Dots ~ Lots of Dots

As a kid I loved dot-to-dot workbooks. Pencil in hand, I would connect the dots in the correct numbered sequence and magically an image would emerge. The invisible would become visible. How cool was that!

But sometimes dots in life can seem more than a little random and it’s hard to connect them in some kind of meaningful way. Or, which is more likely, I become solely focused on my dots and loose sight of the big picture made from a lot of other dots.

This last week I’ve been reminded of the power of connecting the dots. For the last nine years I’ve worked with BuildaBridge, a non-profit organization that believes in “engaging the transformative power of the arts to bring hope and healing to children, families, and communities in the tough places of the world.” In early June each year we gather in Philadelphia for BuildaBridge’s Institute, a week-long training and applied research academy focused on the arts where I’ve had the great privilege of teaching and working with many wonderful art practitioners from all over the world.

We spend the week together learning from each other and then scatter to the four corners of the earth. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, cell phones, Facebook, and email, I still keep in contact with many former participants, graduate students, and faculty members. A number of them contacted me this week just when I needed to be reminded about how our dots are connected.

Amy, doing an internship in Cincinnati as an arts practitioner, wrote to wonder if it was possible to be a “guest learner” at the Lighthouse after reading a recent blog. We both laughed at the prospect of the long dot-to-dot commute between Ohio and Southern California, but relish the idea of continuing to learn together.

My esteemed art practitioner/faculty buddy from Arkansas, Barbara Price Davis, called several times to share her excitement about a recent art project mounted with both her boys at Youth Bridge, a substance abuse recovery program, and the chronically mentally ill adults from Mental Health Services. She adapted a group poetry copy change activity that I had introduced at the last Institute and was thrilled with the creative depth of the finished poems. What she considered to be one of the most successful art activities ever accomplished by her folks was something I pulled out of my “bag of tricks” when another faculty member missed a scheduled workshop because of a family emergency and I had volunteered to step in. Sometimes we underestimate the power of the dots. Until more dots are added. And they are reconnected with delight and gratitude. These dots are especially dear because I regularly appreciate and routinely adapt the great “dot” ideas Barbara uses in her art workshops.

A day before Barbara’s call I received an email from Kengsen Chong, an artist and pastor I had meet in Kuala Lumpur when I was on an international teaching assignment for Buildabridge in Malaysia. He attended an Institute the following year where he experienced the broken pot art activity which was very meaningful for him. He wrote to tell me that he had recently used the activity during a creativity workshop for youth and students from all over Southeast Asia and the Pacific held in Hong Kong. He explained that one of the participants, a conference facilitator / theologian, shared how he was traumatized by the sounds of  the breaking pots “because it reminded him of the time when he witnessed militants shoot his father dead when he was only four years old.” Kengsen described how the man finally decided to break his pot saying that it reminded him of the importance of the Church’s role in helping him and his community recover from the tragedy.  

In rebuilding his broken pot, the theologian “included every broken bit and piece into his recreation to show that every part has to be addressed. He then connected the precarious parts with a thread which was sort of hinged to one jagged edge to express the connectedness and interdependence of being human.”

How wonderful to realize that creative “dots” of healing and transformation, introduced thousands of miles away, can be become new dots of healing and transformation for others who might create more dots in their communities inviting transformation and hope. 

I am deeply grateful for these artist colleagues who have connected the dots for me so that I can see again the bigger picture of healing and transformation we are engaged in through the arts. We’re making dots, lots of dots. And they, and we, are interdependently connected.

What’s the dot you’re focused on right now? What dots do you need to connect, or reconnect, to see a bigger picture? Who have been the dot makers in your life? If you were to connect the dots, what is the invisible image that would become visible? How is that related to your destiny?

I’m wondering what “dot-to-dot” stories you’ll share.




10 comments to Dots ~ Lots of Dots

  • So glad the ‘dots’ spoke to you too!

  • cynthia hashbarger

    Lynn.. THis is lots of fun and lots of memories.. and have you tried the dippity dot frozen yogurt down on main street.. with dots? Are you still working on the Reckoning program in Amsterdam?? HAppy day Cynthia H.

  • Broken pots. That dot began when Lynne first told me about this exercise when she was helping out in a youth ministry I was leading. I had my first hand experience breaking a pot when I used it years later in a sermon illustration. I smashed a huge clay pot (the size that holds trees) during a sermon on the breaking of the walls of Jerusalem by the Babylonians.

    As I smashed the pot, something inside of me broke. I didn’t know it at the time but that afternoon, I was reduced to sitting on my bed in the fetal position not wanting to get up and feeling overwhelmed. I called Lynne to ask what was happening and she explained that sometimes the breaking of pots brings up things that are breaking in our own lives.

    I thought it was just a sermon illustration, but God had more in store than just a little drama to wake people up on Sunday mornings.

    I spent that night thinking about the broken peaces on the inside of my life. After a long session with Lynne on the phone and then a sit down with her later that week, God began to bring healing and hope. Simply identifying the broken pieces started the process of healing.

    I know tell that story to other pastors. They often identify with some of the pieces or name their own. The dots just continue to connect.

    Thanks Lynne, for starting the image that continues to develop as the dots continue to connect. In some way, I feel connected to each of the stories that you shared and that is a good feeling.


  • sharron

    I do love being one of the dots in Lynne’s Life Picture.

  • Lee Hodges

    So do I Sharron. I feel a painting coming on…

  • Barbara

    A DOT PAINTING! ON a broken POT! I’m off to create…….

  • Norrene

    I love being one of your dots!

  • Kim Fiano


  • Deanna J Bowling

    My nickname is brat. I was nicknamed brat by a friend of mine when I was about 37/38 years old. I was recently talking to a friend, and asking the question, “where do all of these brats come from – I don’t purposely go looking for them”. My friend suggested that I instead look at myself and what it is about me that attracts other brats to me.

    In connecting (your dots), if you are having trouble seeing a pattern to the dots, include yourself in your dots – it may help you tremendously in seeing the whole picture.

  • Betty Fitz-Patrick

    It appears to me, Lynne, you have created a dot-to-dot life of heart shaped dots – I wonder how far it reachs…

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