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.

Pleasure of Creating

God’s Perfect First Draft

I create heeding Anne Lamott’s advice, but maybe I should also write and live according to Evelyn Underhill’s vision. She compares the artistic process to God’s creative activity in us.

Creation is the activity of the artist possessed by the vision of perfection; who, by means of the raw material with which he works, tries to give more and more perfect expression to his idea, his inspiration, or his love. 

I don’t know about you, but when I sit down to create art (in my case, write) I’m not usually possessed by a vision of perfection and I’m much less able to express it. I appreciate Underhill’s lofty goals, but I’m usually possessed by earthly (or earthy) thoughts and it’s a struggle to get them on paper.

Painting by Adolf Holzer 19th century
Painting by Adolf Holzer 19th century

My writing, at least in its early stages, is less like Underhill and more like Anne Lamott’s s***** first draft.  I’m often tempted to stop there because I’ll never attain the “perfection” of Underhill.  It’s not worth the struggle, the hours, or the effort.

But wait, there’s more from Underhill.

From this point of view, each human spirit is an unfinished product, on which the Creative Spirit is always at work.

What an amazing idea: God changes us not to revise a lousy “first draft,” but to craft in us—an unfinished product–his vision of love.  He is the Artist possessed by the vision of who we can be.

Lamott encourages writers to write and not worry about “perfection.” That’s what revision is for.

But I’m glad to know that no matter what we have done, God doesn’t look at us like an imperfect first draft that He needs to revise.  His creative work is to express his vision—of perfection–in us.

Art and Storytelling · Art As Conversation · Feeling God's Pleasure · Trust Issues · Uncategorized

Whose Line Is It Anyway?

I’m not very good at “improv” games.  I’ve heard it said that writers usually aren’t because they’re trained in careful, disciplined choices of language and “improv” encourages spontaneous dialogue and interaction.   “Improv” doesn’t have rules, or judgment, or make room for “error” because there isn’t any.  There are no criteria to live up to or judge by.  The only requirement is the willingness to participate and openness to spontaneity.  "Improv"

But it takes courage to play “improv.”  You have put away self-consciousness, trust yourself and the other players, “be present” in the moment, and follow the process where it leads.  It’s also not a “secret” process or one accomplished in your prayer closet.  It’s out in the open, public, usually with an audience who participates and responds by approving (or not) through clapping, hooting, laughing, friendly yells, yawning in boredom or checking their cell phones.

I am a good audience for “improv.”  I usually catch a joke, or see the possibility of one when it wasn’t intended.  I laugh well.  But I can also see where I can add some “improv” to my life.  I can recognize the many areas of life where I can be spontaneous and make decisions purely for the enjoyment and pleasure they offer.  Not everything in life bears a heavy moral or ethical dilemma or is reason to be “outraged.”  I’ve blogged about Eric Liddell and feeling God’s pleasure.  Maybe it’s time for me to discover more of my own!

Pleasure of Creating

Thoreau and the Pleasure of Creating

Henry David Thoreau was big back in the 1970’s.  I remember plastering my high school notebooks with his sayings and thinking it cool to march to a different drummer, whether near or far away.  The saying that remains meaningful past the rush of a young bohemian wanna be and into middle age is that most people lead lives of quiet desperation.  Sadly, I find that still true.  (Sadder still when it applies to me.)

That young bohemian did work in a garden (her family’s) and build cabins, not by a pond but in an old growth pine forest.  The cabins were usually too “buggy” to actually play in but the fun was in the planning and construction.  Once one was finished another was immediately in the works.  Months, years, passed and the branches fell in and pine needles dropped into piles on the ground.   When I walked back through the woods looking for the cabins I found only ruins.  But I felt no nostalgia.  I only remembered the pleasure of imagining and creating.

As a kid playing in the woods I never dreamed of being a writer.  Those same processes of imagination and creativity that were evident then I call on now.   But all too often I allow my imagination to curl up from misuse and disuse and I wonder why I can’t write.   I have forgotten that God took pleasure in what He created and that I can do the same.   His world is calling; it’s a bit bigger than those old pine woods.  This kid needs to get out and see what other cabins she can build.