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.

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More Reflections From the Monastery

On my recent time at a spiritual retreat, Benedictine Monastery near Erie, Pennsylvania.

1.  The three “hermitages” are named for Scholastica (twin sister of Benedict), Walburga, and (mine) Hildegard.  Hildegard von Bingen was a twelfth century mystic who shared her visions through music and written imagery.   She spoke for God and was proactive in her faith.  The hermitage was stocked with books about Hildegard and music contemporary musicians recreated from her compositions.

Hildegard's Awakening
Hildegard’s Awakening, A Self Portrait

2.  Benedictines pray as a community several times a day and guests are welcome.  Their liturgy includes burning incense, Scripture reading, antiphons (responsive chanting), and praying the Psalms.  Sisters sit facing each other on either side of the chapel, choirs that alternate verses.  Hearing the Psalms prayed as a community showed me an involvement with the Word I haven’t considered.  We Protestants emphasize private, individual devotions but praying the Psalms with the Benedictines revealed the communal aspect of the Word.

St. Benedict
St. Benedict

3.  The Benedictines have a beautiful library stocked with material it would take a lifetime to absorb. Windows face the woods, and a couch and reading lamps provide comfortable reading areas.  I read in many traditions, both monastic and apostolic.  Materials can also be signed out.

Speaking of, beauty is another Benedictine emphasis.  Sisters told me of the painstaking care of carpenters and tradesmen installing stained glass windows and pulley systems for plants enabling easier care.  Everyone sees themselves as serving God in their work, and takes great pride in fulfilling their part of the call.

4.  I fellowshipped with the sisters at meals, enjoying lively give and take.  Benedictines receive guests as they would receive Jesus, and it shows.  One night I arrived early for Evening Praise and several sisters, including the Prioress, offered a warm hand.  Another sister made sure I had the right prayer materials.

I wandered freely through the monastery (except for private quarters.)  The main chapel (worth visiting for the stunning stained glass windows) and smaller one nearby are open for prayer and meditation.

The stained glass in the smaller chapel counsels “Let nothing be preferred to the work of God.” (Rule of St. Benedict 43:3.)   Sounds like a good way to close: concentrating on the work of God.

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Retreat Reflections From the Monastery

  • Monastic life, for the short time I shared it, has its own rhythms of service, solitude, fellowship, and prayer.  To enter those rhythms as a welcomed fellow pilgrim is rejuvenating.  Makes me want to create rhythm in my own life.
  • It took commitment to get to your “hermitage.” (The sisters call these cabins “herms.”) I packed my gear on a sled and hauled it across two wooden bridges, up a long hill and through the silent woods in a driving snowstorm.  The snow was lovely, dark, and deep, and it felt like a mile long slog from the “herm” to the monastery for prayers and meals and then back. Don’t forget your flashlight for the trek after dinner.

    Mount S. Benedict Hermitage
    Mount St. Benedict hermitage
  • My “hermitage” really began when I realized I needed to get the mind of God.  A contemplative reading described the “hunger” I felt as God’s hunger for me.  I’m still reflecting on that.
  • I appreciate the friends and acquaintances who shared encouraging words about my retreat.  (One even sent cd’s of Kathleen Norris reading her book Acedia and Me.)  I listened to each voice as the voice of God.
  • I took two books: my Bible and Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship. This Queen of Multitasking didn’t.  I really can take two days to shut up, sit, listen, and pray.
  • Journaling has a purpose, as I write to know what I think. But this time my thoughts weren’t important.  I only jotted down what God thought.

Next time I’ll share about praying with the sisters and more about the monastery.  Next year I’ll pack my snowshoes!