MICAH offers ministries for body, mind and spirit including contemplative and silent prayer, meditation, spirituality, spiritual direction, and retreat center.  The Family Practice and Integrative Medicine Center also offers holistic health and healing services including integrative, complimentary, alternative, and natural medicine, replacement therapy, natural healing, natural menopause, bio-identical hormones, and replacement therapy.

Internships

Internships are made available by the Minnesota Institute of Contemplation and Healing. MICAH, located near Crookston, MN, is a multifaceted facility for the practice and study of spiritual formation and leadership, healing and the arts. A contemplative Christian center, MICAH provides a sacred space within which we seek to create a life with God. To apply or for more information call Trey at (218) 280-4917.

 

Meet Our Current Intern:
Michelle Walka

We will be updating the page with Michelle's latest art and reflections below, so check back often.

From Michelle:

Let’s see... a little about me... I’m continually learning what it means to embrace my first identity as a beloved child of God. From there, I like to describe myself as an artist at heart with a passion for people. I feel drawn to explore what it means to be in deep and meaningful relationship with God and with God’s people and creation. I get excited (and even fired up!) about exploring what means to be a follower of Christ in the ups and downs of daily living. With this, I find joy in deeply listening and engaging with people and creating spaces for this to happen!

I was born and raised in Florida. My husband, Keith, and I came to Minnesota in 2010 to go to seminary. Crazy, I know! We can share many stories about what we have learned in the “frozen north.” It is no surprise then that we enjoy many adventures together, including exploring the outdoors and trying new things. I also enjoy finding coffee shops with real mugs and a cozy place to sit awhile... with someone to talk to, a good book to read, or for some time to journal and dream.

I graduated from Luther Seminary in May and in August I officially became a Sister in the Deaconess Community of the ELCA. This just means that I am a part of an organized church body, whose leaders gather intentionally around serving their neighbors and staying connected and accountable in faith community. I also hold a degree in social work and have many experiences working with youth and adults in church, camp, and neighborhood settings. Ask me about my favorite stories!

So, all of this is to say, while Keith serves as an intern pastor at Gran/Park/Rollag Parish outside of Hawley, MN, I get to spend this year in an internship of my own to learn and grow and get to know a community of folks.

This is where MICAH comes in! Again, I am excited to be with you all and look forward to seeing you soon.


Art Show and Celebration

LAYERS
Words : Paint : Story

August 14, 2015 at Ella Marie’s Café And Collectables

The day before the art show, Keith and I went to Ella Marie’s to put the hooks on the wall. This took several hours. I was certainly glad that we did not wait to do this the day of the show. There would not have been enough time! The next day, most of the hooks stayed on the wall… only some had to be reinforced by push pins (I am glad Scott shared some last minute problem solving with me!)

Earlier in the week, I had created posters describing a little about me and the inspiration and the process of the collection. I also had written reflections for each piece (or grouping of pieces) that told the story of how the image came to be. This added another layer of depth to the images I created and it was important for me to share. I received a lot of positive feedback as to how meaningful these reflections were.

This is how the room was set up for the show. It came together beautifully and I was grateful for the well lit blank space to hang the collection. The space is normally used for yoga classes. The yoga instructor graciously cleared the space for me and was so excited to support a local artist. I am also deeply grateful for the hospitality of the owners of Ella Marie’s (Claudia and Scott) as the atmosphere was comfortable (especially the air conditioning on such a hot day!) and the goodies were delicious!

It was such an honor for people to come and share in this time of celebration with me and my art work from the past year. I am continually humbled and affirmed by this beautiful network of people in my life that love and support me in this adventure of art and journey in life! This includes the people who came (the MICAH community, Gran/Park/Rollag Parish, guests who were at Ella Marie’s that day, other ministry leaders in the area, and Sister Krista!) as well as the numerous people who cheered me on from a far (family and friends from all over)! This day was full and beautiful and I am deeply deeply grateful.

To many more of these celebrations to come!

Download: Layers Art Show Introduction Poster [PDF]


Artwork

All artwork is copyrighted and not to be used without permission from the artist.

Archive:

   

Pain of Pain and Stress of Stress

Reflections from the Health and Spirituality Retreat on July 26-30, 2015

“A New Day Rising” 20x20 Acrylic Painting
August 9, 2015
“Embodied” 24x24 Acrylic Painting
August 13, 2015

In July, I took part in the “Health and Spirituality” Retreat offered by MICAH. It was several days of engaging in contemplative practices, healthy cooking, and learnings around the connection between our health, spirituality, and the practices we inhabit. During this time, I learned some helpful articulations around both the reality of pain and stress in our human experience. What struck me most was how often this pain and stress can escalate into what is called “pain of pain” and “stress of stress,” where pain is felt from the pain experienced and where stress continues to build from the stress experienced.

As I reflect on my life and my own sense of health, I have found myself struggling with these snowballs of pain and stress and am physically, emotionally, and spiritually impacted. With this, I have also learned how to be more present with myself and to be more aware of these different expressions and trust that healing and well-being can exist in me. For this reason, I have become increasingly grateful for contemplative practices, the creative process, and for movement… To be embodied and present… to be connected to my thoughts, my feelings, my spirit, my physical senses… and thus also connected more closely to God’s deepest desire for life and life abundant.

From this retreat, I was inspired to continue this work through art with special attention to the layering process. I have started with words of stress and pain, added dry wall tape to represent the binding up I feel from such compounding words, and then transformed these words through paint.


To Be Seen, To Be Loved, To Belong

3 Panel Series of 4x12 Acrylic Painting

June 17, 2015

"And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’” (Matthew 25:40, NRSV)

This three panel series started with Rambo. Rambo was an older gentleman who knocked on my car door at a convenience store asking for a ride home as his arthritis was acting up and he just couldn’t face riding the bus home. I agreed to this adventure and an unexpected friendship was formed. I listened as he shared his story in between the “turn here” directions and only a couple of U-turns. His smell was less to be desired and it even lingered in my car for days. However, what I remember most from this small exchange was his eyes. They were a deep blue hue… the kind of eyes that penetrated deep into my soul. When he thanked me for the ride and the help to his door, there was this Spirit moment of seeing the eyes of Jesus… they were the eyes of a man who had been seen, for a however brief moment, and was deeply grateful. To be seen… to be recognized… to be known… For me, this is one of my basic human longings and I saw it in Rambo as well. My interaction with Rambo inspired a continuation of collecting stories and longings and ultimately prayers…

The church ladies. Oh, how I love them! Each of these beautiful women have stories to share and I love to listen. During one of these conversations, a church lady friend caught me a bit off guard… She gave me a giant hug and simply said “I love you.” Wow… I was not expecting this. Tears came to my eyes in this simple exchange and I couldn’t help but say “I love you too.” It was true and honest. In this precious moment, love was shared and a greater sense of belonging was felt. Again, our deepest human desires were met with communal connection. Come, Holy Spirit, Come!

Amidst these collections of stories, I took the panels with me to a retreat with a group of dear friends. During our time of worship together, I shared these stories and then asked each person to write their own longings and prayers… to be seen, to belong, to be loved. It was a beautiful exchange of honesty and vulnerability and embracing one another in the presence of the divine.

These words of prayers combined with the stories that inspired were then transformed into images of eyes (top panel), heart (lower panel), and the Spirit embracing our deepest desires in a beautiful wave of love (middle panel).


A Muddled Mess (and other life lessons from painting on Saturday)

Paired with “Hovering Spirit in a Muddled Mess” 8.5"X5.5" Acrylic Painting

March 14, 2015

So, I’ve had this image in my head for a while... of watching the wind catch the snow in spiraled drifts (before it all melted this week)... and in reading the Genesis text of the Spirit of God hovering over the earth. It was this beautiful image of bright and sweeping movement in the midst of a dark and formless backdrop. At any rate, I decided that today I would finally paint this image.

After two pieces of paper... lots of paint... and many layers of brush strokes... I finally just gave up and accepted the failure of getting this image to paper... at least for today... I ended the process... grumpy... with one piece of paper in the trash... and one muddled mess drying on my table... ugh...

And then I took a deep breath... realizing that this failure was ok. This thing that I created feels like it totally sucks... not because I’m bad at painting... or that whole “I’m not really an artist” thing... all of which I now recognize as horrid lies...

This thing totally sucks because it is a muddled mess... I was trying too hard to make it work... not following the rules (have fun, be kind to yourself, you cannot do this wrong)... not listening to the image... not listening to God’s Spirit in this practice of painting... I was trying too hard to control what ended up on the paper... and in turn... the paper simply reflected what was happening in my mind, body, and spirit... a muddled mess.

However, it was also in this very moment of taking a step back and a deep breath... I realized that I wanted to share my mess up with the world! Hey... Look! I’m not perfect! Neither are you! And this is totally ok! We don’t have to “get it” all of the time! In fact, this time of painting was a good dose of medicine for my chronic perfectionist disease that spreads quickly and widely if not dealt with appropriately...

So, as my grumpiness begins to fade... and I begin to relax and even smirk over the muddled mess... I reflect on how it is ok. That failure does not equal forever. That sometimes it is just what I need. That when I try to fit everything into my controlled perfect box... it often becomes a muddled mess of unrealistic expectations and unnecessarily hard struggles... But when I let go of these expectations and live into the present moment... I realize that life doesn’t actually suck and that it is actually messy... but intricate and beautiful and complex... not as muddled as I make it out to be...

When I sit and notice and listen... I begin to see and experience this beauty... not for me to try and replicate into perfect-ness... but to enjoy in the moment... and experience the joy that is found in some of the messiness of life...


"Layers out of Loneliness"

12"x12" Acrylic Painting

February 23, 2015

A portion of my journal entry from that day:

“It has been a dark couple of days… I feel so tired and agitated and at the same time I want to do things, but I can’t even muster the energy. I can’t even leave the house… I feel so alone and stuck and it hurts… It’s scary to be here yet again. I hate depression. I hate anxiety. It is so consuming and I’m out of breath… when will it end? Getting out the paints feels exhausting, but I think I might try…”

And I did. I wrote word after word of my thoughts and emotions on the canvas, being present and aware of these “clouds” that were passing by in my very being… mind, body, and spirit. From there, I added layer and layer of paint… finishing an image, letting it dry, and then painting again.

Eventually, I put down the brush and started using my hands. The physical touch of the paint on the canvas became a healing connection I was longing for. I finally felt myself settle on this image… an image of connection and embrace… an image of love.


Journal Pages

These are 5.5X8.5 Acrylic Paintings that coincide with the scripture readings and my journal pages for particular days in November and December 2014 as well as January 2015.

 

   

Have No Fear Little Flock
This started out as a painting of sheep. In the process, the sheep didn’t look the way I was hoping, so I kept adding blobs of paint until the form of a flower started to emerge. In doing so, the flower connected with feelings of safety and the blossoming freedom I relate to having no fear in the embrace of God.

 

 

23rd Psalm
In the midst of intense news, I reflected on the peace of this Psalm.

 

Mercy: Both a Plea and a Hope
Again, I found myself in grief over the heaviness of the news as of late. Scripture readings from the prophets were also intense. As I reflected on my ‘crying out’ and ‘where my hope comes’... I realized the word “mercy” stood at the intersection of both.

   

Genesis

 

Watching, Waiting
With the season of Advent approaching... I found myself reflecting on watching and waiting... for the day of the Lord is near...

 

 

Shepherd Me, O God
"Shepherd me, O God, beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life"
(Song Lyrics by Marty Haugen)

 

   

Awake
I was reading from the daily devotional called “God Pause,” and there was a line in the reading that I resonated with by Amanda Kempthorne reflecting on 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11. It read, “These people get it. They know what to watch for and how to be prepared when the day of the Lord comes (and I don't mean they've built and stocked bunkers under their homes.) They aren't afraid like a child in the dark without a flashlight. Their eyes are open, their hope secure and their minds and hearts ready for what may come.”

 

Earworms of Doubt, Fear, Unworthiness
In righteous anger, I yelled at the voice of self-hatred in my journal, saying (among other things) “your implanted earworms are so slippery and easily go unnoticed until you have filled my head with self-hatred and self-defeating thoughts... in the name of Jesus... get out!... you don’t belong here!... aren’t there some pigs to run off a cliff somewhere?... I am beautiful... I am loved... God help me hold onto this gift and let it shine...”

 

Rhythms of the Spirit
Many of my friends from seminary are now being ordained. Finding a card is difficult that expresses my hopes and prayers for them, so I paint an image in their honor and write a note inside. This was one of those images.

 


Invited to be Human

Paired with “Fears Unbinding” 12"x12" Acrylic Painting

March 4, 2015

In February I had the privilege to work with some amazing Head Start teachers in a “Self-Care through Art” min-retreat. I was invited by one of the management team members as a sort-of experiment in what care for staff could look like in an ‘outside of the box’ way. She and I had a couple of conversations about the staff and how this time could be used. She requested a supply list (they had a budget!). We set dates (2 sessions, 2 hours each, 5-7 people in each group). I filled out a W-9 for the first time in my life (hello adulthood). Wow. This is it. A chance to facilitate a space for self-care and the creative process! In the midst of “Can I really do this?” and “I’m so excited for this!” I found my way into a plan for the time, a supply list, and a hope: Give these teachers a chance to take a deep breath and to connect with their whole self: mind, body, and spirit.

As I would prepare for honored dinner guests, I lovingly set the table for each person... a canvas and all the needed tools... As the teachers entered the space, I welcomed them and learned their names. They found their chairs and anxiously fumbled around the place setting that was before them. I briefly explained our time together (with many reassurances that everyone gathered would be ok and were definitely able to use the things set before them). We then had a time of check-in, and person after person described being tired, overwhelmed, and done with the bitter cold. Collectively, we took a few deep breaths... and then I gave them some rules.

I introduced our rules by reading The Dot by Peter Reynolds: A beautiful story about embracing one’s own creativity and ability through the invitation and encouragement of another person... and how this grows when it is shared. Then came the rules: have fun, be kind to yourself, and you cannot do this wrong (Thanks Trey for helping to hone these!). Everyone agreed to live by these rules for the next couple of hours. With a few more deep breaths, I invited everyone into a time of participation as well as freedom to listen to oneself in the process... giving them full permission to not follow my instructions if something else made more sense for them in the moment.

As the slower cadence of deep breathing and permission giving permeated the room and our very beings... we began to paint. Simple at first, with just the background and a dot to represent ourselves in the middle. As paint filled the canvases, I could physically feel the tension in the room start to release and the teachers settle more fully into their chairs. After a time, we each shared our canvas. Our only job during this was to listen intentionally and respond with “thank you for sharing.” The next step in our creative process was to write around our dot the things that bind us up... our fears, anxieties, frustrations, stresses... We only spent a few minutes with this part of the exercise, but some could have easily filled the page. Again, we each shared what we were able and ended with the response of “thank you for sharing.”

Our final stage in the process was to imagine what it would be like to unbind from these things. What would it feel like? What would it look like? I reiterated that this was not about solving a problem or making something go away, but simply opening up to the possibilities of this experience. I described how I often imagine the blooming of a flower as an unbinding freedom, and this is the image I would be playing with. Then I instructed them to remember the rules and play! For the next half of an hour... the teachers did just that... deeply breathing, bursting with colors on the canvas, moments of laughter... It was beautiful. It brought tears to my eyes as I sat in the moment and watched: the care they had for themselves in these moments, the creativity that went wild, and the spirit-filled connections that were becoming more evident with each brush stroke.

Our last time of sharing was a beautiful exchange of what taking a deep breath and being open to the present moment with creativity can actually evoke in our lives. In this final time, our liturgy of “thank you for sharing” was coupled with an invitation to sign the painting... to embrace our art... embrace our experience... and to simply embrace our humanness.

As I drove home from the last session, I remembered that it was Ash Wednesday, a time when some expressions of the church remember that “we are created out of dust and to dust we shall return.” In its very essence, this day is all about reminding one another of our own humanness... of life and of death. My time with these teachers was also an Ash Wednesday of sorts... giving them space to explore the depths of their own humanity with one another... naming their realities and engaging in the healing power of creativity and connecting to one’s spirit in the present moment. I wonder how often we insist upon this space in our lives... it seems so hard sometimes... to name our realities and share in this experience with fellow humans... to play, to dream, to create... to breathe and simply be...

However, this space is exactly where God meets us... deep in the reality of our humanness... breathing creative life into what we see as only useless dust...inviting us to sign our own canvas... claim our creativity and beauty... and to hear the subtle whispers of God’s Spirit, embracing us with the words “thank you for sharing.”


Lenten Devotional Drawings

Each year, the congregations of the Gran/Park/Rollag Lutheran Parish put together a Lenten devotional where people submit reflections on biblical texts for the season. I was invited to design some art reflections for the “gaps on the pages.”

This year’s devotional text was focused on the Joseph story in Genesis. I was also drawn to Psalm 27 and Psalm 40 in my preparations. These pen/ink drawings are the result of my own reflections of these texts.


Freedom of the Wilderness Dark

12x18 Mixed Media
February 28, 2015

This piece was created during the “Healing through Art” one day retreat with MICAH at a church in Richfield, MN. This day consisted of meditations on our own sense of wilderness and how these experiences can be interpreted and transformed using the creative process.

The first part of the day I spent reflecting on my own wilderness experience of feeling trapped in ridged notions of my life circumstances and of my sense of self. I used tape and other materials to create a seemingly painful and fearful image of straight lines and boxes.

During the second part of the day, we were to spend time with this same piece and transform this “wilderness” as if the wilderness was no longer a painful and fearful experience. So, the first thing I did was paint the whole thing black and added translucent gold in the mix. It was so freeing! And then I had to wait for it to dry… this time of waiting and watching paint dry became a metaphor for sitting in stillness and in darkness in a curious and non-judgmental way. I realized that this place of stillness and darkness offered a different set of “rules” and ways in which I can navigate the experience… slower and more intentional with each step. I found peace in the slower pace and the freedom to explore in the darkness.

From this watching and waiting, I then had fun with colors and using my hands… ditching the norms of painting with a brush. The freedom to paint in this way gave freedom in my perspectives of the things that I was identifying as ridged and fearful in my life. When looking at the piece, it looks and feels cosmic in proportions, much like the release I felt from engaging in this creative practice.

Through this, I realize how much I appreciate engaging in these art retreats and being intentional with this time. What a powerful and healing event to share!


Tattoo: "Full of Life"

Completed February 1, 2015

The Story:
I was asked by a fellow Deaconess Sister to design a tattoo for her. It is something I have never done before and it is a little surreal/humbling/daunting to think that someone would want to permanently put my art on their body. I had specific instructions that she wanted a liturgical calendar somehow represented, trees from the Pacific Northwest (where she is from), and that it was to be an arm sleeve. She also had a Pinterest page full of things she liked in design and style. Taking all of this in, I decided to be open to the process and just have fun with it.

About the Tattoo:

Liturgical Calendar in the Sky:

  • Christ events of birth (Christmas) and resurrection (Easter) are represented in the sun with gold/yellow.
  • The 4 lines preceding the sun are blue and represent the 4 weeks of advent, with the blue dot marking the beginning of the liturgical year. These lines usher in Christ, and flow out into Jesus’ life (including the passion).
  • The 6 lines coming out of the sun are purple are represent the 6 weeks of lent, with the black dot representing Good Friday. Again, these lines echo Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection as an on-going flow of God’s incarnation in the Word of Life.
  • There is one solid green line that flows from one side through the trees an onto the next reflecting the many weeks of “ordinary” time, which is always sacred as God meets us in our ordinary. The green dot also reflects smaller portions of “ordinary” time in the church year.
  • The three gold dots reflect: Transfiguration, Trinity, and Christ the King Sundays The two red dots reflect: All Saints Day and Reformation The three red dots and a red line reflect the Holy Spirit in the Time of Pentecost, breathing in new life and God’s spirit into our lives sending us forth (which then also propels us back into the “ordinary” times (those lines connect in the wrap).
  • The lines that surround the calendar are meant to perpetuate a movement, realizing the life of faith is never stagnant even in the midst of our liturgical practices. It adds to the depth and connection of the piece as a whole (think the Trinity dance!)

Trees:

  • The trees are representative of life.
  • The roots continue to ground us in this life... producing the sustenance we need to survive.
  • These roots are meant to also flow with nods to water (think baptism)... and the feminine figure is a reminder of God’s ever loving embrace, calling us beloved, and continuing to create us anew in the womb of the Spirit. It also echoes her own life as a woman in God’s image.