Reflecting on Urgent


I love to walk and one of my favorite places to walk is along the water. There is always a distant view and just the sound of water is relaxing. Walking along in the breeze to the rhythm of crashing waves seems to drown out any worries or concerns. The natural ebb and flow of life unfolds before me and all the urgent matters that were screaming for my attention fade into the background. Yet even on such a pleasant walk sooner or later I happen upon something that demands my attention.

This amazing photo by my cousin Patty is one of those arresting images that has consumed my morning devotions for almost three months. The waves have taken over this stump, all that is left of a once mighty tree. The sturdy rings developed over decades have split and opened out. Shells and feathers are caught in the opening folds, wedging themselves further and further into the grain of the wood.

I don’t know about you, but there are days when I feel like the urgent has chopped down my tree trunk and left me as a stump. I feel battered by ceaseless waves of who knows how many interruptions and over reactions, until like this stump, it seems I have lost the integrity of my purpose and strength. Worse yet, I find my requests met with the question – is this urgent? Honestly I answer it can wait, but that means the matter is neither urgent or important to them. I find myself having to ask again to even get the matter taken care of. It seems unless the matter is urgent, it cannot be important.

I harken back to the Eisenhower decision matrix, made more famous by Stephen Covey in ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’, shown below:


Eisenhower said we are to spend the most time in Quadrant 2 – Focus. Proper planning eliminates most emergencies or prepares us so well that even the worst scenarios are easily and calmly handed.

So what is the problem? Do I lack a good understanding of what is important to me? Do I allow distractions to overwhelm me and subsume my days? And how does all this have anything to do with the sacred? At least for me making time for prayer and devotion, the most important way to spend my time, only happens if I start my day that way. That quiet time grounds me in what is the most important matter for me – am I aligned with God’s will for me and those I love? Am I walking as a child of the light, or am I blotting out God’s will in favor of my own?

Let’s face it – that tree was in trouble long before the trunk was cut down. That once mighty tree has shrunken into a rotting stump, without roots to provide nutrition or branches to reach out to the sun. How easily do we focus on our own branches, reaching out to others, at the expenses of the strength in our roots? Even good works can starve our prayer time, just becoming another urgent item to react to.

Make time today to shore up your strength. Sit quietly or take a walk, letting nature seep into your soul. Listen more than you speak; respond before you react; love more than you judge. And always remember, we can only love others as much as we love ourselves. Let us root ourselves in that divine love that has no beginning or end. May we lean on God’s strength to fortify our trunks and offer sturdy branches to others.

Text by Connie Chintall ©2019, Eisenhower decision matrix in common use, photo entitled ’Washing Out with the Tide’ by Patty Steiner ©2019, used with her permission, All Rights Reserved

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

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