Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Shell Seeking

Lately, I’ve been enjoying an online community of believers over at The High Calling.   I’ve “met” a number of interesting people; brothers and sisters in Christ who are wonderful writers and poets of all kinds, teachers and kindred spirits.  I have been inspired, challenged and encouraged there.  It has felt like home since I first visited.  A bit like finding a church that you know is a good fit… and doesn’t make you  squirm (for the wrong reasons) … a good place to grow and breathe.
I joined a book club there, hosted by a darling woman named Laura J. Burgess.  (She blogs at The Wellspring… a wonderful place where she shares her loving, honest, insightful, cute and adorable self =) 
We are reading a book by Luci Shaw entitled Breath for the Bones (the title grabbed my attention right away… since my bones have needed a breath of fresh air for some time now.)  Shaw’s book is a reflection on artistry and creativity from a deeply faith-filled, God follower’s perspective.  This week we read Chapters seven and eight.

Chapter 7 is a good overview of the importance of journaling.  In that chapter, Shaw shares one of her own journaling entries about walking the beach of Sanibel Island and collecting seashells.
As I bend and lift each one and love it with my touch and glance, I wonder if this was how God bent and lifted me, how he chose me and treasures me, how he wants me with him. I must seem singular and precious to him if he came so far to find me.  Shaw, Luci (2009-09-01). Breath for the Bones (Kindle Locations 1484-1486). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
      As an avid shell seeker, I was drawn in by this story and thought to myself how Luci’s story here allows me a walk on the beach, through her book, so to speak… albeit not as lovely as Sanibel Island.  But as I walk through her book, I keep finding nuggets of truth that are special to me.   ‘As I bend and lift each one and love it with my touch and glance,’ I am changed by moments of reflection, awe, encouragement, and permission.  These are “Aha” affirming moments of the creative, God-given gifts in my life.

So below are just some of my favorite “shells” taken from Luci’s beach of chapters seven and eight.  I collected quite a few, but for lack of time… and fear of reposting most of her book, I will share just a few.  They have meaning and significance to me.  I do not need to expound on them.  Their beauty speaks for themselves.  As Shaw writes of her shelling experience,
In the aftermath of the storm comes its harvest. The waves and their deep turbulence have knocked loose and laid at my feet shells not seen in the earlier, calmer days of this week.
Shaw, Luci (2009-09-01). Breath for the Bones (Kindle Locations 1500-1501). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

From chapter 7 on Journaling …

҉    You may have an idea, but it may need to hibernate for years before it’s ready to have a life of its own. I tell writers to catch and record these seminal ideas, these seeds, the minute they arrive, or they will be blown away in the wind of active living.  Shaw, Luci (2009-09-01). Breath for the Bones (Kindle Locations 1454-1456). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

From Chapter 8 on Learning to Risk with our creativity, here are some real beauties.  These resonated deeply within me as I am very aware of being stuck in the transformational learning process of trusting vs. not trusting God, and the tides in my life that seem to move me closer, then farther away from God.
Ԅ   I can remember the actual moment. I was looking up at the small rectangular port, its glass faintly lit, and knew in my heart that though we needed to be alert and prudent, we didn’t have to be in total control, that we could trust the Father to care for us and blaze a track against the wind, across those monster waves, all the way back to safe harbor at the end of the week. It was a moment of choice, and of growth because of choice. Shaw, Luci (2009-09-01). Breath for the Bones (Kindle Locations 1587-1590). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

   But it is in both the acceptance and use of the gift, and the giving it back that we find the rounding out of the process, the completion, the deepest fulfillment. We must give of ourselves to art, but we must accept that what we have to give is never enough, that for eternal significance any art, literature, music, drama must be Spirit-driven, Spirit-imprinted.  Shaw, Luci (2009-09-01). Breath for the Bones (Kindle Locations 1605-1608). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Shaw writes of her desire to continually grow and change, and the risk it inherently brings and how others may judge or react to that change.  How even the church, in placing control and restrictions upon the artist’s expressions, inhibits and misrepresents our very creative God, the very God who created art in all of its forms. Shaw writes.
    I don’t ever want to stop growing, being creative. Even death, inevitable as it is, will be just one more creative spurt into the future, one more growing edge, one more leap into the light. Remember, we don’t die into death. We die into life!  Floyd Lotito said, “Death is not extinguishing the light; it is putting out the lamp, because the dawn has come.”  Shaw, Luci (2009-09-01). Breath for the Bones (Kindle Locations 1633-1634). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
҉   “Coloring within the lines” requires a black-and-white system of belief and behavior, but I believe that when we control and hedge in certain parts of human experience, we end up being less than truly human. And truly human is the way God created us to be.  Shaw, Luci (2009-09-01). Breath for the Bones (Kindle Locations 1664-1665). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

So, Luci mentions that she doesn’t necessarily want to keep the shells that other people choose for her.  She wants to be faithful and disciplined within herself to listen to, watch for, trust and obey all that God would inspire her to create and be.  I appreciate those sentiments, but also want to gently remind myself that sometimes God can and does use others to point something out to me that I might otherwise miss.  Much like me choosing some of her priceless “shells” from this book that are hers but I choose to keep for myself.  Much like being within this ‘church’ of The High Calling community and being fed by thoughts, ideas, teachings, and challenges and still having my artistic expressions affirmed… sharing our shells together… and loving God for providing them for us to share in community.
Luci’s last comment in chapter 8 states,
   Perhaps the role of those involved in the arts, then, is to awaken ourselves and others to beauty—in all its risk and in all its richness.  Shaw, Luci (2009-09-01). Breath for the Bones (Kindle Locations 1669-1670). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition. 
Thank you to Luci Shaw for playing her role in God’s creative Kingdom so well.  She is being used by God to awaken me to the beauty of the art within me… with all its risk and richness.  I’m a singer by the world’s musical standards.  But within my personal, mid-life awakening of sorts, I am allowing myself to embrace and trust the Spirit who is moving me toward his artistry within me through writing, poetry, and photography.   Without the worry of meeting the world’s standards of artistry through training, education, fame, etc., it is freeing to fall into trusting him.  I am an artist by God’s approval, not mans.  He gives me thoughts, words and images and I am moved deeply by his Spirit, and will be faithful to record them however I can. 
Patricia Spreng
*my mom and I have collected shells for years... these are my photographs of some of her priceless finds.


  1. What an exquisite collection of shells.

  2. Patricia! Your shells are so so lovely! And the way you have photographed them is gorgeous. Luci's words about the shells really touched me too. We are seaside right now and on my morning prayer walks I marvel at the beauty of the shells that the ocean leaves behind. I am envious of you--so close to such beauty in your every day!

    I am so glad you are enjoying our fellowship at the High Calling. These folks have come to be very special to me also. What's more, I feel I have grown in so many ways by rubbing shoulders with them.

    I am wondering about your linkup...maybe if you try copying the url without the http://? I would like everyone to visit and read these lovely words and see your beautiful pictures. Let me know if you still have troubles. I have limited internet access but am trying to check in regularly.


  3. Thank you Laura! I'll try again =)

  4. Patricia,

    I'm sorry for my lateness in getting over to meet you properly after you stopped last week! Been traveling for business and just getting settled back in at home. I appreciate your comments.

    Love these images and your response to the chapters this week. I really was taken by her thoughts on the shells. You've brought them to life here.

  5. This post really spoke to me. I feel like I'm in a similar place; trying to learn to trust. Thank you for sharing this.

  6. Dear Pat,
    I see and hear God through all your words and visuals (visions?). You keep growing girl! Love you!

  7. Pat, your last paragraph is such a beautiful reflection of your heart for God, of His beauty, His fingerprint inspiring the beauty in you, finding expression in ways that bless and inspire others. Bravo! May God continue to work deeply in your heart touching the hearts and lives of so many more than you will ever know this side of Heaven.


A penny for your thoughts ...