Beauty In Life · Feeling God's Pleasure · Pleasure of Creating · Spiritual Places · Touching Transcendence · Uncategorized

A Retreat For Christian Creatives, Updated!

Good morning.

You may or may not have noticed that I haven’t blogged for a while. I’ve taken a hiatus to refocus, but mostly, I’m now working on a book that I’m really excited about, a book about how God wants us to create and imagine and feel His pleasure while we’re doing it. (You’ll be hearing more about that later.)

A great place to write!
A great place to write!

I’m also working more on promoting a retreat that I first held last spring, Blue Wind Retreats for Christians in Creative Expression. “Blue” represents our creative work, and “Wind” is the breath of the Holy Spirit who fills our work and glorifies Jesus in it.

I’ve pasted the (old) blog about the retreat below. We enjoyed our first day long event at SansMoco Art Gallery in Greenville, PA. The Lord is leading me to move it to an actual retreat center, a “destination” if you will, where folks can really enjoy the sense of “getting away.” So the next one will be at Villa Maria Education and Spirituality Center, Villa Maria, PA (western Pennsylvania), November 6 – 8, 2015.

If you are interested, or know anyone who might be, here’s a link for the brochure. I appreciate your consideration. But most of all, I covet your prayer for this new venture. I believe there is a real need for Christians to make time to get away from all the noise and get alone with God. He wants us to value our imaginative and creative gifts as much as He does. Blue Wind Retreats will hopefully provide that space and create a community of like minded, creative believers for networking and fellowship.

Thanks for your time.

Beach Glass from an October search
Beach Glass from an October search

Lora Zill

Blue Wind Retreats: A Gathering For Christians In Creative Expression

As a Christian artist/writer, I often don’t give myself time to pursue what feeds and restores my spirit. It’s tough to justify the total focus my latest project demands when other, seemingly more pressing issues, demand my attention.

But when I’m creative, I feel God’s pleasure. Why do I have to justify (even to myself) the time I spend in His presence?

During my last prayer retreat at the Benedictine Monastery, God spoke to me to begin a retreat for Christians who practice creative expression. You can be an artist or crafter, jewelry maker or woodworker, composer or a dancer, in other words, anyone who feels the need to make time to create.

He gave me the name: BlueWind Retreats. “Blue” to represent creative work, and “Wind” for the Holy Spirit who glorifies Jesus and breathes life into our expression.

Scene of my sister's home near Clearfield, PA made from cut and painted glass
Scene of my sister’s home near Clearfield, PA made from cut and painted glass

I will offer workshops on imagination and creativity, including a Scriptural basis for our creative gifts. My friend Ben Beck, a fellow artist passionate about Christians in the arts and director of SansMOCO Art Gallery in Greenville, PA, will help host and teach a workshop. There will be time to work on your art or craft and share if you like.

Our focus will always be, not on the artist within, but on The Artist Within: Jesus, in Whom and through Whom all things are created.

If you are interested, I talk about this more on my website.  Here’s a link for more information and a downloadable brochure. My first retreat is in April 2015.

I covet your prayer for this new venture. I believe God is in it. It’s time for God’s people to have confidence in their creative gifts and in His power to use them.

Advertisements
Art and Eternity · Touching Transcendence · Uncategorized

Turning Down The Noise

In a vintage song Carly Simon thanks her new lover for showing her how to “turn down the noise” in her mind. I don’t know what her lover did that encouraged her to change her life, but she was grateful.

No new lover here. The powerful and moving witness of the 21 Martyrs, the Coptic Christians murdered in Libya, and their families, has compelled me to turn down the noise in my mind. A brother of two of the martyrs was quoted by Kathryn Jean Lopez in “Heaven In the Face of Hell”  (National Review Online): “We are proud to have this number of people from our village who have become martyrs,” he explained. Lopez asks: “Who would have an ounce of gratitude at such a moment? The answer: one who has hope — hope of something real and eternal.”

Is my hope that real?

Coptic Church in Cairo, Egypt By Effeietsanders (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons
Coptic Church in Cairo, Egypt
By Effeietsanders (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

Lopez again: “It sounds crazy to a modern secular society, one that tends to view religious faith as sentiment, comfort, and milestone ritual.” I hate to say it, but many Christians, myself included, view faith as a source of comfort. It’s a cozy way to think about life.

I hunger for a robust faith that speaks as the brother of two martyrs. That’s why I’m so passionate about the arts, imagination and creativity in the Christian faith. The arts give us a way to wrestle with these profound questions of hope and a faith even unto death. A robust art will help me turn down the noise and focus on what’s eternal. It will help me develop a robust faith that can speak with confidence in a God of hope.

Feeling God's Pleasure · Losing Your Mind · Pleasure of Creating · Spiritual Places · Touching Transcendence

A Retreat For Christian Creatives

As a Christian artist/writer, I often don’t give myself time to pursue what feeds and restores my spirit. It’s tough to justify the total focus my latest project demands when other, seemingly more pressing issues, demand my attention.

But when I’m creative, I feel God’s pleasure. Why do I have to justify (even to myself) the time I spend in His presence?

During my last prayer retreat at the Benedictine Monastery, God spoke to me to begin a retreat for Christians who practice creative expression. You can be an artist or crafter, jewelry maker or woodworker, composer or a dancer, in other words, anyone who feels the need to make time to create.

Paper Roses from old hymnal pages
Paper Roses from old hymnal pages

He gave me the name: BlueWind Retreats. “Blue” to represent creative work, and “Wind” for the Holy Spirit who glorifies Jesus and breathes life into our expression.

I will offer workshops on imagination and creativity, including a Scriptural basis for our creative gifts. My friend Ben Beck, a fellow artist passionate about Christians in the arts and director of SansMOCO Art Gallery in Greenville, PA, will help host and teach a workshop. There will be time to work on your art or craft and share if you like.

Our focus will always be, not on the artist within, but on The Artist Within: Jesus, in Whom and through Whom all things are created.

If you are interested, I talk about this more on my website.  Here’s a link for more information and a downloadable brochure. My first retreat is in April 2015.

I covet your prayer for this new venture. I believe God is in it. It’s time for God’s people to have confidence in their creative gifts and in His power to use them.

Art and Knowing · Touching Transcendence · Uncategorized

But Still I Write

I met a publisher at a conference and pitched her my book idea about how engaging in imagination and creativity strengthens our relationship with Jesus. She asked for a proposal. Her evaluation: “You’ve hit a felt need about the divine origins of creativity. But I don’t know how to sell it.”

I pitched an agent at another conference. He said, “I absolutely love your idea. But nobody will buy it.” I found out this agent was so impressed he used it as an example during his class—of a great idea that wouldn’t sell.

Another agent has expressed an interest, but no commitments. That’s how the “biz” works. You can spend years of your life writing, end up with a hard drive full of work, and that’s where it stays.

Window, Mount St. Benedict Monastery Chapel, Erie, PA
Window, Mount St. Benedict Monastery Chapel, Erie, PA

I’ve been working on this for a year and a half. I have good friends who write fiction and talk of writing thousands of words in a week. I have spent an afternoon on one page. I’m not only cranking out a philosophy and theology of the nature of artistic creation, I’m also on a personal journey to figure out how it works for me. If I can’t articulate that for myself, then I won’t be able to reach an audience.

I won’t say I haven’t gotten discouraged, because I have. But that nagging Voice says, “Write it. Write it.” If I go a while without facing that blank page, or the pages waiting for revision, I get restless. I have to write. Then I pace around the house, make another pot of coffee, check my e mail for the umpteenth time, all to avoid facing my fear. Maybe I am delusional. Who am I to think this is God? The professionals, whose judgment I trust, say (so far) it’s a non starter.

But still I write.

Power Of Symbols · Uncategorized

Why I Am Not Saying “Je Suis Charlie”

I cannot say “Je Suis Charlie.” This is not meant to be mean spirited or disrespectful. By not saying it, I am paying utmost respect to my fellow writers and artists who paid for their calling with their lives.

All I can do is stand humbled by the thought, “What would I do?” What would I do in the face of a threat on my life because of what I believed? Would I have the courage of those writers, editors, publishers and cartoonists?

Think about what you're saying with this serious meme.
What are we really saying with this serious meme?

“Je Suis Charlie” is a great sentiment, sincerely held and believed. Right now it’s comforting many people and helping them feel strong in the face of this horrific crime. I know how important that is in the face of such personal, professional, and national tragedy. Serious memes like this or others like “Boston Strong” capture our imagination and unite us.

But for me, this is a time of reflection. Do I have that kind of courage? Would I stand strong in the face of such an existential threat?

Honestly, I don’t know. So far, I have not had to make that choice: my art or my life. I’ve not had to make an even more important choice of Jesus or my life.

I will respect my God given gifts–and the memory of my fellow artists–by challenging myself to aspire to the highest reaches of my art.

Art and Eternity

How To Gain Control Of Your Time

I have a True Confession to make. I know you’ll be shocked, shocked that I share this preoccupation with you. Wait…here it is:

What time is it? How much time did _________ take? How much longer until ______? Can I cram this task into the five minutes before my next appointment?  That took longer than I thought!  I can’t do that, I’m too busy. ???????????????????????????????????????

I’m working on that obsession. I’ve stopped saying “I don’t have time.”  If I’m honest with myself, it’s a lie.

I have all the time I need to live my life. To believe anything else is a lie.

It’s a hard truth, isn’t it?

The issue isn’t time, it’s our choices in using it.  If I “don’t have time” for __________, I am spending my time doing something else that is a higher priority. Those priorities may be unwelcome, such as with trying circumstances, or maybe I’m obligated through commitments, but I’ve still made choices.  If I proclaim I don’t have time, I’m making something else responsible for my decisions.

Of course, there are exceptions. People fighting terminal illness face limited time, at least on earth.

The rest of us need to be honest.  I don’t see Jesus proclaiming how busy He was or talking about needing to “make time.” He ordered his life around one priority: doing the Father’s work.

So as I celebrate the passage of time into this New Year, my goal is to choose priorities in the light of eternity’s timelessness

Art and Storytelling · Uncategorized

Joseph and the Angel: The Big “But” in Christmas

If I see too many “buts” in a story by one of my students I circle them and ask for a rewrite. But I put my pen away when it comes to the “buts” in my life’s story…many times those interruptions or contrary circumstances have changed the course of my life.

I would have bought the other house but for a reluctant seller. I love the one I’m in.
I would have run for re-election but for a nagging voice telling me I’d had enough. Now I’m following a different call.

You fill in your blank: “I would have _________________ but for ________________. Now I’m ________________”

There is a big BUT in the Bible that not only changed the course of a life, but of history. Joseph discovered his betrothed was pregnant. He wanted to “do right” by Mary, so he considered privately divorcing her. His plan was an extraordinary act of kindness, because by rights he could have made Mary into a public spectacle.

The Dream of Saint Joseph by Anton Raphael Mengs. 1773-4
The Dream of Saint Joseph by Anton Raphael Mengs. 1773-4

BUT, and a big “but,” an angel showed up to change his plans. God had another idea. Joseph was sensitive enough to listen, abandon his plans and follow God’s.

How often have you had a “BUT” in your story? Does that “but” represent an act of God in your life? Was God trying to speak to you through a series of “buts?”

I’ve needed every one of the many “buts” in my story. I bet you have too. No rewrites at all. God’s “buts” are the rewrite. Everything after is a revision, a much better revision than I could ever achieve on my own.

 

Note: This blog idea came from Rev. Nathan Seckinger’s sermon at Greenville Alliance Church on November 30.  Check it out!

Spiritual Places · Touching Transcendence · Uncategorized

The Search For Transcendence: The Experience of War

37 mm gun crew in battle, Saipan, 1944
37 mm gun crew in battle, Saipan, 1944

In his book What It Is Like To Go To War (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2011) Karl Marlantes describes fighting in the Vietnam War and the actions of men he served with. Marlantes steps back to reflect after watching a comrade charge into the heat of battle, seemingly oblivious to the danger.

Why? Who was he doing this for? What is this thing in young men? We were beyond ourselves, beyond politics, beyond good and evil. This was transcendence.

War is transcendent? Marlantes describes how war calls out of warriors qualities that feel mystical: awareness of your inevitable death, concern for others above yourself, feeling part of a community, and focus on the moment.

I’ve had many family members in military service. My dad served in the Army during the Korean War. Aunts, uncles, cousins served; some were “lifers” or married “lifers.” I do not pretend to adequately discuss the sacrifice of our warriors. But can we look at a bigger idea: our desire to touch transcendence. I don’t know if any military recruit enlists for that reason. But once they find themselves in the heat of battle, in the middle of a moral or ethical dilemma, or completing a successful mission, do they experience a moment, a feeling they will never forget? That changes them forever? Is that why loyalty to comrades is so strong and something civilians envy?

But we haven’t paid the price for that moment of transcendence. We haven’t undergone the rigors of training, serving, separation from loved ones, or war. It’s a price often paid with a life.

We want that transcendence too, but look for it in ways that aren’t so costly or fraught with peril. That search seems to be built into every human being.

Do you search for transcendence?

Creativity of Language · Feeling God's Pleasure · Pleasure of Creating

Bruce Hornsby and Touching Transcendence

Bruce Hornsby at the Wanee Festival, 2012 by  Mark Johnson, Blue Ridge, SC via Wikimedia Commons
Bruce Hornsby at the Wanee Festival, 2012
by Mark Johnson, Blue Ridge, SC via Wikimedia Commons

How many artists strive for excellence and transcendence?

Recently I heard Bruce Hornsby, one of the best, if not the best rock/jazz/pop/blues pianists in the country, in concert at the Kent Stage. I knew him from his days with his band “The Range” from the 1980’s and love his mega hits “The Way It Is” and “Mandolin Rain.”

At this stage in his career he is exploring different musical languages and creating new sounds and effects. For his latest cd “Solo Concerts” and during the live concert he mixed the modern classical music of Schoenberg and Elliott Carter with New Orleans blues, modal folk, hymnal, and boogie. A few times he began a familiar piano riff from one of his radio hits, but then segued into atonal bars and never returned (as far as I could tell) to the familiar.

The liner notes from “Solo Concerts” says that he is searching for “inspiration, challenges, and new vistas…a search for inspiration and transcendent moments; moments that give you chills, make you cry, laugh, or make your head move.”

Emily Dickinson talked about the power of art (in her case, writing) to take the top of your head off. I admire Bruce’s quest for excellence, for inspiration and big moments. I think sometimes we are so focused on producing clean copy for an editor or an “aha!” for our audience that we don’t recognize the “aha’s” that are there for us as well.

If the artist doesn’t touch transcendence, how will the audience?

In future posts I’ll be discussing what “touching transcendence” means.

Art and Knowing · Beauty In Life · Spiritual Places · Uncategorized

Go On ‘Til You Find What You’re Looking For

Those who watch us pursue our passions often don’t understand what they see us do, or why we do it.

This past summer I was on the hunt again for beach glass in an area frequented by boaters and folks playing with their dogs. A couple was sitting on an old picnic table as I approached, head down, scanning the sand.

Beach Glass from an October search
Beach Glass from an October search

The man called out. “What are you lookin’ for?”

I played a little coy. I’ve met other searchers on the beach and we’ve compared our finds. But just then I didn’t want to divulge that location as a rich source of glass. But there was also no reason not to be honest.

I looked up. “Oh, just some pieces of glass, maybe some cool rocks, and I pick up garbage too.” (All true.)

The man chuckled and ribbed me in a friendly way. “From the looks of it you haven’t found much.”

All he could see was me walking with my hands in my pockets. I smiled.

“Yeah, some days are better than others.”

In my pocket my right hand jiggled two dozen pieces of glass from just that day, a “better” one. The man didn’t understand what he was seeing. But I knew what I was looking for.

Could be you are pursuing your passion and loved ones don’t understand what you’re doing or why. They don’t know you’ve found it, or that you’re simply content in the process until you do. All they can see is you don’t seem to be what they consider “successful.”

But still you go on, until you find what you’re looking for.