Sometimes I write more from my heart, but today I'm writing from my head and my heart. I've been ears deep in an academic essay on sacred space and iconography and my mind is on fire with thoughts about how art shapes our soul.
One of the sources I'm siting in this essay is Alain de Botton. He's a philosopher who writes on life and art. While I don't agree with all his conclusions about life, I find myself drawn to his thoughts on how art shapes us, as many of them resonate with what I've studied in Scripture and in the history of Church. Here are his 7-primary functions of art:
I'm curious, what do you think about the potential of art to form us spiritually? Share in the comments or on our Facebook page.
It's one of those things I keep running into, which makes it feel significant. I first stumbled onto it when crafting an art and prayer workshop for a ministry team at RealitySF a couple of years ago. It lingered when I ran my first art and prayer workshop here at home a few months later. Then it popped up in spiritual direction sessions with directees. It's the pattern of transforming processes: to observe (see), reflect (notice), and then respond.
Even now it strikes me that this is the process of art-making. We observe something that inspires us, we reflect on the act of our creation from that inspiration (planning what we will make), and then responding in the act of creation.
It's interesting to me how each step is so necessary to the outcome of transformation. If we didn't stop to observe, our responses would be more reactionary and less impactful to us. If we only stopped to observe, without pausing for reflection, we would engage only analytically, leaving our hearts untouched. Starting with seeing we engage our bodily senses; moving into noticing we use our minds to understand what we see and how it impacts us; then engaging the heart we respond from how what we've seen and noticed feels to us. Each step in the transformative process requires the prior step, and each step walks us deeper into our hearts.
But each step can feel like coming undone; maybe even a bit like sliding down a slippery slope in our souls, into depths we don't actually want to discover. And it can be painful. It can be so, so very hard to sit still long enough to really see the truth of our hearts. Yet, this is the invitation Jesus offers. He invites us to see the places he already sees; he invites us with him to explore the truths in our hearts. He calls us to the deep places of longing and loss, the place he is already loving us.
May we have the boldness and grace today to respond to Jesus invitation, and to see more fully and accurately his love for us.
Raised in the evangelical tradition I was more familiar with Easter than this season called "Lent." I was comfortable with somber Good Friday services, and celebratory Easter Sundays. Then I learned about Lent, and how it is a time to reflect on our longings, our losses, in a way that leads us to confession at the feet of Jesus. Sometimes getting to his feet I found I needed a little help, a gentle push to move forward. I needed someone to remind me of the love of God amidst all this grief.
From these experiences, and through gathering materials I've found helpful, we're offering this half-day Lenten retreat guide. It's filled with prayer practices, journaling prompts, and reflective invitations. It can be used individually, or with your community group. It can used on a half-day away at a museum or over a weekend up on the mountain. It was created with flexibility in mind.
It was also created to remind you how much God loves you. Using Scripture, art, and thought provoking journaling experiences this PDF guide offers you the opportunity to open your heart to God through these practices and to prepare to celebrate the hope we have in Christ Easter Sunday morning.
If this idea excites you, or feels like the last thing you want to do but you feel invited by God to do it anyway, click below to learn a bit more and view a sample page. The PDF guide is designed to be flexible in use and time, so feel free to take a half-day to yourself or a weekend away with your community group.
If you have any questions about this retreat guide, or how to best use it, feel free to contact us anytime. We'd love to hear from you.
A couple of months ago I received a very exciting email: would I come and lead a private workshop for a Bible study group? It was from a past guest at one of my last Art & Prayer Workshops. I said, "Of course!" We navigated the logistics, and just last Sunday met together to learn from one another where God might be speaking to us about how to use art as a means to entering prayer. It was a phenomenal time, and such a gift to be a part of this group for this short time.
Afterwords, I asked the hostess if she would mind sharing her experience, in the form of a review. Below is what she had to say about attending, and hostessing, an Art & Prayer Workshop. Thank you, Elaina, for sharing your thoughts and heart with me (and us!) in your reflection.
"I first attended this workshop after visiting the E:V site and checking out the Art and Prayer Workshop link. I'm an artist and I love Jesus, I've never participated in a workshop that could combine the two so I signed myself up. I had no idea what to expect but there I sat with a group of strangers participating together. It was peaceful and really helped me experience God in a way I hadn't before.
I realized that this workshop isn't [only] for artists, it's for everyone. The people in my first workshop were all diverse in age and personality. Yet we each left having a memorable experience. I strongly felt the need to share this experience with friends. I considered my bible study group; we had been gathering for 2 years and I felt we could have an intimate time together. They all experienced a greater way to study the bible, express themselves, and dig further into their life experiences and were reminded how God was and is present with us. My friends all said they enjoyed the workshop and some said they had learned new ways to connect with God and the bible. It was a success.
Christine creates a positive and comfortable atmosphere, she guides you through each step and shows you how to further experience the bible and parts of yourself through art. She uses photographic art of her own and it's amazing how it truly ministers to each person and very differently. She's a blessing and God definitely uses her gifts as a ministry for others." -Elaina S.