Take Time to Receive

Written by Allie Sampson
Photography by Gabriel Ramirez and Chris Miller

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So much of the 18 Inch Journey is about learning how to truly see and hear.  We talk a lot about shedding “filters”, inviting the Holy Spirit to help us see ourselves the way He does and learning to hear His voice in every part of life. With these values in mind, we intentionally carved out a day dedicated to sight and sound. Thursday morning’s Art Class concluded with a surprise for the whole school.  Each student received an envelope, and all at once they opened it to find an invitation to a day of Sight and Sound: a trip to the North Carolina Museum of Art, followed by an evening at the symphony.  

On Friday, we loaded up our entire school into four big white vans and took them to Raleigh for an extravagant day of meditating on beauty.  We gave them time to enjoy the gallery and slowly work their way through exhibit after exhibit of masterpieces.  Our art teachers instructed our students to give their first hour of museum time just to enjoying the work, and to take notice of pieces that moved them in some way.  After the hour, they then revisited three different works that intrigued them and took time to sketch them and write a response.  At the end of the afternoon, we gathered together to share how we’d been effected by the work of those who have committed their life to art and beauty.

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The evening ended at the North Carolina Symphony where our students were asked to lay their judgments aside, and get caught up in the beauty of classical music.  They were invited to practice the art of listening and to approach the music, not as something to be understood, but something to be delighted in.  As they practiced this new approach, many of our students found themselves enjoying something they never thought they could.  This is the gift of opening our hearts and inviting the Holy Spirit to give us ears to hear: we become delighted right in the place  where we thought we were disqualified.

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Giving in to seeing and hearing with the Holy Spirit is very simple.  It only requires willing eyes, ears and hearts.  This week we want to encourage you to intentionally practice one of these things with the Holy Spirit.  Seek out an instrumental piece of music or a work of art, and invite the Holy Spirit to help you truly see or hear.  Take time to receive it, without judging it or trying to come to some sort of conclusion.  Let it affect you.  From this place, write a response to what you just experienced.  It could be a poem, a story, a journal entry or an imaginary conversation with the work.  Remember, there are no wrong answers here.  The point of this exercise is simply to give your heart space to linger in beauty.  Enjoy!

Here is an example, written by Cageless Birds staff, Allie Sampson, along with a photo of the work she observed at the North Carolina Museum of Art.  As you read it, may you feel how she was affected, and may you be inspired to open up your heart and let art move you. 

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You sit in silent strength, taller than my comprehension.  Your arms, strong and solid, covered in words of love.  Archaic intimacy.  Ancient affection.  Your eyes and mouth—gates swinging wide, open and shut—ready to both welcome and ward off.  Speak to me, Jerusalem.  Teach me what you know. 

“You must look higher than yourself to know love like this.  I am a content guardian.  Contemplative and peaceful.  There is no anxiety in my pondering.  No fear in my protection.  I am both solid and luminescent.  My sight and speech are always protective, never defensive.  My arms are ancient love.  My gaze, my voice, my holding…they are all for you.” 

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