glen workshop

How Will You Invest in Your Self This Year?

How Will You Invest in Your Self This Year?

Why do we feel guilty spending money to further our creative careers?

Why does it feel indulgent to make investments that nurture and awaken our weary souls?

Spending money on workshops, retreats and resources can be a big pill to swallow but let me assure you, it is not money spent, it is money invested. The investment often has returns you simply cannot predict.



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Will You Dance with Me in Santa Fe?

Will You Dance with Me in Santa Fe?

Today is my last day at the office. I have resigned to pursue an artist’s life for the next year. That’s all the courage I can muster so far. A year. All the commitment I can make. But it’s a start and it’s enough. I would not have made this move without the Glen Workshop. The people I met there in the desert have changed my life in the best of ways.


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Twerking on God's Great Dancefloor: The Glen Day Seven

This final day of the Glen Workshop, there are so many things I could say. I could document my early morning walk. My rising with the sun to traverse the Atilayah trail, distracted by beauty at every step. My sad realization of workshop time winding away. The beautiful songs our groups wrote and performed. The parting words of wisdom from Over the Rhine

I could recall that final trip to Santa Fe. The run to the souvenir shop. The installation art at Site Santa Fe. The feeling of youthful pride, being denied a beer when I forget my ID. Just-barely-making-it-back after missing the day's last bus.

I could reflect on Richard Rohr's final words, or the impartation of blessing during the anointing service. How each artist pulls meaning from the oil and the hands and the cross. How I wait my turn and watch Barry Moser in my periphery, knowing from his own story how he values this ritual.

I could gush at Over The Rhine's intimate parting performance or brag up my front row seats. I could sit in those final moonlit moments on the walking path back to my room, knowing that I could never say to these new friends all I want to say. Wondering if and when I may see them again.  

I don't want to spend this final Glen Workshop post on any of those happenings. I want to shine a light on the experience that outshines them all. The Saturday night dance party sits atop the rubble of my memory, more than a week later.

To tell you what it is like to dance with middle-aged artists–moving to music I don't let my kids hear–is not nearly enough. I took no pictures. So, I will leave the task to that most expansive of forms. I will end this series with a poem.

Wrestling With my Body

Top 40 guilty pleasures 
are the soundrack of this final 

Stars pale 
against mirrorball refractions
upon the heads of holy poets
limb-loose and chainless

We are all learning
there is nothing but the dance

First the toe tap dip
into deep then dive
Wet and salted
We are
fish in the school of joy
Bodies flopping thirsty
scales opalescent in moonlight

One song fades 
to prayers
for another
that comes
like a torrent of grace
Boom, boom, bop, boom

We sing past lyrics
Past pasts and futures
Here and now
to the beat of

When poets chant pop
is there a room on earth smiling with more teeth?

I don't have 99 problems
I don't rob banks
I don't like big butts
and God knows
I am no wrecking ball
but there are truths beyond these lies

At these wild edges
I wrestle with my body and
the sight of
my sanctified sister
twerking on God's great dancefloor

Oh! Witness
what we make sacred by our love!

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The Crash: The Glen Day Six

You can only drink from a fire hose for so long before you start to drown.

It is Friday and I wake up tired, hoarse and homesick.

Until this morning I have felt invincible. I have strode victorious through each full day and each late night. I've known, somewhere in the sane recesses of my mind, that I would have to pay one day. I think that day might be today.

I sleep in. I dawdle late to breakfast. I race past the omelette station line towards the faster yogurt and granola. 

Today I am missing my wife. I am missing my kids. I am reminded of them everywhere. How they would love to see the koi pond. How they would like to meet these new friends.

But right now they are home and I am here. And my time is rapidly dwindling.

Our morning songwriting session is full of beautiful songs and insightful critique from Linford and Karin of Over the Rhine. In a standout moment – the type of moment that gives you chills for it's singular specialness – Jack Korbel sings us a song accapella. He breaks our hearts. Linford moves to the piano and asks Jack to sing it again while he plays some of the most mournful chords I've ever heard. Our hearts melt.

The song is about a mother leaving her husband and kids for a time. The husband puts on a brave face for his kids, but the low grey sky reveals the true condition of his aching heart.

My heart is aching, too.

Lunch comes and goes. I fall asleep and miss the afternoon session.

My weary body wins. I crash.

In the evening I finally catch a Santa Fe sunset. It is so magical that I miss the beginning of our worship time with Richard Rohr. This painted sky is a reminder, while I am here, to enjoy the gifts I cannot get at home. These people. These sunsets. I stay outside on the patio making repeated attempts to capture the magnificence of this sky. I fail.

I go to bed early tonight. At least early for The Glen Workshop.

I have just one more day here, and I want to live it well.

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The More We Get Together: The Glen Day Five

I spend my fifth day at the Glen Workshop in Santa Fe deep in relationship with fellow travelers. It is our day off. It is a day for fun, relaxation, and relationships. It is a day for margharitas.

Relationships and Work

Before I can head into town, I need to meet up with my songwriting group and hash out some lyrics. I need to write a new song with this assigned group, and we need to sing it on Saturday. In just two days. I've had bad experiences with 'group creativity' before. It's often led to a 'lowest common denominator' art by committee. Collective art can try so hard to respect the ideas and contributions of every member that it winds up a pale ghost of everyone's gifts.

By some miracle, we succeed. I have some thoughts as to why.

At our first meeting, we sit with a question. Why have we been brought together? What special benefit can we gain from this mash-up of four creative minds? What do we each bring to the table?

Some themes emerge. We are all good with wit, so we will write a song that has some comedy to it. I'm good with writing hooks and setting a groove. I can organize well. China knows music theory. She's scary-good at it hearing something and knowing all the directions that something can and cannot take. She has perfect pitch. Mark is hilarious, and good with words and rhyme. Claire doesn't play an instrument, but writes well, especially when it comes to narrative. She is also good and bringing disparate streams together. She will manage the story arc of our song.

Claire shares an idea for a poem that brings together the experience of a bar with the experience of a church. We decide to make our song about this fusion of two conflicting experiences. Our character is looking for salvation to slide across the counter of a western bar. This is his altar. He confesses to the bartender, while the old piano clanks out sing-along secular hymns. There is grace. There is bread and wine. There are stained windows. There is the radiant light of neon. There is leaning and kneeling.

By the end of the week we get a song we're all pretty darned proud of. I can still sing it.

"Pour me one more round of sweet salvation"

Next come the margharitas.

Relationships and Play

I leave the group to meet Edward next to the koi pond. We head down the road, towards the city of Santa Fe. We start down Canyon Road, a mile long street lined with over 100 art galleries. The work is vast as an ocean and strong as a fire hose. I can only drink so much. We meet Ed Larson at his folk-art base camp. The studio has no doors. Nothing is protected. Nothing is defended. Ed Larson's creativity is generous and contagious.

Outside, rough-hewn figures inch towards the parking lot. A giant fish hangs from the entry. Dozens, if not hundreds, of paintings in every shape, size and colour draw us into the space. This little gallery is a piece of installation art itself. It is like stepping inside the manic mind of the artist. There is an undeniable sense of play. Of fun. Ed Larson is inside, and we chat. In his sweet southern accent, he agrees to sell me a small painting for $40 when I return. But, he says, if I really need it I can just take it. He's heading out for lunch. He won't notice if it's gone when he gets back, he practically winks.

On his way out he opens up the chest compartment of a Billy the Kid carving. There is a tiny painting of Picasso inside. 'Every artist has a little Picasso inside' says Ed.

Play. Generosity. Unquenched creativity. Edward and I leave inspired.

I want to be on Canyon Road with Edward more than anyone else. Edward who has taught me how to see art. I want to view this vast collection with Edward's eyes. He turns out to be a good guide. He makes good choices. We see great art. We have fun.

We meet up with fellow-Canadian, Kim, and Elena. We wind our way through downtown, to the Railyard, towards Site Santa Fe. We never make it there. We get caught in the rain.

We duck into a bed and bath store where the owner shares her ideas of what a sexy man should smell like. We don't agree. I'm not at all sure why she tells us this, but it's a joyful bit of serendipity brought on by bad weather.

Finally, we make it to Maria's, the margharita-mecca of Santa Fe. They serve over 160 different varieties, not that any of us can tell the difference. One tastes like chocolate. One is blue. Beyond these clear signals, we are the lost tourists of Margharitaville.

The drinks are delicious, if a little strong. We aren't sure whether to blame Maria or the high altitude for this. Santa Fe is 7000 feet up, after all. The food is delicious, if indecipherable beneath a blanket of melted cheese.

We get a ride home with China and Claire and Kristin, full of good food and laughter.

Sometime on the way back I realize this is why I am here. To relax. To enjoy. To make friends. To bless and be blessed. To play. This are gifts I never knew to ask for.

But there is one more feast.

Relationships and Beauty

We make our way to the Thomas Parker Society, a not-so-secret, non-exclusive gathering cloaked in secrecy and exclusivity. Edward mistakenly calls this the Thomas Crowne Society. This annual, unofficial Glen Workshop event brings a couple dozen people together to read to one another. We share wine, and home brewed beer from Todd. The evening is all banquet and gift, and well worth sitting on the few free inches of kitchen linoleum.

This is the kind of night where you laugh one moment and cry the next, moved in every direction by the sheer power of language and fresh friendship.

For my part, I read selections from Skymall, the in-flight catalogue of junk you never knew you wanted. I get the laughs I hope for.

Even this late night gathering isn't enough for those hungry for connection, so we end the day where we began – down at the koi pond.

Now it is dark and quiet. We start our own Thomas Parker Jr. gathering. Those who didn't get a chance to read have their chance now. We all listen. We are all listened to.

In this listening, the light of Christ refracts through relationship. This listening – this hearing and being heard – is the work, the play and the beauty of relationship.

I am quite certain that these beautiful, broken relationships pave our confused and crowded road towards the Kingdom.

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Scaffolding: The Glen Day Three

This morning, Tuesday, begins with a second Over The Rhine session. First, we share what we caught in our butterfly nets. Words from Richard Rohr. A fluttering moth that could not fly. Captured conversations. Landscapes. I am learning, again, to see. To notice. Later tonight I will wander the campus, struck by the sudden sunset. I will try and capture it's colour and tone with my camera. I will fail. I will watch the moonlight gleam from select sidewalk blocks. Some shimmer while others are dull. I will pack the image into my net. I will glance up at the bell tower, silhouetted against the filling moon. I will lap it all up. I will see.

But first, the morning and the music.

Over The Rhine kicks things off with some of their songs. Old songs. New songs. Beautiful, heart-breaking songs. Their duets pierce the thin air with crystal-clear harmony. Listening blesses. This is a great way to start the day.

Soon enough, it comes time for us students to share. Most of us have brought something, and wonder if we brought the right something. Should I present my best work? My weakest? How much feedback do I give? Where do I hold back? Critique is always a rocky pass to navigate, but the summit is so rewarding. Our instructions are minimal, but clear. We play. We pass out lyrics. The group responds while we listen. We don't defend. When comments fade, we respond.

Andrew plays a song while we read lyrics. We listen hard. We piece together story. We puzzle at parts. We ask questions. Andrew takes it in with stoic grace. Then he responds.

This is a cowboy song. A desert rambler. A cactus wind is blowing dust. We all felt this. Yet, a couple of obscure words catch our ears. We ask about them. Andrew tells us this is really a story about Greek mythology. Hercules' weariness under the weight of the world. This is interesting texture, but not of us got it from the song alone. Perhaps Hercules was just scaffolding. Perhaps, the building complete, he needs to leave the room.

I start to recognize scaffolding in my creative process.

I think back to great ideas that have spawned my creative endeavors. Ideas I treasure too tightly. Precious beginnings that start the journey and then have no home. Ideas that no longer belong in the end. I think of how difficult it can be to let them go, and how sometimes I have not let them go, and how that has made my art weaker. Some ideas are scaffolding. They help us build the real work, but no one needs to see them after that. Scaffolding is a word that rose up from somewhere at our table. It is the right word. It is a helpful word, because scaffolding is still important, even if no one sees it later. Scaffolding is for the DVD extras, but not the film. It's OK to let things go, because creation is a constant openness. Hold that paintbrush loosely, friend.

I wonder how often we don't begin a project because we are afraid it might transform on us. If we are true to the story, it may lead us where we don't want to go. We may wind up in mysterious alleyways. But this adventure is how creativity keeps us fully alive. There is something beautiful beyond our control.

In the latest Image Journal, Greg Wolfe declares, 
"One might even say that the nature of faith is to be open every moment to the new ..."

Art. Faith. Mystery.

Even our grandest ideas my be mere scaffolding. Who knows what the building will become?

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A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Glen Day One

Sunday evening, Edward Van Vliet and I are prepare to land in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The flight attendant offers us free drinks. We bask in extra inches of leg room and softer seats. We are flying first class, but not by choice. 

This day of travel has had little to do with choice. We've felt powerless, at the whims of US Airways, hanging on to hope. 

Our journey to first class was rough.

It's 3:30 AM and I am awake, thanks to my alarm or my pre-flight jitters. At 4, I'm waiting at the front door for my father in law, packed and ready. Everything is on schedule. Last year, I never made it this far. Last year they cancelled my flight with a 3 AM phone call. This year, I'm on my way.

I arrive at the airport with plenty of time. Good. I immediately spot my travel companion, Edward. Good. My "hope this fits in carry on" duffel bag does indeed fit in carry on. I save twenty five dollars. Good. Check in flawless. Security is smooth. Lines are short. Starbucks is open. All good.

We board our first US Airways flight. The flight is not full, so we can switch seats and sit together, with a whole seat to spare. Great. We buckle up and wait for takeoff. This is happening. We are off to the Glen Workshop.

We wait. We wait more.

Then comes the announcement. The first in a long line of hiccups seems harmless enough. A latch on a panel needs repair. They are going to try a solution called "Speed Tape". Fixing an airplane using any kind of tape does not instill confidence. Especially tape marketed not for its hold, but its speed. No worries, because they don't have any speed tape anyways. We wait in our confused and stuffy cabin. 

US Airways are going to see if they can borrow a part from Air Canada. I'm not sure if Air Canada doesn't have the part, or if they are like "Really, US Airways? Again? Sorry, we've got to teach you how to fish this time". There is no part. 

After an hour they tell us to deplane. We gather our things. Those who bought duty free must return it. They cancel my flight. Again.

What do we do? Where do we go now? They cannot tell us yet, because they need to see if they can fix the plane. Once they know, they will tell us whether to book new flights. Until then, while new flights may leave and our layover window shrinks, we must wait. We do wait. Without information. Without confidence. They finally confirm our fears and send us off to rebook. Square one.

Edward waits at the luggage carousel for his checked bag while I head for the check-in counter to book our new flights. The line is short, but there is just one poor person working. One person for a hundred reschedules taking 10 minutes a piece. I doubt my chances of making sign-in at the Glen Workshop this afternoon. I doubt my chances of dinner. We start fending for ourselves, rebooking on cell phones. But I don't have a cell phone. I wait. 

Rumors start to come back about the passengers waiting for bags. They still haven't got them. Team baggage is waiting, not knowing what is going on with us, team carry-on. We have cell phones and iPads but nothing to communicate. "You heard anything yet? No? Me neither." Then I overhear chatter about our cancellation being cancelled. They confirm that we are going to get back on the same plane. Thanks to speed tape or the gods or gremlins, the latch has been fixed. Hallelujah. Except that Edward and team baggage don't have a clue about this. They are stuck on the other side of the airport. Their luggage was never removed from the plane, and no one is telling them. 

This is the worst customer communication I have ever experienced. 

I don't like going through customs and filling out declaration cards, but I really don't like doing it all twice. In an astounding move of beureaucratic t-crossing, we all have to do everything again. Sheesh.

Meanwhile, poor team baggage is told to go back the way they came and reboard the plane. Security stops them and sends them other way around. We, team carry-on, have no idea any of this is happening.

The flight itself is uneventful, and while we are hungry, it looks like we'll make our connection in Phoenix. Indeed we do, with a half hour to spare. Except that we are not on the flight anymore. Without telling Edward and I, US Airways gave our seats away, and there are no more seats. They put us instead on a 9:45 PM flight, thinking we'd missed our connection. But we didn't. In fact, Edward's luggage is about to fly to New Mexico without Edward. 

We push back on the 9:45 PM flight, as we'll miss our shuttle into Santa Fe, along with everything else happening tonight. At customer service, the first kind, helpful employee today puts us on the 3 PM flight to Albuquerque in the only seats available. First class. It's a mind-bending mystery to me why this was not the first solution to our problem. Why, had we not pushed back, would we be spending the night on an airport floor in New Mexico, waiting for our morning shuttle?

We'll still miss check-in and supper, but we'll arrive this evening, a few hours earlier than I arrived last year. It will still be light out. We have time for lunch now. We're starving. We'll take it.

I'm counting my blessings.

One. We share a leisurely lunch, preparing our hearts in conversation for the week ahead.

Two. We try a delicious new beer. Its five o'clock somewhere. 

Three. We experience the marginal privilege of first class.

Four. We reevaluate our willingness to book a US Airways flight again. Ever. 

Five. We find ample time to read and laugh through Sky Mall, the in-flight catalogue of goods you just cannot buy anywhere else. In a move I will appreciate more as the week rolls on, I take Sky Mall with me. 

Our shuttle drives us through New Mexico's moonscape as gratitude erases all wrongs. It's hard to stay angry in this strange and beautiful world. The sun shines down on a duotone palette of rust and turquoise. Red rock and sage brush. Cacti and blue sky.  

I watch Edward take this all in for the first time. I smile at the sharing of this special place. Our jagged journey leaves us weary, but full of hope.

Sometime ago, somewhere amidst the madness, Edward guesses our setbacks to be the devil's doing. The devil must not want us in Santa Fe. God must have something waiting for us. Given this is my second year of cancelled flights, it's hard to disagree with the assessment. But if we met devils on our journey, we were about to leave them in our dust. At St. John's college, at the Glen Workshop, we'd encounter only angels and saints.

For the week that was to come, I'd live this damned day a dozen times over. 




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Ars Poetica (On Leaving the Glen Workshop)

I wrote this poem as last year's Glen Workshop in Santa Fe, New Mexico wound down. This year, I felt much the same. I share this as a promise of more reflections to come.

Ars Poetica (On Leaving)



If your special magic is to pluck a single star

from the vast night sky of time

and pull that star apart into

a universe

then do


The clock wanes

and I will see only one more New Mexico moon

Stars are shy where I come from

I have to dig for them

beneath the rush and noise

of traffic


Twenty-four short hours from now

I board the airport shuttle

in broad daylight

the stars slipping

out of my naive net


Of course I cannot keep this

I am no astronaut

stepping in slow motion

on this moon rock

There is no gravity here, to hold me

No children

No wife

No friends with earth-bound histories

I would lose my tether and

pirouette into the galaxy

revolving endlessly round

a center of myself


to space madness


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Friday Finds: Embracing Critics, Making Plans and Doing Nothing

Welcome to a brand new feature on The Bleeding Heart Art Space Blog. The goal? To curate a weekly collection of links about art, faith, hope and love. Each week I come across many ‘goodies’ and events that I’d love to share, but have had no proper venue for doing so. Consider this ‘grab bag’ approach a way of getting it all out there - taking the best and brightest and sharing it with you.

I hope you enjoy!

Embracing Your Critics: A Video That Will Inspire You to Tears from Brené Brown

Brené Brown is someone who studies love, vulnerability and community. She studies them. Scientifically. Her findings seem to lead us closer to the life we are invited to in Christ’s Kingdom, methinks.

This video is not a short watch, but it is worth every moment. I teared up. I got inspired. I wanted to put myself out there and risk my heart.

I discovered this video thanks to the fine folks at, whose email newsletter comes highly recommended.

You can also find more videos from Brene Brown on The Work Of The People here (thanks to Nova on Facebook for the tip).

CS Lewis Thinks the Hobbit “May Well Prove a Classic”

I’m sure this is not news, but the second instalment of The Hobbit film comes out today. To celebrate, here is a reprint of a review the CS Lewis did of Tolkien’s book when it first came out. Thanks to Jordan Majeau for tipping me onto this one.

Weekend Plans: Yule Ave

Yule Ave a Blast Dec 13 at 8:15Yule Ave is a remarkable weekend of Christmas cheer on Alberta Ave. It’s free, and focussed on breaking through the commercial clutter of Christmas. Things kick off tonight with carolling at The Carrot, and a Christmas variety show called Yule Ave: A Blast, which The Bleeding Heart gets to be part of. We cannot wait, and we hope you’ll join us.

All the details can be found on the Yule Ave website at

SIDE NOTE: The Yule Ave website was built and is hosted by The Bleeding Heart Art Space as part of our sponsorship of this great event!

Summer Plans: Join Me at The Glen Workshop for Some Transformation

New Mexico landscapeSometimes when you hit that ‘buy now’ button your heart just flutters with giddy glee. This week I felt that excitement as I registered for The Glen Workshop West in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Glen just recently announced their 2014 dates and plans and opened up for registrations.

I am especially excited for two reasons. First, this year marks Image Journal’s 25th Anniversary, and there are some surprises in store. Second, I’ll be taking songwriting for a week with Over The Rhine.

The Glen Workshop is a rare hybrid of arts conference, festival and workshop. The faculty are excellent and the time spent in community with creative Christ followers is second to none. For a glorious week, you are in the abundant centre, rather than on the thin margins. Food, lodging and all conference activities are included. It is SO worth it.

I think getting on that plane with me and heading down to Santa Fe for a week of art and faith is likely the best thing you could do this summer. But I may be biased.

Anyone care to join me?

Or Maybe You Should Just Do Nothing

James Altucher’s post on when we’d be better off to 'do nothing’ is a breath of fresh air amidst  productivity pollution. Heading towards New Year’s resolutions, you may feel the pressure to do more and to be more. Before you make those lists, stop and read this.

Altucher’s post promises 5 Ways To Do Nothing And Become More Productive, but to me it’s more an invitation to let go of the need to prove yourself constantly. To simply be.

To me, that sounds an awful lot like Paul's words here,

"The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.” - Romans 12:3b, The Message

A good encouragement, and perhaps the best last words, as we head into the hectic holidays.

Let us know if any of these finds are meaningful for you in the comments below.

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