Reflecting on Epiphany….

What is Hidden Behind this Door by RabiriusEpiphany Sunday has come and gone. The wise men have long since paid homage, left their precious gifts with the Christ child, and headed back to the East. I am just now arriving, just now approaching the manger, just how beginning to comprehend the Lord made flesh. So I was drawn to this amazing image by my friend Rabirius. I am uncertain if his work is photography, or art, or both. There is a mysterious, multilayered quality that draws me in, fires my imagination, makes me dig deeper for meaning and insight. I don’t know about you, but my ‘aha’ moments are more lie ‘aha’ seasons. There may be a sharp flash of light, an opening, a new direction. But the meaning is not something I come to quickly, or at least not as quickly as others. Like Mary, I must ‘ponder these things in my heart’. I must pray over them. I must look from more than one angle, in more than one light, with more than one perspective. What catches your eye first in this image? For me, it was the wall. How often do we walk away or take another path because we are sure the way ahead appears to be a dead end, blocked off and impenetrable? We simply dismiss the possibility, and go off on another tangent. What if we allowed ourselves to look further, to mull over the scene, to be sure we haven’t missed anything? Perhaps we might encounter the brightly colored door of this scene, illuminated by mysterious light. Or an eye meeting our steady gaze, beckoning us to a new and better place that what we leave behind. So what if it takes more time, or if we arrive after the others have departed? Such soul work is worth the time and the effort and the healing we find along the way. Make time today to ponder the walls in your life. Consider how long it took to build those walls, and what it might take to tear them down. Allow the Holy Spirit to show you the path ahead, a path that may wind and turn, but path you can be assured will get you there. Open your heart and mind and soul to the gift of grace, whether an epiphany or a gloaming, whether in an instant or over a lifetime. And always remember, our ‘work’ is simply to be present to transforming grace and mercy of our Lord, the same Lord that was born as a baby and walked among us in the flesh. Text by Connie Chintall ©2014, photo entitled ‘What is Hidden Behind This Door?’ by Rabirius ©2013, all rights reserved. To see more of his work, go to http://rabirius.wordpress.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

Reflecting on Beyond….

The morning and evening skies have been glorious lately, making the changeable weather almost tolerable. I may not know what to wear, but I know I need to look up, to look beyond where I am here and now. So I was drawn to this amazing photo by my friend Gemma, entitled ‘The Stand’. I love how the picture is framed in the foreground, perhaps by trees or a doorway. The mist lends a mysterious mood to the scene while the sun seeks to rise above the dense clouds. How often are our lives like this scene? Perhaps we are too preoccupied with the day to day to look beyond our current circumstances, or too content or comfortable to consider the possibility of change. We put out heads down and soldier on, oblivious to the beauty just outside our window. Or perhaps our lives become shrouded in mist, devoid of color and light. One day follows another, filled to overflowing with ‘to do’ lists that never get done. Yet even when we cannot see the way ahead, God has prepared a path for us. Take time today to look beyond the mundane, to consider where you are and where you are heading. Listen to friends and family, who may be able to discern the path ahead, to see the forest when you can only see the trees. And remember, it’s always easier to look up, to look beyond, when we simply stop, and stand. Photo by Gemma Costa, entitled ‘The Stand’

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

Reflecting on the Path Ahead….

Autumn has definitely arrived, with rainy evenings and cool, clear mornings. The ground is soaked and almost spongy. So I was drawn to this photo taken by my friend Carole of a path at Montpelier. There is nothing like rain to make the orange soil of Virginia look even more orange, and the bark on the trees look almost black. The equestrian fence that lines this path has been blackened with ash, echoing the color of the bark. The leaves and grass are so bright you could almost mistake this picture for a spring scene. Yet we must remember this stark contrast was created by a storm. As Christians, we are promised abundant life, a life full of not only contentment and satisfaction but also of frustrations and disappointments. We are called to live that life to the fullest, to open our hearts to what the path ahead brings. There will be days of joy and days of sadness. We cannot close our hearts to one without losing the other. Yet how often do we succumb to this temptation, or know others that do? We can even fall into the Pit called depression, shutting down and withdrawing from emotional engagement. Depression is not sadness, depression is overarching, long standing, seemingly impossible to shake. Sometimes depression is brought on by life events, or a series of stressful circumstances. It’s almost as if the path is lost, and life is played out on the sidelines. Some believe the apostle Paul suffered from depression, that depression is the ‘thorn in his side’, not physical illness. Yet this is the same Paul who established the early church and wrote or contributed to a large portion of the New Testament. Take time today to listen to your heart, to claim the promise of abundant life. Pay attention to how you feel inside, and consider the path ahead. And remember that sometimes that path is best informed by the storms we experience in life. To quote the famous author Willa Cather, ‘There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm’. Photo by Carole Buckwalter © 2011

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