Soul Care

BreatheThe recent Breathe Conference in Switzerland was all about soul care… in its many forms – worship, good teaching, rest, counseling, massage, medical attention, rest, tasty meals with lively conversation, chocolate, recreation, beautiful views, leisurely walks and vigorous hikes, rest, more chocolate, saunas, and my personal favorite, art making. Many of the guests found their way to the basement art room to take advantage of the extensive art supplies plus a wide variety of activities available as creative ways of processing their lives lived in globally challenging places.

Nearly everyone began with an activity I call Breathe created with oil pastels, masking tape and baby oil. It is a sensually satisfying art form. Its relaxing, easy to accomplish satisfying colorful results, feels good AND smells good. What’s not to like? Several of the guests chose to create images that represented some of the stressors they face working cross-culturally, but not necessarily the stressors I would have expected.

One guest teaching at a Middle-Eastern university found her most significant stressor, not between international cultures, but between academia and Christianity. These two realms, of paramount importance to her, often have no respect for one another. Her art work clearly depicts the tension between these two worlds. For another guest working among the desert-dwelling Bedouins in Jordan, hers was an image of the place where she lives and works, a place in reality which has no beautiful blue river meandering through it – other than the “living water” she brings to them through her life, work, and loving care. Yet another guest working in Central Asia drew the thorny thicket she’s been caught in for the last four years because of a severe health crisis that has impacted her ministry as well as her preferred way of being with God – physically active out in nature. Powerful images. Art making as soul care. 

Several of the guests were encouraged by their member care counselors to visit the art room as a creative way to process their fatigue and potential burnout as they worked in globally challenging parts of the world. As well as to revitalize their call. Two of them created mandorlas, the Italian word for almond which is created by two over lapping circles. Designed to visually expresss Frederick Buechner’s wonderful quote  “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet,” both women beautifully interpreted where their deep gladness interfaced with a unique  hunger in the world. One guest who works with Wycliffe entitled the three segments of her mandorla “Seeking Comfort, Finding Comfort, Giving Comfort.” The other woman who works with the deaf in Mexico created more a visual story of her life, interests, and gifts that draw her to work with the impoverished. Reaffirming call through art making. Serious soul care. 

As the week progressed those that returned to the art room day after day began to create more and more images of renewal and hope. One young woman working in a barren environment began to sense to the possibility in her oil pastel of a seed sprouting and growing through the cracked, parched earth. The woman struggling in the “dark brambles” of a long illness envisioned herself at the top of a waterfall in a forest created with Elmer’s glue, table salt and watercolors on black cover stock. Then later in the week her art work shifted to a heart-filled pastel image of a rooted and branching tree created with colored pencils, oil pastels, and acrylic paints. Quite a different image. Soul care doing its deep work.

If you were to create an image of the fatigue and potential burnout you experience, what would it look like? If you were to create a mandorla of that place where your “deep gladness meets the world’s deep hunger, what would it look like. How might your images shift after a prolonged time of soul care and rest? If you need to schedule some time to “breathe,” when will you do it?

Looking forward to what you have to share!

1 comment to Soul Care

  • Susan McCamey

    Hi Lynne,

    I’m enjoying receiving and following your wonderful posts. I remember the fun my daughter Lisa, and I, had meeting you and participating in the May ARW workshop at Montreat.

    Peace and blessings,
    Susan McCamey

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