Reflecting on Eternal Life….

Drops-001 by Amin Baher
I wrote this post three years ago, after fervent prayer for healing and wholeness. Today is Easter, the day we celebrate Christ’s resurrection from the dead. So it seems fitting to harken back to answered prayers. Many of you joined me in those prayers, and the young friend we prayed for continues to do well. His physical challenges are many, yet his spirit is bouyant. Such joy in the midst of struggle is what we all seek in this life. Thank you for your prayers for him and his family.

May 9, 2013 – After 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 Glimpses….

Kerrville Cross by Eric JordanIt’s a beautiful, crystal clear morning on Long Beach Island in New Jersey. The journey here has brought me to a mixture of times long since past and times yet to come. So I was drawn to this amazing photo by my high school friend Eric of the cross located on Interstate Highway 10 in Kerrville, TX. I love how he caught the light streaming through the top of this enormous cross. As an engineer, I am awed by the openwork metal construction, by the daring of the builders to take on a task so many others would forsake. It is so easy to see the empty, solid cross as the whole story, rather than simply the beginning of the story. It’s tempting to dwell on the past, on how we got to the empty cross. It’s what we know for sure, what we can easily account for. Instead the empty cross is a glimpse of eternity, the beginning of a glorious and wonderful story that starts here and now. A very wise child taught me that eternity is not linear time without beginning or end. Eternity is all times happening right now, simultaneously, miraculously, spectacularly. Rather than standing at a single point, looking back or looking forward, the Almighty can perceived all times, all places, all souls, all at once. Make time today to glimpse eternity through the window of the resurrection cross. Root yourself firmly in the here and now, in the intersection between our linear perception of time and God’s all encompassing eternity. Let go of your meager human solutions to make room for the Divine, to follow God’s plan rather than your own. Open your heart to the Mystery, to seek consolation rather than comprehension. And always remember, each and every time we turn afresh to the steadfast love of Alpha and Omega, we find infinitely more than we can hope for, or even begin to imagine. Text by Connie Chintall ©2013, Photo by Eric Jordan, of the Kerrville Cross. To learn more about this amazing cross, go to http://thecrossatkerrville.org/home/

Reflecting on Easter….

Tux Bunny by Cassie RichardsSpring leaves adorn our trees, all the brighter green against an overcast sky. It seems that spring is late while Easter Sunday came early this year. So I was drawn to this whimsical photo taken by my new friend Cassie, of an unexpected Easter bunny. I know bunnies normally hop, but it seems to me the Easter Bunny should defy gravity, just as Christ defied death and the grave. I even like the tuxedo, a much better choice than those silly plaid vests that the Easter bunny is usually pictured wearing. I’m sure many of you might say I missed Easter, that it’s too late for the Easter bunny. At least in the Episcopal Church, Easter is a season, lasting from Easter Sunday until Pentecost. The resurrection isn’t just about the day Christ walked away from the tomb – it’s much more than that. We celebrate his resurrection, his time among us in his risen form, his ascension to heaven, then on Pentecost, the descent of the Holy Spirit on the twelve Apostles and followers of Jesus. A lot happens during the fifty days from Easter to Pentecost. The apostles go from huddling in a locked room to publicly proclaiming the good news of Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit that rested on them in the form of flames. While Christ may have been resurrected in three days, it took fifty days for the apostles to be transformed. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like change, even when the change is a good change. Initially I resist, hoping whatever is upsetting the status quo will simply go away. Then comes the temptation to dwell on the negatives, and by God, I’ll make up a few if necessary. In time, I come around, although I may not always admit it. So I’m not surprised it takes a leaping bunny, dressed to the nines, to catch my attention, to bring me good news, good news I might actually hear. I need to hear that good news again and again, to resist the temptation to stay where I’m at, to simply remain the same. I need the ridiculous or fantastic to make me smile, to jar me out of complacency. Make time today to focus on good news. Listen closely to others around you, even when their viewpoint may be less than welcome. Remain open to new ideas, accept surprises with a smile. Refrain from labels of good and bad, us and them, comfortable and uncomfortable. And always remember, we must die a little to claim new life, to accept transformation wrought in God’s time rather than our own. Text by Connie Chintall ©2013, Photo entitled ‘Tux Bunny’ by Cassie Richards ©2013, All Rights Reserved.

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 Resurrection….

It’s a dreary fall day, so I am glad we took the opportunity to go hiking last week. School was out for election day, and the weather was remarkable. We headed up to Shenandoah National Park, a short drive from our home. While my daughter and her boyfriend were scurrying over rocks, I encountered this unusual tree on the path. I was surprised to see how the branches had recovered from so severe of a pruning, growing straight up instead of continuing along their natural curve. Perhaps the branch had be removed to clear the path. Then I noticed the matching branch on the opposite side, and finally saw how these branches formed a cross. Yet there was more than just a cross. I was looking at resurrection, renewal, continuing life. This tree chose to grow upward, to respond to the struggles of life through rebirth. Rather than continue on the same old path, this tree had changed direction and flourished. I don’t know about you, but I believe the greatest good news of the Gospel is this – we don’t get what we deserve. The wages of sin are death, and we all sin. I know sin is not a popular topic these days, so bear with me. We sin when we fall short, when what we attempt to accomplish is less than perfect. We sin when we hurt others, intentionally, and yes, even unintentionally. We hurt those closest to us; we compromise our relationships with one another and with God. We are comfortable with ‘to err is human’, but are unwilling to accept that to err is to sin. So I take comfort in knowing I do not get what I deserve, in knowing that our Savior conquered sin and death on the cross. Take time today to confess your sins, to repent and grow in a new direction. Accept God’s endless forgiveness and learn to forgive yourself through the healing power of the Holy Spirit. Claim the promise of resurrected life, today and every day. And remember to start your prayer as the Benedictines taught us, ‘today, we begin again’. Photo by Connie Chintall

Reflecting on Surprises….

We were surprised by over 24 hours of wintery mix this weekend, leaving behind a cold, wet mess. Snow before Thanksgiving is unusual here in Virginia, let alone prior to Halloween. So I was drawn to this photo of Knoebel’s Amusement Park in Elysburg, PA, taken by my cousin Diane. Everything is covered with ice and snow, even the rides in the background. Imagine how cold those metal rides would be and you’ll know why the place is deserted. Everyone is holed up at home, curled up in a blanket with a book, unless they need to battle the hordes for the last loaf of bread or roll of toilet paper. I don’t know about you, but I am not the biggest fan of surprises. Sometimes not knowing what will happen is fun, but more often, it turns out like this freak snowstorm. What we thought would be fun ends up being a sloppy mess. No matter how much planning we do in advance, a detail is forgotten, or the secret is inadvertently revealed. Worst yet, the surprise may remain a secret through extraordinary methods, causing hard feelings and unintentional consequences. What was meant to be a treat turns into a mean spirited trick. Yet there are also times when we are surprised despite the best efforts to be prepared. Throughout the ages, the scripture abounds with prophecies about the Messiah. Again and again, Christ explained his impending death to the disciples, those closest to him. Yet none were prepared for the crucifixion. Perhaps they simply chose not to listen, preferring to believe things would stay the same if they ignored what Jesus was saying. By disregarding the bad news, they also missed the Good News. In the end, the disciples were surprised by Christ’s death, and unprepared for the Resurrection. Take time today to really listen to what others are saying. Resist the temptation to cut the conversation short, or to disregard news you would rather not hear. Look for the good news buried beneath the bad, or a way to make a difference in your life or the lives of those close to you. And remember, even if your pumpkins are covered in snow, there’s a lot of pumpkin and only a little snow. Photo by Diane Brooks Myers

Reflecting on Resilience….

The clouds are darkening and we expect thunderstorms later in the day. Folks are checking for damage from Tuesday’s earthquake here in Virginia, still marveling at the unexpected. Older buildings didn’t fare as well, with the downtown district in Culpeper suffering the most impact. The newer buildings held up, stronger and more resilient than our historic homes. So I was drawn to this photo of a dragonfly, taken by my friend David. This insect looks more like a jewel than a living creature. The light plays off his wings and the surface beneath him. This photo captures the feelings often evoked by a dragonfly, a sense of mystery and rare beauty. I have encountered dragonflies in the oddest places. Often when I am stuck in traffic, one will land on my windshield. Just when I am at my boiling point, fed up with being stuck, I am reminded there is so much more to life than my current frustration. To see such beauty in such an unexpected place is a great gift. While Christians favor the butterfly a symbol of resurrection, many cultures prefer the dragonfly. This insect is considered a symbol of rebirth and triumph over adversity. Their eggs can live up to six years before hatching. Dragonflies winter over, choosing which season to hatch. The mature dragonfly only exists for about two months. The elegant and illusive beauty we cherish is also fleeting. Yet like a prima ballerina, this insect is both beautiful and powerful. Dragonflies gracefully move in any direction, with wings 30 times more powerful than any other insect. Yet what I find most incredible is their eyes, which allow them to see in all directions. Take time today to look beyond your current frustrations. Drink in the unexpected beauty of your surroundings, looking past the cracks in your life and soul. Consider ways to be more resilient, to triumph over adversity. Trust that God is in control, even when life seems out of control, and allow the healing power of awe and wonder to transform your view of world. Photo by David Buckwalter

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