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.

Losing Your Mind · Spiritual Places · Uncategorized

The Art Of Losing

Acclaimed poet, Elizabeth Bishop, class of 1934
Acclaimed poet, Elizabeth Bishop, class of 1934 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The art of losing isn’t hard to master…  Elizabeth Bishop, from her poem, “One Art.”

You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One who is most dear to you. – from Sermons on the Beatitudes, by Gregory of Nyssa, paraphrased by Michael Glerup.

Gregory of Nyssa (fresco in Chora Church)
Gregory of Nyssa (fresco in Chora Church) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Blame it on “change of life.”

Blame it on the challenge of balancing several part time jobs and adding yet more important projects.

I have been quite distressed lately by how many things I’ve lost.  The JCPenney receipt?  I returned it to the bag, didn’t I?  Poetry book for my class?  Wasn’t it in my satchel?  A pair of favorite earrings? Found one in a pocket (I never put earrings there) and one in the car.  Huh?  Combined with misplacing class materials that I find later, or forgetting that I had to be somewhere, I am struggling.  I have been so stressed about it the last loss put me in tears.

Bishop says how I can “practice losing farther, losing faster.”  I doubt that’s a goal for anyone.   Not on my bucket list.  Yes, I need to practice losing so I get better at feeling panicked and sad.  Let’s see, what can I lose now?  Let’s get to it.

So, Elizabeth Bishop, even with her wonderful poem, isn’t helping me.  Maybe I should try Gregory of Nyssa.   He offers a different perspective, one that deserves a longer, closer look.  Until next time….

Losing Your Mind

Capsizing and Focus

Trying to get unstuck on the Shenango River in NW PA.

I was focused after capsizing my kayak on the Shenango River.

I rounded a turn and saw a large branch, but figured I’d let myself slide off it and be on my way.  But the current had other ideas.  It trapped my boat against the branch and I was over, gasping and scrambling in the deep water.  My lunch and paddle floated away.  Water filled the unsecured dry hatch.  My life jacket wasn’t tight enough; it was pushing up to my ears.

I was totally given over to getting myself out of my predicament.  The mantra from rescue training rolled through my head: “Stay with the boat!”  I grabbed at the edges of the cockpit, now upside down, and tried to find the bottom with my feet.  Nothing.  There was only room for one other thought:  “Jesus!”

Finally I stepped on stones and fellow paddlers helped drag my boat to shore, empty it and round up my errant equipment.  I caught my breath, shaking from cold and fright.   I had to paddle soaking wet until we could stop and a friend handed me her dry clothes.

I thought I knew the dangers.  But I had never imagined them strongly enough to prepare just in case, as necessary on the river.  Now I have no trouble imagining the results of poor preparation.  I lived it.

Imagination isn’t only useful in the “artistic” realm.  God gave us imagination to help us think critically, especially while trying to figure out Plan B in deep water.  My “bad example” has become a running joke in my kayaking group.   Hey, I deserve it!

Losing Your Mind

Sailing and Losing Your Mind

The wind had died and I was on my knees paddling my dinghy, bracing the tiller against my leg to keep the boat straight.  When a puff of wind rippled the water I adjusted the sail to catch it, but soon was back to paddling.

But whether slowly bumping and sliding, sail limp, or driven by a brisk wind, a sailor has to remain constantly focused on wind direction and speed, the path of other boats, wave action, shallow water, and distance to shore.  That’s one reason I love sailing.  I am completely engrossed from launch to landing and unable to think about much else.

My other favorite water sport, kayaking, has its own rhythm and flow on lakes, but doesn’t demand the same concentration.  (Rivers are another story!)  In fact, often I allow my mind to wander and not into productive areas.   I recall old frustrations, or try to puzzle through a perplexing problem.  I finish physically spent, but too often not emotionally refreshed.   When I sail, I arrive on shore exhilarated with hair standing up from being soaked and dried on the fly.   For a while I am lost to the world:  sailing is not that far from paradise.

Maybe this is “losing your mind” in a positive way.  Do you have a hobby, work project, or activity that demands your total attention?  Or said another way, that you focus your mind on and freely give yourself to?  What do you discover in that absolute concentration?   Next time I’ll tie in imagination and faith to this life-giving habit of mind.