Let’s go fly a kite! Astonished by clarity & beauty!

Kites! We’re seeing kites!
Singer-songwriter Fran McKendree, who we visited in our American Journey series in 2010, has been sending up colorful kite photos from a recent retreat he led for 30 youth workers in Virginia. This is such a great idea—we’re sharing it with you today.

McKendree is a nationally known musician, teacher, evangelist and peacemaker. A former rock star, McKendree eventually settled into a mountaintop home and studio in the Carolinas with his wife Diana, who is a specialist in writing icons (the traditional art that most of us would call “painting” icons). Now, he works mostly on acoustic music. Nearly every week, McKendree travels to some corner of the U.S. and puts on concerts, provides music at conferences, teaches church people to rediscover the arts—and sometimes leads retreats.

In early February, he emailed our ReadTheSpirit home office, kicking around colorful ideas for a retreat in the Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Virginia. Finally, Fran settled on the idea of inviting participants to turn white kites into handmade works of art. Among other things, this simple practice links Americans with families across southern Asia, where kite flying is a beloved spring ritual.

After the retreat, Fran was high himself. “I was really astounded at the clarity and beauty of their vision and art!” he wrote in one email—just before he began sending those images of kites.

Just chatting with Fran via email is an inspiration. One note during the kite exchange began, “Spring is in the air here. Willow trees are budding and our apricot tree is filling the air with the sweetness of its blossoms.” For Northerners still locked in icy late winter, such a note is delicious!

That’s what Fran did on retreat with the youth workers: He made them hungry for color and self-expression. Here’s how he described it the whole process in a longer note …

During our retreat, one intention was to have some Sabbath time, deepen our sense of community and share stories, songs and worship. I’m struck at this time of year at the clarity and rawness of the earth around us—fallow ground with just a hint of new life about to burst forth.

Having just read one of the recent Festivals and Holidays stories at ReadtheSpirit, I was inspired to propose that we each make a kite. I asked folks to partner up to assemble the kites, which came in kits, then to work individually on the next phase. Next, I suggested that, in the top area of their kite, they write, paint or draw expressing their dreams, hopes or visions for this new season. In the center of the kite, I asked them to show images of things that sustain them, that give them life. Along the “wings” of the kite, I asked them to add images for which they’re thankful—and at the points where the kite is attached to the “bridle,” images of people and things that keep them grounded or provide stability in their lives. 

We were like a group of first graders—some even working with their tongues sticking out! Over the next two hours, a bounty of beautiful creativity emerged. When the paint was dry, with great expectation, we made our way into the beckoning field. The wind wasn’t predictable, or steady—pretty much like our lives! But, we managed to send them all aloft. 

It was incredibly beautiful—the bold colors against the blue—dreams, hopes, visions dancing across the sky. That night, during our worship, many spoke of the power of seeing those hopes and dreams, flying free, lifted by the wind of the Spirit.

Care to know more about Fran McKendree?

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    (Originally published at readthespirit.com.)

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