This month we are looking at the spiritual practice of art!
Art describes the vast array of mediums used to create something from imagination, emotions, and spirit. This may connect with others in a profound and engaging way or for the purpose of creation. The arts are an incredible opportunity to express ourselves, let go of stress, and create something for the world.
Art awakens us to our spirit to find our inner voice. It is a language that has given expression to God's work in the world through time and the personal spiritual journey's people have walked. It gives insight into the struggles and happiness people have lived. Art can touch the divine in each of us and give space for God to sit and be present.
Let's explore some of the ways art can impact us and how we can use art in our lives.
Art and Our Spiritual Life
Art can be anything that we create. Many times it is purposeful and intentional but sometimes it comes by accident. The creation is formed and evokes thoughts, emotions, and vibes into the world. Much like art our spiritual lives are also what we create. It is our opportunity to be purposeful and intentional in what we do. We can allow our emotions and thoughts to move and take form into beliefs and values that shape who we are.
Using art can be an instrumental method in helping us connect to our inner selfs. It can enlighten us into who we are and what we believe. Art can be a meditation helping us find what we are searching for by using our creative senses. This method can calm, relax, and refocus us on what we are to be about in this world. Our spiritual life is only enhanced when we find a spiritual practice that fits us. For some art is the vehicle which can help them spiritually grow on their faith journey.
Ways Art Can Impact Us
1. Gives Hope - Art is inspirational to others and provides hope. We all have struggles and times of difficulty. Art allows us to sit in those struggles and see the hope that lies in creation. Hope emerges through our canvas to bring inspiration to others and ourself.
2. Tells Our Story - Art is a way to communicate our story. This entails our current feelings, emotions, spiritual journey, and perspective. Sometimes it is difficult to use words to express our journey's. Art gives people opportunities to find their visual voices. Voices that speak beyond words into the emotions they feel.
3. Art Heals - Painting, drawing, sculpting, etc. give physical ways for people to express themselves and let go of their emotions. It allows new insights and perspectives to sink in. Healing takes shape and gives light to hope. Art allows us to restructure our pain into something powerful. It starts with a stroke and transforms into something beautiful.
4. Connects Experiences - What we see in art connects us to our own experiences. Memories flow through our minds, emotions relive, and for just a moment we are connected to the person who created it. Ultimately we are separate individuals but art engages us in that shared experience.
5. Invitation into Community - Engaging in activity is instrumental for community and our own health. Art is a common interest that people can share together by doing which not only enhances their friendships but also their own personal happiness. This participation is an invitation into community. An invitation to have others travel with you on your journey.
Incorporating Art Into Our Life
For those of us who do not use art on a regular basis the question is how do we use this as a spiritual practice. Here are some ideas:
Draw What You See - Look at something around you. I mean really look. Try to see the spirit in it and attempt to capture the essence of it in your art. It challenges you to look underneath the surface for meaning. How will you express what you see? What symbolizes the spirit captured in the moment?
Awaken Your Creative Force - Creating something is powerful and starts us on a journey of awakening something inside of us. The act of creation is inspiring and allows our inner self to be outwardly expressed. There is no agenda, no plan, just creating what comes without judgement.
Attend Art Walks - Art walks or art shows are great opportunities to incorporate art into our lives while also inviting others. Art provides conversational opportunities to discuss our thoughts and perspectives. This can enhance our friendships and connect us deeper to others.
Adult Coloring Books - Coloring is a form of art and can really help us go into a meditative state. Focusing on the task allows our body and mind to relax and let go of stress. This makes us present in the moment. They are an excellent strategy to use in church if you have difficulty focusing.
Art Blogs - Follow a few art blogs to learn skills and become inspired by new creative ideas. Exposure to art gives us permission to become artistic ourselves. Here is a list of the 14 top art blogs.
Carry Materials - Art can happen anywhere! Intentionally carrying a sketch book or other materials with you provides opportunities for us to engage in the practice. When you are inspired stop and be creative. This practice can allow people to live in the moment and make art a more center piece of their spiritual life. It also provides opportunities for connection with people to happen.
Be creative as you spiritually practice using art in your life.
Thank you to all those following along! Please comment on the blog if you like it by saying "This is awesome", "Thanks for sharing" or any other thoughts you want to express.
This week practice using art in someway to enhance your life.
Last week at Dialogue and Dessert each participant was asked to rip off the amount of toilet paper they use when they go to the bathroom. After the paper was passed around individuals had to count the number of squares. The number ripped off was the amount of facts they had to share about themselves. For time purposes we capped each person's at ten.
The group participants openly shared about who they were and the stories that shaped their life. Each one shared well over their amount but it didn't matter because the group was engaged in learning about the person and hearing their story.
One man shared about going off to war after getting married. While fighting on the front lines he received a Dear John letter. He described the pain he felt and how hard it was for him to endure. But his face brightened as he said "but that opened the door for me to meet my wife, whom I have shared forty plus happy years with." He blessed us with the knowledge that sometimes the bad that life brings is only the vessel for something greater if we allow it.
In these moments of listening to one another we were all touched and impacted. We had connected part of ourselves to the group. Sharing with others broadens peoples perspectives and helps them understand our viewpoint. It starts with thinking its "them" and "me" but suddenly moves our thoughts to "us." Connection makes us realize we are in this together. Our original perception and thoughts twist into something more real, genuine, and accurate. It is through these connections that life takes us into new seas and boundaries that we never would have expected.
Let's look closer at how connecting with others impacts our lives!
What's Behind Human Connections
Whether we are standing in line at Starbucks, sitting next to someone on a plane, or walking in our neighborhood there are always moments we can connect with others. It's a choice to engage in someone else's life. We need social connections! Research out of Stanford Medicine by Dr. Emma Seppala indicates social connections improve our physical, mental and emotional well beings. They go as far as saying "Lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking, or high blood pressure." The info graphic below is an awesome visual from Dr. Seppala about it.
What I find amazing about this research is that its really about our own subjective perception about the relationships we have. In other words how deep, genuine, and rich are those relationships. I find this is what we are called to do our faith journey's.
Executive Coach Dan Foxx provides another interesting perspective on connection in his TEDx talk. He discussed the importance of removing our own ego's by giving ourselves to the connecting moment.
Connecting On Your Faith Journey
The spiritual connections we make on our faith journey's are of the utmost importance. When I share with others vulnerably or openly sit in the presence of the divine with others our connections deepen. Whether they actually do or not my subjective perspective believes this which is my reality. Faith is always about going deeper and becoming more authentic. When we walk our faith journey's alone we miss the opportunity to connect.
Jesus connected with others! The scripture focus of our discussion the other night was from Luke 7:11-17 when Jesus came across the burial of a widow's son. Jesus immediately had compassion and was moved to action. He noticed and allowed himself to be connected which ultimately changed the circumstances in the story.
We are called just like Jesus to notice others and connect with them. Through that connection we can allow ourselves to miraculously love. For love changes the circumstances of the moment and calls us to rise forward into new life.
What will that new life be for you? Who will be changed by your decision to connect?
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Go out and connect with someone new this week!
Our guest blogger this week is Elder James O’ Neil DeAtley who is a native of West Union, OH. An alumnus of Morehead State University, “Neil” obtained a BA in 2013. Upon graduation, Neil began his teaching career where he taught 7-12 vocal and general music. In 2018, responding to God’s call, Neil began full-time studies at the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, pursuing a Master of Divinity. Neil has served as a summer guide and museum intern at the Kirtland and Independence Temples. Currently, Neil resides in Washington DC and is the full-time invitation support minister for Community of Christ in the Chesapeake Bay Mission Center.
Moses was shepherding the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. He led the flock to the west end of the wilderness and came to the mountain of God, Horeb. The angel of God appeared to him in flames of fire blazing out of the middle of a bush. He looked. The bush was blazing away but it didn’t burn up. Moses said, “What’s going on here? I can’t believe this! Amazing! Why doesn’t the bush burn up?” God saw that he had stopped to look. God called to him from out of the bush, “Moses! Moses!” He said, “Yes? I’m right here!” God said, “Don’t come any closer. Remove your sandals from your feet. You’re standing on holy ground.”
Exodus 3:1-5 The Message
Do you ever feel that there are simply not enough hours in the day? Do you find yourself stuck in the humdrum routine of attempting to accomplish the requirements of basic living? Between the daily tasks of work, commute, emails, school, and family life, many find themselves simply getting by, only to wake up and do it all over again. By glorifying busyness and placing one’s importance and self-worth on material gain, our culture has furthered this monotonous cycle. It probably does not take much consideration to think of instances where you have observed the ever-increasing societal emphasis on consumerism over community. In the midst of this life, the believer could reasonably ask, “Where is God?” “Is there more?” “Does God have a plan for me?”
The legendary and fabled biblical character of Moses could hardly be deemed as ordinary. Attributed with the authorship of the Torah, Moses is an iconic name in the story of Israel's escape from slavery in Egypt and the later transcendent reception of Ancient Israelite Law. The name Moses represents one who was a great teacher, leader, and liberator. Having fled Egypt in exile, the scriptures record that Moses took a wife, Zipporah, and started a family in Midian.
By all accounts, it would seem that Moses had settled into an ordinary life for a man of his time and place. It is during this phase of Moses’ life that we encounter him in Exodus 3 while he is tending to his father-in-law’s sheep. Going about his daily business, Moses was not seeking a miracle, and yet the Hebrew author documents that it was there that “the angel of God appeared to him in flames of fire blazing out of the middle of a bush.” What happened next is perhaps the most simple and important part of the narrative, “he looked.”
Is it possible that Moses could have walked past that bush many times before while shepherding the flock? Perhaps. Yet, in that moment something was different; Moses saw with new eyes. God saw that Moses had stopped to look and God called him by name. This prompted God’s divine invitation to Moses for an awakened life. The ordinary had been transformed by God, and in amazement of the presence, Moses removed his sandals. Amidst everyday responsibilities, the Holy One of Israel called Moses by name and he discerned God’s life changing plan for him.
This sacred encounter prompted a new life for Moses. A life full of adventure, imagination, and at times, obscurity and risk. In the busyness and monotony of daily life, do you take time to contemplate where is God calling you by name? Where is God longing to draw near to you? What is God inviting you to risk? In the face of a loved one or a stranger, in your commute to work, in your day-to-day duties, where is God longing to transform your ordinary to extraordinary?
As it was for Moses, this life changing adventure is yours for the taking. Will you expeditiously rise up and follow? Will you be full of trepidation and doubt? Or will you live in the nuance of both/and?
In the work Aurora Leigh, nineteenth century poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning writes, “Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only [they] who [see], [take] off [their] shoes; The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.”
Will you, like Moses, stop and look with new eyes? In awe of the presence of God will you take off your shoes in admiration? How will you respond to the divine invitation to an awakened life?
A big thank you to Neil for being willing to share his thoughts with us this week! We wish him the best on his work in the Chesapeake Bay Mission Center.
This week find the holy ground you are being called to and take off your shoes!
The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Community of Christ. We believe individuals should be allowed to have their own opinions and be at different places in their faith journey.