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 Vines….

I am the Vine, You are The Branches by Connie

It’s a balmy afternoon for August, the sort of perfect football weather you would expect in September or October. I am staying with my niece and her husband in Philadelphia after the birth of their first child. Rosalyn is a healthy, beautiful baby girl who has stolen our hearts. Our days and nights are as mixed up as the baby’s and I find frequent opportunities for prayer and reflection. I keep coming back to this photo of a vineyard, a photo that has nourished my prayers for almost a year. I have visited many vineyards, especially when we lived in California. Yet I do not recall vines like these. Perhaps the wine held more attraction than the vines in younger days. This vineyard in Put-in-Bay, OH has a long history, tended across generations. The rows were widely spaced and meticulously tended. I was struck by how twisted and old the vines looked, while the bright leaves and grapes vied for my attention. A single grape held more flavor than entire jar of grape jelly. Soon the branches would fall away and leave only the vines to winter over. I could imagine just the vines covered in snow and wondered how lifeless they would look. It would be easy to simply clear them away rather than trust that new life would return in the spring. Did the disciples only see the vine in the days after the crucifixion? Did they remember Christ’s words ‘I am the vine, you are the branches’ (John 15:5)? If they did remember, did they believe? I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that we hang on to the old and familiar, rather than simply letting go and making room for the new. It’s easier to hunker down and stay comfortable. Things may be old and musty but we know what to expect. Yet until we let go, there is no room for new growth. There is no resurrection without the cross. Make time today to consider how new branches can grow from old vines. Give the twisted, gnarly parts of your life over to the same Lord that conquered sin and death on the cross. Pray for the Holy Spirit to fill your heart with hope and trust in new beginnings. And always remember, letting go is a lot less scary when we trust we will be caught and cradled in the arms of a loving God. Text and photo by Connie Chintall ©2014, inspired by Father Ryan Whitley sermon on 10 August 2014 at St George’s Ardmore, PA. To learn more about St George’s go to http://www.stgeorgeschurch.org/

 

After pondering this photo I created this stole using cotton batik fabrics.

P1040977 cropped flop

Reflecting on Time Apart….

by Connie Chintall

Eastern Point of South Bass Island, Put in Bay, OH

It’s a rainy morning on South Bass Island in Put in Bay, Ohio. I am visiting a friend I’ve known for years, visiting and enjoying a break from my daily routine. My car, and my cares, are safely tucked away in a parking lot on the mainland. I boarded the ferry with just enough for the week, crossing the channel to a time and place apart on this delightful little island. Most folks have left for the season, or are in the process of packing up to depart. The restaurants take turns offering dinner, rather than compete for the business of those who remain through the winter. Life slows down as the weather cools and the wind roars across the water. The island is small enough to traverse by golf cart, so Mary and her dog Gabriel have been taking me to the out of the way corners of the island. On Eastern Point, we found a spit of land often covered by water. There are no tides on Lake Erie, so the strong wind I lamented on arrival extended the shoreline and offered us this beautiful view. I chose this photo not because it was the most picturesque, but because it captures the feel of this place the best. The vastness of the water and sky seem at odds with the intricate details of rocks and broken shells. Waves and waves of seaweed have been gracefully sculpted by the harsh weather. Then right smack in the middle, there is a block of concrete, a symbol of our meager human efforts as compared to the vastness and unending power of the Divine. I was overwhelmed with a sense of being apart, of stepping aside, of emptying of self to make room for the grace and mercy of the Almighty. I don’t know about you, but too often my life can become a constant drain, an endless list of things to do, a drudgery rather than a joy. I forget to fill myself first, to listen before I speak, to rush ahead before discerning a clear direction. After the Sermon on the Mount and the feeding of the 5000, our Lord boarded a boat with his disciples. He drew away from press of the crowd, rather than rushing on to the next in a series of miraculous good works. If the God Incarnate required time apart to rest and refresh, how much more do we need to make time apart? Perhaps we need to board a ferry and separate ourselves long enough to plant a seed of peace. Perhaps we simply need to make time in our daily lives for prayer and reflection. Perhaps it’s a little of both. We may take home what we learned while away, nurturing a newfound sense of a God that abides, a steadfast love without beginning or end, a healing that leads to wholeness in this life or the next. Make time today to be filled with the power and grace and mercy of the Almighty. Allow the Alpha and Omega to soothe your soul. Rest in the Cradle of Life, letting go of what weighs you down with each breath out, drawing in the Well of Healing Light with every breath in. And always remember, as we plunge headlong in to the busy-ness of this life, our God is ever present, waiting patiently for us to rest, to reflect, and to renew our weary souls. Text and photo entitled ‘Wind Swept Glory’ by Connie Chintall ©2013

Reflecting on Patience….

First Sign of Spring by Andi WolfeThe skies are grey and foreboding, ushering in a wet spring. Yet the nights are still below freezing. So I often see light frost in the early morning. Our poor bulbs are forcing their way through the last of the leaves from the autumn, much like the bulbs in this photo by my friend Andi. I love the frost on the dried leaves, the tiny cave formed by the emerging bulbs, the new life seeking light out of darkness. This rich image has been part of my wallpaper for almost a year. I ponder the photos over time, until the words that do justice to the photos are revealed to me. Sometimes I write in a flurry, afraid my typing will not keep up. Other times the photo has to sink in, to teach me something, to mold me over time. I don’t know about you, but I struggle with patience. In fact, I would say patience is my main obstacle to sustained faith. I pray and wait, then pray some more and wait some more. God always answers my prayers, but seldom as soon as I would like. But is it God that makes me wait? There are times when I cling to the wintery parts of my soul, to old memories and regrets that dry up the heart and steal hope. Perhaps it’s easier to stay safe, to turtle in, to pull the covers over my head. If new life is waiting to break through, what makes us cling to the old, fearful of change, reluctant to be vulnerable? Perhaps we forget there is no Easter Sunday without Good Friday, no beginnings without endings, no room without clutter. In the end, I must admit, at least for me, I am the one in the way. I am the reason the answer to prayer takes so long. God remains steadfast and merciful, ever ready to answer my heart’s desire. I simply need to open the eyes of my heart, to allow myself to be molded, to make room for the Holy Spirit to show me the way. Make time today to clear away the dried and wintery parts of your nature, to water your spirit, to nurture new life from the depths of your soul. Let go of your expectations, and make room for God to work in His time, not yours. Allow the Holy Spirit to create a new heart within you, to show you a new way, a way beyond your imagining. And always remember, when we trust in the Author of Creation, our pleas for help are transformed from mere anxiety into earnest prayer. Text by Connie Chintall ©2013, Photo entitled ‘First Sign of Spring’ by Andi Wolfe ©2012, All Rights Reserved. To see more of Andi ‘s work, go to http://andiwolfe.blogspot.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 Resurrection….

The Eastern Redbud outside my kitchen window has seen better days. Ice from the winter before last lobed off the main trunk, leaving behind a lopsided tree that looks more like a bonsai than a redbud. Last summer we decided to give it another chance, and this spring we are reaping the rewards of that decision. So I was drawn to this amazing photo by my friend Cecilia. Rather than focus on the blooms, Cecilia captured the beauty of the first few leaves. I love how this single heart shaped leaf is in sharp focus, while the brightly colored blooms blur into the background. It’s easy to be tempted by the radiant beauty of flowers, a beauty that quickly fades away. We fuss over the bright display, happy for a new beginning, and soon tire of looking when the blooms fall and leaves unfold. Yet look at what we are missing. Each and every one of these newly formed leaves is shaped like a tiny heart. The new life that has replaced the old comes from a deeper place, a steadfast love, emerging after experiencing the adversity of winter. Perhaps we are blessed with flowering trees to help us understand the resurrection of our Lord. The disciples did not recognize the Risen Christ, until He called them by name. New life had emerged from the tomb, yet this life did not resemble the Christ who died on the cross. Take time today to look for new life all around you, in unexpected shapes and forms. Consider the miracle of an unfolding leaf that began growing during the cold of winter. Let go of the flashy blooms and dig more deeply into the heart of life, seeking a sustained growth, a greater miracle. And remember, no matter how lopsided life may become, the Author of Creation is waiting to give us not just a second chance, but chance after chance, until we live into the Resurrection. Photo entitled ‘The Heart of the Redbud’ by Cecilia Carr

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 Frost….

Today is one of those cold, clear days. Even when I left for the gym, there was still frost on the ground. So I was drawn to this amazing photo of ice on a wild grape vine taken by my friend Cecilia. I love how the ice crystals look like tiny snowflakes, delicately poised on the twisted vines. Water in all its forms is one of the most miraculous and beautiful parts of life. As liquid, water finds its own way, flowing here and there, following the path of least resistance. As steam, water creates the electricity that allows my computer and yours to operate. Yet frozen water remains the most amazing and mysterious. Snow has ten times the volume of rain, and ice is even more perplexing. I never cease to be amazed by how ponds and creeks freeze over, or the way light glistens on icicles, or how dew can form early morning frost. I love to hear the ground crunch beneath my feet as I walk the dog. I love to see frost illuminated by the slanting winter sun as I enjoy my second cup of coffee. And I miss how frost formed on the windows of my childhood home, reminding us Christmas was right around the corner. Take time today to look closely at what you often take for granted. Stop to consider how something simple is just a miracle we see every day. Look for vibrant life where others might only see the cold and frozen. And remember we receive the gift of life, one drop, one breath, at a time. Photo by Cecilia Carr

Reflecting on New Birth….

It turned cold over the weekend, with frost on the fields as we drove to church on Sunday. The leaves are falling furiously, reminding us the truly cold weather is just around the corner. So I was drawn to this amazing photo of our newest friend Miles, taken by his grandfather Terry. I love how the baby’s feet are gently cupped in Mom’s hands. Just like the marching band at football games, her hands form a heart. The students say hello to their friends using this gesture, as a way to acknowledge them while still maintaining the required discipline. So it goes with parenting, from the very beginning. There is a gentle balance between love and discipline, between indulgence and obedience. Our hearts soar with the birth of a baby, overwhelmed that the Author of Creation has deigned to work through us to create new life. Yet our heart is also heavy with the weight of responsibility this new life brings. We begin a delicate dance, establishing routines and learning ways to soothe and comfort the child. It’s sort of like playing an instrument in marching band, combining music with the military precision of drill. Take time today to consider what appears to be a contradiction. Look past the simple solution, requiring you to choose either one way or another. Invite the Author of Creation into your apparent dilemma, allowing the Holy Spirit to inspire you to create a new beginning, a new birth. Photo by Terry Wayne Jones

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