The (Almost) Spiritual Discipline of Sketching

Earlier this week I met a new friend from church at a coffee shop to pick his brain on career ideas (he has background in English and theology as I do). We didn't talk that much about career because we keep finding things we have in common. We both like to bicycle, do photography, dabble at the guitar, paint, and draw. 

I recently received a book on sketching to review and have enjoyed looking at it. I tend to sketch a bit--especially Sundays at church in the margins of my sermon notes--and the book has been encouraging to do it frequently. In the past I would draw a lot of nature scenes or other landscapes that I could just imagine and make up--I paint that way too. But the book encourages looking at what's around you and drawing that. 

My friend has been doing it daily--he plans on keeping that up through this new year. He post them on his blog: Dumb Sketch Daily (https://dumbsketchdecember.wordpress.com). He, too, is focusing on the things he sees. 

We had a good discussion about drawing. I decided it's almost a spiritual discipline. For tthe sake of not being branded a heretic again (I'm not sure when I was last, but I'm sure I have been), I won't directly call it a spiritual discipline. But almost a spiritual discipline--especially when drawing what is observed around you.

It makes you slow down and be present. That in itself is a spiritual discipline. But there is something added when using your eyes and moving your hand to create. I remember someone saying once that to be created in the image of God is to be given the ability and even need to create. We are not fully human if we don't create (whether it be art, clothing, woodworking, or a meal). 

The motion of drawing is almost prayer like in a way. As is the being present and noticing the details. Sometimes part of my problem is being in my head too much. Sketching gets me into reality. 

Below are three sketches from today. The first was the purse of the woman sitting ahead of me in church. It was under her chair. I  didn't get it all done--and there were parts the seat was obscuring, but I consider it a success because I typically would not draw something like that. Too many folds and creases and such. So just attempting it was a big step for me.

The second and third sketches were done at a concert at the conservatory at the Como Park Zoo tonight. The boot was on a woman standing near me (I was sitting). She and her friend noticed I was drawing it...that was a little awkward. But she didn't mind. She asked to see it later. I assured her that I didn't have a foot fetish or anything, but was just praticing sketching. The lasst one was of an older woman on the other side of the room from me. I didn't get much done before she took off her coat and then moved out of my line of sight, so there isn't much detail in her face yet. They're all incomplete, unfinished works. That would bother me at times. But I don't mind right now. It's a process. Progress, not perfection, as the old adage says. 

Which is also something I'm working on with my spiritual life. I grew up feeling I had to be perfect for God. Otherwise he might go Old Testament on my butt (even though I know He's not really a vengeful, wrathful God). And that need for spiritual perfectionism paralyzed me in some ways. But the spiritual life is a journey, not a final exam. Again, progress, not perfection. 

So to end in gratitude (which is always a good way to end anything): I'm thankful for creativity, for a sketchbook and pencils, for the ability to use my senses to take in the world around me, and for God's patient love and mercy. I'm thankful for lessons learned over a cup of tea and over graphite on paper. There is much to learn and see when I just take the time to sit and be present. 


Of Exercise and Self Care

After high school where we had gym pretty much every day and I did basketball and a year of cross country, regular exercise wasn't a part of my life. That's not to say that I didn't do anything. I did a few intramural sports in college, an ultimate frisbee group in seminary, and plenty of big games while working at camp. But regular exercise was not a part of my life. 

But a few years ago I started realizing I needed to do something more. It was hard to fit something regular in as a poor stay-at-home dad. I woould get in a bike ride when I could, but they were often with the kids which didn't amount to much real exercise. 

I also noticed I was getting more depressed during the dark winter months north of the 45th parallel here. So about three years ago we decided to get a YMCA membership for the winter months. I took the boys after school a few times a week for swimming after school. When they were in swim lessons or on the occasional time I'd get to go by myself on a weekend, I'd do some time on the stationary bikes or an eliptical. Andd in the summer months I'd try to swim and bike as much as possible. 

I still try and bike as much as possible, though that hasn't happened since early November I think. But my apartment building has a clubhouse with an indoor pool and a small exercise room. When the boys are with me, we try and go over to swim every other day. When they're not with me I try and go over to the exercise room as often as I can. Along with some weights, there's a treadmill and an elliptical.

I learned in high school that running and I do not get along well. And I'm fine with that. Running is not the only form of exercise despite how prevalent it seems to be. Anyway, I use the elliptical. It fools me into "running" enough that I don't mind it. I've been doing between 4-5 miles in the half hour I usually do. 

I think the electronics help. I can challenge myself: going further, maintaining a certain speed, getting my heartrate into key zones, etc. It's probably a guy thing, but that helps me I think.

I'm reminded that Paul tells us in the Bible that our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. In his time there was debate over whether or not the physical mattered for the spiritual realm. Paul insisted that you can't separate the physical from the spiritual. God created it all. Andd since the Holy Spirit lives in us, we need to take care of ourselves. 

I still don't do the best. I know my eating habits--especially when I'm alone--need work. But I'm proud that I'm keeping it up and of my distance and rates I've been doing. It's not much to speak of, but it's still something to me.