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Gaining Perspective from a Time-Lapse

By David Pennington


I lift my eyes to the mountain. From where shall come my help? (Psalm 121)

These days, social media is a great place for Netflix recommendations and complaints about political leadership. And while I appreciate the recommendations and agree (mostly) with the political tirades, the posts I like most have to do with the creative things people are doing to fill their days. From sourdough starters and beautiful bread, long-planned (and short sighted) DIY projects, even virtual trivia nights, I've been inspired to try a project or two myself.

I am fascinated by time-lapse videos. By the tap of a button on your iPhone, your camera records a long period of time (a half hour or hour, even) and then  condenses the length of video into 30 seconds. One gets to see the movement of things in a way that escapes normal vision. 

The place where I'm hunkered down is in rural Virginia and has a view of Shenandoah National Park. One morning, a dark storm cloud was cresting over the mountain and bringing some fog along with it. I thought this was going to be my time-lapse video moment! So, I set up my iPhone in the window and waited for what I was sure was going to be a stunner of a time-lapse. The dark cloud was going to roll over and cover the peak of the mountain. Fog was going to drift down the side of the mountain and shroud it, obscuring it from view. The clouds would open and sheets of rain would advance toward me. I left the camera to make some coffee, but came back disappointed.

My time-lapse was a failure. That storm cloud never got much darker, and the side of the mountain was free of descending fog. A light rain came on and off, and eventually the sun started breaking through, but never in that cinematic, Easter morning, orchestra swelling kind of way. Turns out, I'm a crummy weatherman.

But then I watched the time-lapse. It was glorious. Clouds came tumbling toward me across the sky, not the mountain peak. The sun never broke the horizon, but instead dappled the field with sunlight through clouds. The rains came, not in dramatic sheets, but in beautiful grey haze and soft small drops. It was so much better than I predicted and turned out to be more interesting condensed in time lapse than what my naked eye was perceiving. 

I find myself stressed a lot these days, despite having nowhere to go, and fearful of what life (and liturgy) will look like when restrictions are lifted. In those moments, I tend to make a lot of predictions about how we're going to celebrate Eucharist or how I'll be able to hangout with my friends (without Zoom). My predictions even stress me out!

It's then that I need to remember how bad a prognosticator (and weatherman) I am. Instead, I'll bake my bread, say my prayers, lift my eyes to the mountains, and watch the time-lapse of this whole mess when it's ready to play. I'll stay hopeful that somewhere in all of this, I'll find the beauty I can't currently see right now and that "God will guard my coming and going now and forever."

Ed note: Do you have a time-lapse you've taken from your window? Share with and we will feature them on social media!


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