Since I began focusing full time on my spiritual direction and healing practice in November, I’ve found myself having more time to create… not just for the business, but for my own healing/prayer/reflection time. I’ve done a few paintings, written a little more, almost finished making curtains (that have been 16 months in the waiting to do pile!), and more. And it’s felt like the beautiful breathing whoosh of the Spirit blowing into my life.
I have discovered, over the years, that for me creativity is an end product of something that inwardly takes place. A painting doesn’t happen unless I have received an image of it from the Spirit, seen my hands using the brush, choosing the colors, imagining the strokes of paint filling the canvas. Likewise a piece doesn’t get written until I have thought and received most of the words that are asking to appear. It’s like the birth of something that has been nurtured and fed and grown in the womb before it is ready to be presented to the world. Mostly it doesn’t turn out exactly the way I had imagined it, but, if I’m faithful to the process, it comes out right. And the only time this has been a problem is when I’m sermon writing and Sunday morning is fast approaching!
But as I walked this morning listening to the swirling of a new painting that is forming in my heart, I realized what a luxury it is to have the time and space, on multiple levels, to be creative. For me, there has to be an inward safety, an openness, a level of energy, time to listen to the Spirit, time to allow the unfolding and imagining of what might come, in addition to more earthly things like physical time, money for paints and canvases and brushes, a place where a painting can sit and be undisturbed while it’s drying. Or money for fabric and a way to sew.
Maybe, not everyone creates in this way, some may begin to paint and then listen to the paints and canvas and see what’s being formed. Some may write or speak or sing and wait for the next phrase to appear once they’ve started. And I do some of this too, but the bulk of the imagination and research and thinking and feeling my way into it happens first. And it’s obvious to me when I’m not in a place where creativity can be conceived.
In addition to the feeling of great gratitude that arose in me for the luxury of this time in my life, I also began to wonder how creativity is a justice issue. If all creative people need this space to imagine, to be, to wait for the Spirit, to allow the movement to grow, how many people are denied it? When long hours are worked in meaningless jobs, or people are fearful about where their next meal or rent check is coming from, when people are living in fear of ridicule and abuse, when children are filled with homework and unreasonable expectations of busy-ness…. How can creativity spring forth? How can feelings be expressed in healthy ways? How can hope find a way to the surface?
As I sit here with my laptop, a new painting beginning to emerge in my consciousness and paints nearby, curtains ready to be finished on Monday when some people at church share their sewing machines and knowledge, how can I forget that it is, indeed, a luxury? And how can I give thanks in such a way that my creativity may, somehow, bless the world? How might my creativity be a step toward justice for all?
And while I struggle with the answers to these questions, I know that, somehow, it is indeed true. That when we listen to the depths of the Spirit, when we bring something new and beautiful into the world, when we trust that what we are seeing and hearing and creating is from the Divine, that somehow, just somehow, the world around us is blessed. I liken it to living into my calling, which, in turn, can help others live into their calling or wholeness.
So may we each, in our own ways, listen to what we are being invited to bring into the world to touch those around us with beauty and hope and truth, and allow it to emerge and be a blessing to all.
In the prescribed readings for the Christian church, many of us have been hearing stories known as the Baptism of the Lord scriptures. This is a time in our calendars when we remember Christ being baptized by John in the Jordan River, and also a time when many of us are invited to remember our baptisms too. One of my favorite parts of the Biblical story is this image of the heavens opening and voice coming from them calling out to Jesus, “You are my beloved child in whom I delight!” as Jesus rises from the waters. What a gift to him…. And to all of us, to hear these words spoken about one who is baptized, about one who is coming up from deep waters!
At church this last Sunday we celebrated the baptism of two toddler aged boys. The children present all went to the baptismal font and got the water for the baptism and sat around to witness this act. And the first child, a boy around three years old, watched intently as the water was poured into the bowl and blessed. He looked like he was ready to climb inside this small bowl of water to fully claim his baptism! A bunch of words were spoken, and still this boy was looking into the bowl of water. The pastor invited him to be first, and she took her hand, filled it with water, and placed it on the child’s head, three times. Then his mom and sponsors all placed their hands on him to say a pray for him. The pastor then moved on to the second child, but my eyes were caught on this first boy. He was standing as still as could be (a first for this wiggler!) and there was a look on his face that was hard to describe. He had a small smile, his eyes were soft and unfocused on anything we could see, and he appeared to be listening to something inaudible to the rest of us. It was both serious and joyful, these words he was hearing. He stood there for a full minute or more, basking in what he was feeling and hearing. Then he gave a small nod and decided he was done, looked up at his mom, and the moment was gone.
As I watched him, my eyes filled with tears. His beatific look had touched me deep inside. It was as though he were hearing those words from the Divine…. You are my child. With you I am well pleased. In you I delight! He looked like he knew he was loved, and well loved in that moment. He was both at peace and a place of surety that this was true and would never change. The softness that came from him was filled with love. He seemed surrounded by angels whispering “in you I delight. You are beloved,” over and over to him, hoping that he would remember this for the rest of his life.
I know how unlikely this is though, both through my own life and from sitting with others as they share their longing to feel accepted, loved, perhaps even unconditionally loved. At some point in our lives (sometimes before we are even born) we begin to doubt this fact… we learn that we can (maybe) be loved if we act a certain way, be quiet at the right time, do a certain thing, become a certain person, earn a certain salary…. The list goes on and on. Day after day we are told we can be beloved if….
Yet God tells us something different.
We are Loved.
We are delighted in.
There is nothing we can do to stop this.
AND it’s so hard to believe, to trust, to hold on to. We may catch it for a second, or for a day even. But to live into this in our life is a constant struggle, not to mention being counter cultural!
I believe, in this day and age, we have to remember. We have to reclaim this belovedness. We have to stop trusting what the world tells us and, instead, tune in to the small whispers of the Spirit singing our story and origin based in love back to us, back to our heart, back to our spirit, back to our center. For when we can live out of this place with humbleness, even if we just believe it less than 1%, we will live differently. We will see the world as a more gentle place. We will see other people as divine sparks of love. We will work for the world we can glimpse and believe in. And, in time, the world will change to become a place we, in our beloved state, can live in once again without feeling the fractured dissonance that surrounds us.
So will you join me in listening to the whispers? In paying attention to the song of the angels? In stopping for a moment each day to believe it?
You are beloved.
In you the Creator of All delights!
WARNING…. This is NOT a comment on your driveway. Please don’t read it as such! J
Towards the end of last winter a neighbor, who I don’t know well and have only said “Hi,” in passing to, came by as I was shoveling my driveway. In a somewhat disparaging tone he commented, “Your driveway is always cleared. It’s the only one where you can see cement.” I wasn’t quite sure how to respond…. Should I thank him, even though it didn’t seem to be a compliment? Should I apologize? Should I challenge his tone? In the end I didn’t say anything as his dog pulled him down the street to continue her walk.
Last week, as I was chipping an inch of ice off the driveway before the next snowfall, I remembered his remark, and wondered why I do keep my driveway clear. The first, easy answer is that I have people coming to my home for spiritual direction and healing sessions, so of course I want it to be easy for them to get to my front door. And if it’s not clients, then friends, delivery people, myself! Who wants to slip and slide on a driveway? As a Benedictine Monastic, hospitality is one of the tenets of life. Can I treat everyone I interact with, as Christ himself? Whoever is coming to my door? Can I create a clear path for them as a first indication of welcome?
But as I was working on that ice, I realized a deeper understanding of why I was scraping this ice away, even knowing the snow was coming that night. I was reflecting on the overwhelming climate news… fires burning out of control, the many ways we are destroying God’s creation, the apathy that seems to settle on us collectively as we buy the belief that our little acts don’t make a difference. So what if we boycott disreputable companies, use cloth toilet paper, eat vegetarian, recycle and reduce consumerism. The world is still burning around us. This feeling of inadequacy can settle on me as a heavy weight, and I wonder why I try to do my best for our planet. It would be easier not to be informed than to know and feel this way. It would be easier to fall back asleep to the harm we humans are inflicting on the world.
So I felt, in that moment, as if clearing my driveway is a sign of my refusing to turn my back, a statement of my care for Nature, my re-commitment to doing something to show care for creation, to worship this beauty God has given us stewardship of. It seems like an act of rebellion, of refusing to fall to the standard of the lowest common denominator or not shoveling driveways, and to say to the world: I STILL CARE. It is a message to God that here, on this little strip of land, I am doing my best to be a steward of what I have been given. That the rabbits and squirrels won’t have to work quite so hard to move around. That people will have an easier passage. And even if it doesn’t matter or make a difference in the world, it makes a statement of love right here.
So when you see me, cheeks bright red from the cold, shovel in hand, a smile (or grimace) on my face, know that it is an act of gratitude and staying awake to the world around me, of me acknowledging that little things make a difference, that I’m mindful of what I have, that it takes hard work to do the work of change, and see each shovel as a prayer of love for the world!
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.