Reflecting on Air….

Out of Air by Steve UlleniusIt’s another cold, grey morning here in Virginia. Even the old adage ‘March comes in like a lion, out like a lamb’ doesn’t seem to apply. With a week to go, the lamb is nowhere in sight. The air outside is cold and raw, and the wind is stirring up all sorts of dust and pollen. So I was drawn to this photo by my friend Steve, of a disused gas station. I’m not sure if some of the windows are boarded up, or covered with a soapy film. The air pump is long gone and even the exhaust ports are tightly sealed. The only way for air to escape is through the tiny hole beneath the word ‘AIR’. I have lived with asthma for most of my life, and it’s been an ongoing concern for my daughter. Asthma prevents the sufferer from breathing out. Air becomes trapped inside and it feels as if your lungs could burst. An inhaler opens the throat so you can breathe out once again. Asthma is something I would not wish on my worst enemy, let alone someone I love. We all want the best for our children, hoping they inherit our strengths but not our weaknesses. Yet all too often we end up with both, seemingly amplified beyond what we can bear. Perhaps we empathize because we know all too well what they are going through. We recall our own triumphs and failures, joys and sorrows. We wish to spare our children what we endured, but know we cannot. Growth requires vulnerability and exposure. We cannot learn without stretching ourselves, without moving out of our comfort zone. We cannot take without giving, gain new life without dying, start again without ending. When we turtle in, our world becomes filled with stale air. Make time today to take a chance, to lean into the wind, to breathe in deeply and breathe out freely. Open your heart and mind to another’s viewpoint, listening without reservation, seeking to understand, reserving judgment. Let go of what you expected and give thanks for what you have received. Forgive yourself and others for the shortcomings of this life, and allow The Almighty to complete what overwhelms you alone. And always remember to give thanks here and now, no matter what life may bring, for this gift of life is given to us one breath at a time. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo entitled ‘Out of Air’ by Steve Ullenius, All Rights Reserved

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Reflecting on Vision….

Eye of the Trees by Steve Ullenius, All Rights ReservedIt’s been a tense morning, home with a sick child. I’m waiting to hear back from the doctor, concerned as always that my daughter’s asthma complicates what would be a simple stomach bug for others. So I was drawn to this amazing photo by my friend Steve. This image of winter trees was taken using a fish eye lens. I can imagine Steve lying on the cold ground until he got the optimal perspective. But what really drew my interest was his comment about this photo. Steve said the trees look like the retina, so I began to ponder what we mean by the word vision. Our ability to perceive our surroundings is a complicated and nuanced gift. Those of us blessed with good vision often take it for granted, and can fail to understand the struggles of those with poor eyesight. I recall one of the first arguments my husband and I had after we married. He had moved my eyeglasses, and I was unable to locate them. I needed to wear my glasses to find my glasses. Yet what I found the most frustrating about the situation was how little he appreciated my plight. So I asked him to wear my glasses. He was astounded by how blurry the world seemed. I replied that what he saw was my world without my glasses. He needed to see the world through my eyes to understand my perspective. Like Steve’s photo, that took a bit of discomfort, but the view was well worth it. Make time today to give thanks for your ability to soak in the beauty of your surroundings. Recall the smile of a small child, or the bulbs pushing up through the soil. Consider the world through the lens of another, someone with more expertise or experience, someone who lacks what you take for granted, someone who yearns for more but is uncertain where to start. And always remember, when the wintery trees begin to block the view, all you need to do is look up. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo entitled ‘Fisheye Winter Trees’ by Steve Ullenius, All Rights Reserved

Reflecting on the Road Home….

Road Home by Steve UlleniusScience and technology are often portrayed in opposition to faith, something to be avoided, a temptation we could do without. Yet every aspect of life offers us an opportunity for good or evil. We love legends and myths because these stories endure across time, illuminating a greater truth about our human condition, showing us that each day we are facing a battle between good and evil. So I was intrigued by this amazing photo by my friend Steve. He took five frames of the same scene and combined them, to obtain a High Dynamic Range (HDR) image. I love the rich colors against dark clouds. The barn, the trees, the fields plowed under for winter, glow against the looming sky. Yet what first drew me to this image is the pothole in the drive. How often do we let something small impede our progress? We look down, instead of ahead, and lose our way home. We look for a well kept cottage when our true destination may be a weathered barn. Like Steve, perhaps we need to slow down and take more than one quick look. We need to persist in our quest, endure and overcome the obstacles, look beyond outward appearances. Make time today to choose a random act of kindness over a hasty and impatient response. Slow down and breathe in the love of God, thankful for what life brings, focusing on just this moment. Take one thing at a time, stay on the right path, do good even when no one else notices or bothers to say thank you. And always remember, it’s when we look beyond the rust and peeled paint that we find the Christ child, laid in a manger, the tiny miracle that brought salvation to the world. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo entitled ‘Framed’ by Steve Ullenius, All Rights Reserved

Reflecting on Flight….

It’s a cold, clear morning, with frost on the ground. The trees are bathed in soft sunlight, giving the whole scene a dreamlike appearance. So I was drawn to this amazing photo by my new friend Steve. I did not think a still photo was capable of capturing the intricate motion of flight. High speed video may reveal each specific movement, yet it cannot portray the fluid nature of seemingly effortless motion. Ii don’t know about you, but the notion of flight simply eludes me. As an engineer, I studied control theory extensively, taking many courses through the aerospace department. What I learned is how much we do not know or understand. Our universe is governed by two numbers we cannot fathom; even our most complex math is simply an approximation of reality. We must build complicated structures with even more complicated electronics to achieve what a bird accomplishes day in, day out. Our engineering triumph requires the same lens as this photo. We must step back, taking in the entire picture, accepting our perception is full of flaws and imperfections, always slightly out of focus. To succeed, we must remain mindful of our limited glimpse of reality, all the while resisting the temptation to be overly precise. Take time today to ponder the vastness and simplicity of God’s creation. Stop to soak in the graceful arch of a bird taking flight, or the limb of a tree stretching toward the sun. And remember, when words fail you, reciting the never ending digits of π may be the purest form of prayer. Photo entitled ‘Dreaming of Flight’ by Steve Ullenius

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