I live in Warrenton, VA, the first town to be designated as a ‘Main Street USA’ town. Even after living here for almost twenty years, there are views of Old Town that elude me. So I was drawn to this intriguing photo by my young friend Liv, of the space between the shops on Main Street. I’m always surprised at how few folks know about Old Town, how they simply shop the chain stores and eat at the chain restaurants on the business highway. I love the little shops on Main Street that carry unusual and interesting items and the restaurant that uses local produce and meat. You park behind the shops, just once, then walk from one stop to the next to run your errands. I often meet folks I know of the street, or when I stop for coffee. As you can imagine, most days I end up far from my car, and either need to take the long way around or find a less obvious route to where I parked. I must admit I have walked past this place again and again and did not begin to imagine there was a way through. From the street, you’ll never see the path that snakes between the shops, and ends up in the lovely parking lot beyond. It seems to me that the walk of faith is a lot like this blind corner. There are times when we must walk into tight places to find a better way forward. We must take that first step, even if we are unsure there is a way out. Perhaps the first time we take a false turn or back up. Perhaps we are not ready to enter that tight squeeze, to stretch or grow beyond where we are right now. Yet the good news is that while second chances are rare in this life, God offers us an infinite number of second chances. Make time today to trust our All Powerful Lord to see beyond what our limited mortal view can offer. Let go of the burdens of this life, of problems that seem to have no solutions, of situations that seem hopeless, of paths that seem to go nowhere. Let God breathe new life into the dreary corners of your life, and show you the Way ahead. And always remembers, even when we chose the longer way around, we still end up where God is taking us, one way or the other. Text by Connie Chintall ©2013, Photo entitled ‘Blind Corner’ by Liv Schoffstall ©2013, All Rights Reserved.
20 May 2013 1 Comment
14 May 2013 4 Comments
The weather has been all over the place lately. This morning is bright and clear, yet cold enough for a frost warning. We can’t seem to catch a break. So I was drawn to this amazing photo by my friend Mike, of a tree that is barely hanging on. It’s been a wet spring and we have all sorts of erosion in our area. It’s tough to undercut a large oak, especially one rooted in Virginia clay. It takes more than one storm, and standing water. So I would wager this grand old tree has weathered way too many storms. I don’t know about you, but there are days, even weeks, when I feel like this tree. I find myself doubting what I’ve always been certain about, no longer confident of what I do know and what I don’t know. Nothing I say or do seems quite right. I’m lost and alone in a foreign land. Yet I haven’t gone anywhere. I’m still in my own home, with my family and friends. It’s easy to lash out at times like these, to blame it on everyone else. You just don’t understand, you don’t get it, leave me alone. But of course, being alone is the last thing I want. Perhaps I have watched too many Hollywood movies, and I expect to be chased down and dramatically snapped out of it. At least in my life, that is usually not the case. I end up alone and feeling worse than ever. I have distanced myself from those who care for me the most, those who can best help and support me in this blue funk. I cannot bear up under my burdens, real or perceived, on my own. When life undercuts my roots, my very core, I can only remain standing if I cling to those I love best. I can only make it through with the help and encouragement of those who know me best. Make time today to ask others to abide with you, to accept comfort in the midst of your pain. Open your heart when it seems easier to clamp it shut, listen when you would rather talk, pray when you would rather turn your back on God. Trust the same Lord that created our entire universe in an instant to abide with you in your time of need, to guide your footsteps and guard your heart. And always remember, no matter how much life undercuts your roots, the Alpha and Omega remains with you, your strong and sure foundation. Text by Connie Chintall ©2013, Photo entitled ‘Barely Hanging On’ by Mike Victorino ©2013, All Rights Reserved. To see more of his work, go to http://mikevictorinophotography.wordpress.com/
09 May 2013 4 Comments
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
07 May 2013 4 Comments
The rain is pouring down, then drenching in waves. As I said my morning prayers, the rain was louder than the music at times, calling out to be noticed. So I was drawn to this photo by my friend Bonnie, of a rainy ride to work in Oregon. In some ways I miss the long view of the Western states, how you can see past the storm to the sun beyond. In Virginia, the rain is often accompanied by fog and mist. Fog is mysterious, something my grandmother called God’s blanket of love. You turn inward, rather than look to the horizon. Sometimes we need to tune out the world, to ground ourselves in the here and now. We can become lost if we only listen to the voices of this world, and neglect to listen to the voices of all Creation. It’s a question of trust, of what we believe, of which voices we chose to listen to. The portal from this world to the next is the heart. When we listen to the voice of our heart, we are connected to the eternal, we perceive a wideness in God’s mercy, we feel a love without beginning or end. What seemed improbable if not impossible becomes more real to us that our own breath. We know beyond knowing. We believe without seeing. Our hearts that were so burdened by concerns of the flesh are renewed by eternal hope and joy. I don’t know about you, but my prayers often devolve into just talking at God. There is no conversation, no time for listening, just time enough to rattle off my shopping list of concerns. I tell God what I want instead of listening for what I need. Then life stirs up a storm beyond belief, and I am brought to my knees. Those wants seem like dust in the wind. My concerns seem like so much puff and vanity. I know no way out through human means. I must rely on the Almighty to show me the way. The world says forge ahead, push harder, try with all your might. God says pull over, just breathe, listen with your heart. Make time today to listen to the rain. Allow the Holy Spirit to drench you in love, to drive out all fear and uncertainty. Let go of what you think you need, of how you expect things to be, of the why and the when and the where. Trust the Author of Creation to create new life, one breath at a time. And always remember, when the path seems the most bleak, every leap of faith begins with simply putting one foot in front of the other. Text by Connie Chintall ©2013, Photo by Bonnie Hamlett ©2012, All Rights Reserved.
19 Apr 2013 Leave a Comment
I’m enjoying a slow morning after way too many hectic days. The trees are beginning to leaf out, and the bulbs are blooming, yet it seems difficult to trust that spring is really here. So I was drawn to this amazing photo by my friend Alexz. I love her position, one foot trailing behind the other, her face turned toward the ground rushing up to meet her, one hand seeking to brace the impact of the fall. A lifetime ago I tried skydiving. I had always wondered what it would be like to jump. In fact, I feared high places, not because of the height, but because of my desire to jump. The real thing was more euphoric and more terrifying than I had ever imagined. After the chute deployed, there was the strangest sense of peace. I expected to hear wind rushing by me, but there was complete silence. I was in awe, amazed at how far I could see, at how secure I felt in the gear. Then I heard shouting and saw the ground screaming toward me. I crouched just in time to land safely, barely missing a nasty looking cactus. The reality of the jump had banished any fantasy about leaping off a tall building or sharp cliff. Yes, I had jumped and survived, but it took training and good gear, even the folks on the ground to help as I landed. It seems to me that security is a lot like that moment just before you hit the ground. You have done everything possible to minimize risk, yet there is always a chance something can go wrong. When you least expect it, someone is willing to take it to another level. Perhaps they lash out in anger, shattering the dreams of those around them because all they know is nightmares. Our security is always after the fact, addressing yesterday’s breach. And that security comes at a great cost. What do we gain, and what do we lose, when our schools look more like prisons than places to learn and dream? Shall we focus on the few who chose to harm others, or the many that rush to help, even at their own peril? The mathematics of tragedy has been distorted, with far too many news stories on the one or few that choose to pick up a gun or plant a bomb, while the many who quietly do good are ignored. What would our newscast look like if there was one news story for each person that sought to help another? Make time today to focus on the invisible heroes in your lives. Turn off the news and take a good, hard look at what is going on around you. Say thank you to the teacher who should give up, but does not, the mother who wipes away a child’s tears when her own heart is aching, the driver who stops to help another when he is already running late. Practice random acts of kindness, believe in the good of the world, turn away from a sense of false security. And always remember, all it takes to make the world a better place, is for each of us to reach out to one another in love, one thought, one prayer, one action, at a time. Text by Connie Chintall ©2013, Photo entitled ‘Falling’ by Alexz Jade ©2013, All Rights Reserved. To see more of her work, go to http://alexzandrajade.tumblr.com/
23 Mar 2013 2 Comments
It’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
12 Mar 2013 4 Comments
March has arrived like a lion, with each day choosing a different season. In the past few days, we have gone from a foot of snow to torrential downpour. Even the dog wanted to stay inside this morning rather than getting drenched. So I was drawn to this amazing photo by my far flung friend Stanislav. I love how this single yellow flower remains upright despite the surrounding flood. I can imagine the flower bobbing up and down, emerging after being submerged, patiently waiting for the rushing waters recede. It seems as though such a delicate bloom should be washed away, rather than stretching toward the sunlight after the storm. Like us, the flower would surely prefer a gentle shower, yet life seldom offers such an option. Drought is followed by deluge, followed by drought. So we seek ways to mitigate the extremes, to be sure we have the water we need when we need it. We become stewards of one of life’s most precious resources. It seems to me that prayer is a lot like water. We can wait to pray when life turns sour, only offering our heartfelt petitions when all else fails. Or prayer can be part and parcel of our daily existence, the first place we turn, as close as the breath we breathe and the water we drink. Our God does not impose upon us, or compel us to obey. It’s up to us. We can turn to the Lord as the last resort, or as the first. I don’t know about you, but I struggle with the discipline of daily prayer. It’s easy to put off, easier yet to cut short. Perhaps I make it too complicated, thinking I need a prayer book or certain amount of time to get it right. Yet all we need to pray is our breath. We can pray ‘let go’ as we breathe out, and ‘let God’ as we breathe in. Make time today to pray simply for yourself and others. Choose your own refrain for praying with your breath – perhaps breathing out ‘sorrow’ and in ‘joy’. Open your heart to the steadfast love of the Almighty, trusting God to salvage what humans consider beyond lost. Begin to water your faith with a gentle shower of earnest prayer, even if it’s only an upturned eye, or a heartfelt sigh. And always remember, all it takes is a few seconds of our time for our all merciful God to drench us with grace. Text and by Connie Chintall ©2013, Photo entitled ‘Yellow Floating Heart’ by Stanislav Shinkarenko ©2013, All Rights Reserved, to see more of his work, go to
25 Feb 2013 Leave a Comment
It’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
23 Jan 2013 1 Comment
We had a warm spell recently that even fooled my garden. Bulbs began to burst forth, flowering shrubs began to bud, and then the weather turned bitterly cold. Today the skies are a brilliant blue, with just a few wispy clouds. Looking out the window from my desk, it’s hard to conceive how cold it is. I’m captivated by the strong sunlight, rather than dwelling on the obvious signs of winter. So I was drawn to this beautiful art by my friend Jeanne, of birds migrating in a spiral. I love how Jeanne combines math and science with images of nature. A tree grows out of the center of the spiral, a tree that reminds me of the Shaker tree of life. The birds swirl around the tree, moving ever upward, ever closer to the Architect of All Creation. Life is messy by definition, and seldom what we expect or plan for. The happily ever after of fairy tales doesn’t describe most of the paths we follow. Perhaps we are too married to the idea of a straight line path, the idea that we can always see the way ahead. We call the unexpected in life sharp corners, or say we have been blindsided, or simply feel lost and alone. Some of us even allow the vagaries of this life to bury us under a succession of small sadnesses, accumulating into an existence of gloom and despair. Others are like the birds in this image, or the scene out my window. All is well, even when it’s freezing cold. What fuels this ability to persevere? What allows some to bounce back, to recover readily, to seem to defy gravity? I don’t know about you, but I cannot manage such strength alone. It takes more than just personal prayers, more than time in scripture. I must be part of a community that draws me to the center, that reminds me of the Source of All Life. I need someone to pray for me when I cannot find the words or motivation to pray for myself. I need someone to remind me that all will be well, to ease the burden, to keep me on the path ahead. Make time today to pray for those you love and cherish in this life. Ask what to pray for, and let them know you pray for them. Reach out to others and seek their prayers, trusting that God has prepared a way out of the corner you feel painted into. Let the Almighty mold your sharp corners in to gentle curves, to turn darkness into light, to show you the good in even the most dire of situations. Trust the promise of Matthew 7:7-8
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
And always remember, when we trust in the Lord our God, we become like the tree whose branches bend and sway in a storm, remaining flexible and strong amid the challenges of this life. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Art entitled ‘Spiral Migration’ by Jeanne Mischo ©2012, to see more of her work, go to http://jeannemischo.wordpress.com/
15 Jan 2013 1 Comment
For the first time in many years, I have had occasion to spend time with all three of my sisters. We do not live close by, and rarely have much time to visit. Recently we have gathered to celebrate a graduation, then a bridal shower and a wedding. As we worked together, I was pleasantly surprised by how the years melted away, and we fell into familiar patterns and roles. So I was drawn to this beautiful photo of two sisters, taken by their father Ryan. I am reminded of my own father when I see Ryan with his daughters at church, but even more so when I see photos of their camping and kayaking trips. Each day we build memories, and our actions determine if those memories will be good or bad. So on this rainy winter morning I am blessed to recall family boating trips to Burlington Island, when we would swim and picnic. My youngest sister always seemed to go missing, but the island was small enough that we could easily find her. My sister that is now a civil engineer would pull plugs of clay out of the shallows, to bring home and use for her projects. My sister that is the mother of the bride would play in the sand, and gather up insects and tiny creatures to examine. I mostly swam and played in the water, talking to each in turn, and watching what was going on around me. Some would say these trips were a waste of time, that we would have been better off reading a book or honing a skill. Yet we were learning something you can’t find in a book on those sunny afternoons. We learned about each other, learned how to work as a team, learned how to be together yet give each other room. We are a group of independent, opinionated women, and often disagree. Yet when we all are pointed in the same direction, motivated by love and devotion, God help anyone who stands in the way. What I find even more amazing are the women we each call friends, often friends to more than one of us, who have also become our sisters. Make time today to create a lasting memory. Take a walk with a friend or family member, or play a game together. Pay attention to how you each react, respecting individual perspectives and methods. Accept one another as God made us, each different, each unique, each made especially for God’s purpose. Allow the Holy Spirit to bind you together in God’s will, rather than your own. Learn to work together, to understand the whole is more than the sum of the parts. And always remember, we are children of the Most High, sealed together by Christ’s blood, rather than our own. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo entitled ‘Sisters on High’ by Ryan Wick