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.

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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.

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?

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.

 

 

 

Beauty In Life · Power Of Symbols · Spiritual Places · Uncategorized

More Sacred Spaces: Beauty For All

The beauty of Sacred Spaces must please God and the people who enjoy them.

St. Hedwig Church on East Third in downtown Erie was built in Tudor Gothic style. Two “crowning interior features” are an 18th c. baroque crucifix hanging over the altar and an icon depicting the “Black Madonna and Child” sacred to Polish Catholics. I was also captivated by the stunning blue ceiling and stained glass windows (pictured).

Ceiling, St. Hedwigs Church
Ceiling, St. Hedwigs Church

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Altar area, St. Matthew's Lutheran
Altar area, St. Matthew’s Lutheran

St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church on West 7th was built in a Romanesque Revival style and considers itself a traditional “neighborhood” church.  I loved the cross hanging over the altar, the focal point of the sanctuary.

I believe a “sacred space” can exist whenever and wherever you meet with God. But the sanctuaries set aside for worship and buildings that house His work and the work of His people deserve special attention. Given tight budgets and differing priorities for precious resources, we may not see new construction like this again. Those that tend these sacred spaces also deserve recognition, from the priests, organists, volunteer “docents,”and cleaning workers to the ladies who provided refreshments for visitors. I also am grateful for the woman at St. Mary’s who shared warm words of comfort with a stranger.

They welcome strangers, perhaps even angels, and so welcome Jesus Himself.

Power Of Symbols · Spiritual Places · Uncategorized

More Sacred Spaces: Where Do You Find Beauty?

Interior, First Presbyterian Church of the Covenant, Erie, PA
Interior, First Presbyterian Church of the Covenant, Erie, PA

Here are more photos of my recent visit of downtown Erie (PA) churches which opened their doors for the public during the Erie County Historical Society’s Fall “Sacred Spaces” Tour.

First Presbyterian Church of the Covenant on West 7th Street, Erie, PA is built in the image of a Gothic Revival Cathedral. It reminded me immediately of the National Cathedral in Washington, D. C. Its Vicary Organ, with 103 ranks and 6,000 + pipes, was designed and built specifically for the sanctuary’s acoustics. A tour guide had me balance on a cement wall outside where I could see a gargoyle through an archway. You don’t need to balance while standing in the magnificent sanctuary enveloped in organ music worship.

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Exterior View, First Presbyterian Church of the Covenant, Erie, PA
Exterior View, First Presbyterian Church of the Covenant, Erie, PA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sanctuary of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church on East Ninth Street is lined with statues, including St. Anthony of Padua and St. Benedict. Only a heart of stone would refuse to be moved by The Pieta.  There is nothing else to say….

The Pieta, St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church
The Pieta, St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church
Power Of Symbols · Spiritual Places · Uncategorized

Sacred Spaces: Where Do You Find Beauty?

Stained Glass Windows, St. Patrick’s, Erie, PA

Where do you find your sacred space? You may find it in your local place of worship, a favorite spot in nature, or even in your living room during personal prayer time. Probably most of us would call a “sacred space” wherever we meet with God, formally or informally.

But whenever we want to meet with other believers in a sacred space we usually head for sanctuaries in established churches or created in other places. Some sanctuaries are ornate with religious art or intricate carvings, others emphasize simplicity and function. Speaking as a Protestant, many contemporary Protestant churches prefer less ornamentation and few, if any, objects appreciated just for their beauty. This may reflect a common sense attitude toward allocating scarce resources.  I think we’re missing something by not emphasizing beauty in our spaces, but that’s another blog!

Older Protestant churches built in a different era are often stunning in their architectural details and interior design.  Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches have always included much beauty in their sanctuaries and exteriors.

Today and next week I’ll be sharing my photos (shot with permission) of the downtown Erie (PA) churches I recently visited as part of the Sacred Spaces Tour sponsored by the Erie County (PA) Historical Society. I visited Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, and Lutheran churches. As beautiful as they are, these spaces are only a reflection of the beauty of God. But I think He’s pleased to be so represented.

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These life sized, hand carved, and recently restored Stations of the Cross are resident in St. Patrick’s (Romanesque Revival), the “Spirit of the Bayfront.” The stained glass windows have also been restored.

St. Patrick’s, Erie, PA, Interior View

 

Spiritual Places · Trust Issues · Uncategorized

Rescue The Perishing

I checked my dignity at the beach before taking an advanced kayaking class offered by Pymatuning State Park. The challenge was to learn how to rescue someone (yourself or others) after capsizing in deep water.

A very wet paddling rat after a tiring night in the water.
A very wet paddling rat after a tiring night in the water.

There are several techniques, and to dump into the water, then hoist yourself onto a light, narrow boat is a feat, especially for us 50 somethings. Even with someone holding your kayak (from their kayak), even with a hand up. You slide onto the boat facing the stern, then turn, stuffing your limbs into the cockpit, and oh, by the way, maintaining balance while you’re at it. (Where did my paddle go?)

You couldn’t worry about how you looked. Our movements were awkward and decidedly ungraceful.

I tried different techniques: a “T” rescue, using a paddle float, and a strap. I accomplished two of the three, with leg cramps and lack of upper body strength prohibiting success in the other. The next day I was feelin’ it, limping around the house nursing bumps and bruises and stretched muscles. And that’s after six years of paddling.

What I learned mostly was what it feels like to be in that situation. How hard it is to rescue. To trust my life jacket to do its job so I could focus on other tasks.  But maybe the most important of all: what to expect from myself if the worst happens.

We can find grace in awkward situations, when we’re caught in a hard place. It’s not always pretty. But who ever said grace is?

Art and Knowing · Spiritual Places

The Search For Peace

Where do you go when you need to find peace?  Do you head to a favorite place when you feel disquiet or distress? How does it help you?

I’m blessed that I live fifteen minutes from Pymatuning, the biggest lake in Pennsylvania (which empties into the Shenango River), and a three minute walk from Conneaut Lake, the biggest spring fed (natural) lake in the state.  My favorite poem, W.B. Yeats’ “The Lake Isle Of Innisfree” reflects the narrator’s love for the water, what he found there, and what he carried with him away from the lake.  Recently I desperately needed peace and that’s where I went to find it: I threw my kayak in the car and headed for Pymatuning.

Kayaking on the Shenango River, flowing from Pymatuning Lake. That's me on the left in the floppy hat.
Kayaking on the Shenango River, flowing from Pymatuning Lake. That’s me on the left in the floppy hat. (Photo by Helene Dreisbach)

God’s gift of peace through hearing the natural rhythms of “lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore” and the physical rhythms of paddling helped get me on the path to a spiritual peace.

God uses the natural to get us to the spiritual. Yeats: “And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow/Dropping from the veils of the morning….” (If you’d like to hear a wonderful oral interpretation, listen to Anthony Hopkins’ recitation on the Poetry Out Loud website www.poetryoutloud.org.)

My favorite Scripture also reflects peace in encouraging me to have confidence, because I will see God’s goodness in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13-14).

But I needed to go to the lake to be reminded of His goodness in my “land.”

Where is your place?

Power Of Symbols · Spiritual Places · Uncategorized

Ode To Moonflowers and Returning

My evening primrose, or moonflowers, open around 8:30 – 9:00 every night all summer. In the morning they are wilted; the early sun is too much.

I got my moonflowers from my friend “Sprig,” who took me  under her wing when I was growing up. I had a great life with my four sibs in a central Pennsylvania Mayberry RFD. But even the best lives need someone to talk to and I talked to Sprig. She lived on my small town’s main drag and lived to garden, she and her two sisters, Old Maids, three. (“Old Maid” is a pejorative now, but back then it was a term of endearment, and I use it with respect and affection. They are all now with the Lord.)

Sprig raised moonflowers and we’d watch them bloom. The buds swelled and as twilight approached, started to shake and open, right before your eyes.

Evening Primrose at Birkdale, UK. Photo by Gary Rogers
Evening Primrose at Birkdale, UK. Photo by Gary Rogers

Moonflowers are very hardy, but this past winter was the most brutal in 20 years. When spring finally got her courage up I looked for my moonflowers. Only one had made it.

“They froze out,” I told my mother, who also has some from Sprig.

“I’ll give you some,” she said. I was relieved.

But tonight, as I cleared away grass and weeds from the moonflowers’ place, I found them. Tiny and nondescript, I almost pulled them out by mistake. I wiped the tears away. “Sprig, they’re back,” I told the sky. “They came back.”

I’ve experienced some pretty harsh spiritual and emotional winters. I wasn’t sure I’d make it. (You know that feeling.)

“And Sprig,” I said, “You’d be pleased to know I’m back too.”