Monday, February 8, 2010

Launch Into Lent: Explore a Creative Practice

Lent begins next week with Ash Wednesday, so all week this week, I'll be giving you ideas for how to enrich your Lent. Those few of you who are long-time readers of this blog may find them familiar, and I did offer many of these ideas a year ago. But then I had very few readers, so it's a series worth running again. This year I'm running the series before Lent, so that you have some time to think about what you'll choose. I encourage you to choose the things that make your heart leap with joy, not the things you think you should do as a good Christian.

Today we think about enriching our Lent by infusing our days with creativity.

Our medieval counterparts would have understood the value of artistic practices to our spiritual lives, and some Christian traditions have continued to embrace the role of the arts in their churches. But many of us in churches that were birthed during the Reformation find ourselves in traditions that value logic and reason and thought rather than creativity and mysticism.

It's time to reclaim our creative heritage, and Lent is a perfect time to infuse our days with creativity.You might try a different artistic practice each week or you might choose one and focus on that discipline throughout the season. For those of you who claim not to be creative, I'd encourage you to think back to your childhood. What types of creative work did you do before you became convinced that you had no talent and therefore should give up your pastimes?

Here are some ideas:

--Write a poem about God. But before you start, fill in the following blank 25 times without thinking about it: God is like _______________________.

--Go to the store and buy 3 bouquets of flowers. Rearrange them into two bouquets and put them where you'll see them and be reminded of God's flowering love for you.

--Buy a big box of crayons (or paints or pastels or any medium that makes you excited). Create a picture that addresses your spiritual life.

--Collect all your magazines and create a collage that depicts your hopes and dreams for the future.

--Learn to bake bread. Bread is an amazingly forgiving food, and will endure countless experiments. You'll enjoy the kneading process. But if you just have no time, here's a recipe for No Knead Bread that showed up in the New York Times. It got lots of good reviews, but I haven't tried it.

--Go to a bead show or shop and buy some beads. String them together to make a rosary. Use your rosary to keep track of your prayers. For those of you who don't come out of a tradition that prays this way, go here for some ideas of prayers one might use with a rosary.

--Many churches will begin working on special music for Easter--join them.

--Plant a garden or an herb box or a huge bowl of flowers. You might feel more rooted as you get your hands in the dirt.

--Write your Spiritual Artist timeline. You can do this in your journal, on the computer, or on scraps of paper that you'll shred so that no one can see them. Break your life into 5-10 year time spans and write about what was going on in your life during those years, both as a creative person and as a spiritual pilgrim. Look for the places where your paths twine together.

--Write a chancel drama. Or some other kind of drama.

--See what happens to your prayer life if you adopt movements as you pray. Doug Pagitt wrote about some possibilities in his 2005 book BodyPrayer: The Posture of Intimacy with God .

--Explore liturgical dance.

--The image of God as a potter recurs in the Bible. Buy some clay and play with it. Think about a potter and the clay as an image.

--You might also try inviting your friends over for a Creativity Day/Afternoon/Morning/Week-end. You might decide to all work on a similar project, maybe on the same project, or maybe you just want to work on your own projects, alone but together. If most of your friends are non-believers, invite them anyway. You can tone down the spiritual nature of your creative endeavors, if it makes others uncomfortable. Or maybe your project would be an entry point for you all to talk about your spiritual journeys. If you enjoy it, try making it a standing date that you do on a regular basis. Some of you might decide to go on retreat together.


There are more resources for more various art forms than I can possibly begin to list. Go to your public library and check out some books, if that's the kind of research you do. Google the type of art form you want to try. If you're the type who wants or needs a class, many community colleges and universities offer continuing ed classes at very reasonable prices, and many community centers also offer classes.

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