but separate, not needing to say anything at all. They chose to simply share the same experience, basking in the glory of God’s creation. I recall a walk on the beach with my father, long, long ago. Sometimes Daddy would take me with him to work on Saturday mornings. I would occupy myself with a coloring book while the engineers puzzled over a particular problem. If I managed to be quiet and patient, I was rewarded with an adventure. One warm spring day, I asked Daddy to take me to the beach. We headed for Sandy Hook, a barrier peninsula at the northern tip of the New Jersey shore. Not long after we arrived, the weather turned windy and cold. Now most parents would have simply turned around and gone home. Instead, Daddy wrapped me in a blanket and we headed down to the beach, spotting birds and watching the sea turn wild. Just when we thought it was too cold to bear, the clouds parted, softly reflecting the setting sun. How often are we tempted to turn back, to let a little wind or rain stop us in our tracks? Yet when we persevere, holding fast to our promises, we may find ourselves basking in God’s glory. Take time today to recall what it means to be loved, a time when you stopped to enjoy another’s company, a time without words. Make an out of the way place your own, a place of companionship and joy, a place to be with God. And remember, neither time nor distance can diminish such memories, or destroy such love. Photo entitled ‘Companions’ by Luis Gonzalez, ©2012, used with his permission

Reflecting on Rhythm….

The March wind is roaring outside my office window. It’s what Winnie the Pooh would call a blustery day. Even the majestic oaks are dancing in the wind, yet it’s the tiny branches of our poplar that caught my eye. So I was drawn to this magical photograph by my friend Luis, part of his series called ‘The Secret Life of Plants’. I am always amazing at how plants can be incredibly strong, yet still remain supple. Even the tiniest branches sway in their own peculiar rhythm, twisting and turning in response to the wind. We must let go of the specifics to detect this rhythm, looking at the same branch over time, until each particular image blurs together. At first, it may seem we have lost more than we gain, until patterns begin to emerge. We notice the graceful arch of a single branch is echoed in the scene all around us, the curve of the treetops reminds us of the shapes of passing clouds, the same colors appear all around us, popping up in the most unexpected places. The same Creator who blessed us with life calls out to us through the bounty and blessings of nature. Whatever name you give the Author of the Universe, whatever faith tradition you call your own, we all recognize the unity of our world. The same shapes and rhythms sing across the galaxy, from the tiny subatomic particles being discovered each day, to the far reaches of outer space. Take time today to see and hear the rhythm of creation. Pause to soak in the beauty of a single bloom, or to gaze at the stars. Listen to the sound of water splashing on rocks, or birds singing in the trees. And remember when we let go of our human perception, when it all begins to blur together, the rhythm of the Almighty will shine through, showing us more beauty than we ever can imagine. Photo by Luis Gonzalez, part of a series called ‘The Secret Life of Plants’

Reflecting on Solitude….

Our home feels particularly empty after the weekend. I enjoy time with my family, yet in recent years I have also learned to enjoy having the house to myself. So I was drawn to this dramatic photo by my new friend Luis. I love the single tree on the horizon, reaching for the sky in the early morning light. The branches look so delicate and graceful. I’m waiting for this slender tree to begin to dance. For many years, I equated solitude with loneliness. I actively sought out the company of others, filling my calendar with social engagements to be sure I was never alone. When my father lived with us, I was seldom by myself. As his health declined toward the end of his life, we seemed to have an endless stream of visitors and hospice support. We needed that help to allow Daddy to die at home, and are immensely grateful for our loving and supporting community. Yet there were days when I would soak in the tub, turning on the fan to drown out all evidence of existence other than my own. I simply needed to stop, to just be, to enjoy the solitude. After Daddy passed away, our home became curiously quiet. Now, three years later, there are days when I eat all three meals alone, my husband and daughter busy with work and school. I find time for prayer, creative pursuits and exercise. I am present to what life brings me, enjoying both my time alone and with others. Take time today to consider the difference between loneliness and being alone. Consider ways to make time and space for yourself in a busy household, to enjoy solitude in the midst of family concerns. Explore the balance between time alone and time with others, learning how to respect the need for time apart in your family and friends. And remember, if you sink into the solitude, you may find yourself poised to dance on a new horizon. Photo entitled ‘The End’ by Luis Gonzalez, used with his permission

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