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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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April 13, 2010

Busy hands and a prayerful mind


©istockphoto.com/nodmitryDuring my sabbatical last year, I realized that I needed to do more to nurture my creativity.

I'm lucky to have a creative job. Many of my daily tasks involve visual thinking. Because most of my creative work happens on a computer screen, I decided to take a course in three-dimensional art.

I found a lost-wax casting class at Lillstreet Art Center in Chicago. I'd always been interested in lost-wax casting, the process of carving or molding a sculpture or piece of jewelry in wax, making a plaster mold of the object, then using a centrifuge to fill the mold with molten silver or bronze.

Some waxes are soft enough to mold with your fingers. Others are hardened with plastic so they must be shaped with a knife, dental tool or file.

After taking classes for four months, I've discovered I really enjoy working with hard wax, the kind that needs to be filed. There's something very meditative about filing. Without even realizing it, I filed my first piece of wax down to nothing.

Something about the repetitive movement of the hands that makes the mind still. Even though I've never done woodworking or knitting, I suspect those pursuits have a similar effect.

Making time for my mind to be quiet is something I don't do well. When I was younger I'd sit in quiet prayer for long periods at a time, but as my mind has become more and more cluttered, I've lost my discipline for just sitting and listening for God. It's something I've rediscovered through my class.

As I file, my hands are busy and my mind becomes more detached and open to the Spirit's counsel. This is not what I expected from my class, but it is a welcome benefit.

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