Oct 15 2011

{Day 15} Color Your Prayer

When I began doing Sabbath Space with the theology grad students, I simply put out crayons and play-dough and anything else I thought might tempt them to play or pray for a moment.

I also filled the air with yummy candle scents and had quiet corners set aside for peaceful reflection.

But people need a little guidance when they hold a crayon in their hand again after many years, so I went looking for something like a coloring book for adults.

Instead, I found hundreds of mandalas on the internet–fun, intricate, geometric shapes just begging to be colored.

Within the Christian tradition, the use of geometric designs as a part of prayer and reflection has a rich history. Among the Celtic Christians, monks copied the scriptures and illuminated the text with intricate designs, shapes, and creatures, showing that they had a love for the written word, amazing focus and skill, and a sense of humor. One of the greatest of these Gospel books is the 9th century Book of Kells.

In the 11th century, a nun and abbess named Hildegard of Bingen, writer of plays, music, and handbooks of medicine, designed complex mandalas based on visions she had during prayer.

While the ones I found were much less complex than Kells or Hildegard’s, I printed a set of mandalas and strew them on the art table, never expecting what would happen.

The mandalas became the favorite activity. Students took extras home to color during study breaks, some took them to class saying that coloring helped them pay attention better to the lecture.

Soon, they started appearing on bulletin boards and walls all over the theology school.

One student came back each Sabbath Space session for a few weeks, painstakingly working on one extremely detailed design. He said it was helping him reflect on vocational questions.

Some students prayed for people while they colored and then gave the finished mandala to the person with a note.

Others simply let their brains breathe in color and shapes for a time, taking a break from words.

Practice: Select one of the mandalas above (or search for your own) and color it while praying for a person or situation. The act of coloring will focus you in the present moment, but it will also create a visible expression of your prayer time. Consider giving it to the person you prayed for, or putting it up someplace to remind you to continue praying.

 


Oct 13 2011

{Day 13} You are an artist

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. –Annie Dillard

We are each artists of the lives we’ve been given.

Each morning we wake to a new set of moments that are crafted from our choices and commitments, loves and disappointments, joys and pain.

But they still have possibility.

With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can be artists of the our days. Slow down. Attend to the present moment. Focus on one task or activity at a time, as much as possible.

One of the most delightful aspects of my job with theology students was hosting Sabbath Space. Each Wednesday and Thursday, students come to a stain-glass and candle-lit chapel to feast on crayons, colored pencils, coloring sheets, and anything else I can find to tempt them to stop, take a risk and play for a moment.

Most of my students were right-brain starved on their academic diet of dense theological and philosophical texts, weary from wrestling with justice issues, or just tired from the frenetic pace of life. They come in, took a deep breath as they sat down at the craft table, and for 5 minutes or 3 hours, they experienced the eye of the storm. The art product was secondary–it was the moments of attention that they paid to the project at hand, choosing medium, colors, getting their hands and hearts involved, that gave rest.

Rest was also found through the moments of attention that others at the table extended to each other, “How are you? How are classes? What a beautiful color choice!” Some students started talking as they walked in, grabbing a blank piece of paper and random pencil, shapes and designs soon punctuating their narrative.

Something beautiful happened in Sabbath Space, but most who participated would not call themselves artists. Rather than focusing on production, I saw students gingerly walk or wildly run into their creative hearts, finding healing to take back into the rest of life.

Fittingly, the large, beautifully carved table used for creating and conversing in Sabbath Space was also used for a weekly community feast of the Lord’s Supper. Different gatherings, but both means of grace, renewal, and communion.

Practice: You are an artist and the moments, activities and relationships of today are your medium. What can you and the Holy Spirit create?  Get some crayons out, a piece of paper, and spend a pomodoro (25 minutes) coloring. I guarantee you will smile, especially if you include your favorite young person.


Jan 27 2011

When You’re Weary

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I woke to fog horns sounding deep in the dark distance and the eerie comforting glow of a world held in fog.

The whole city is whispering. Even the birds.

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After a string of days full of good work and conversations, lots of bus rides and many miles of walking city streets, I find the fog cocoon inviting and create for a moment my own little nest. Tea. Bread pudding. Journal. Candle glow. And let my thoughts turn down the volume and my body sigh and my heart whisper how its feeling.

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Guilt hovers. High-pitched whining in my ear like a hungry mosquito, I swat it away and miss, swat and miss…

…I’m single without children, I have no reason to be tired.

…this is unproductive.

…I haven’t worked hard enough to deserve a rest.

…a billion people don’t get this luxury, why should I?

…there are a list of tasks I need to do.

…there are so many projects I want to do.

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But then I remember.

Jesus says,

Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.  (Matt 11:28-30 MSG)

It all comes down to trust.

Trust that God knows how to do the work in me and in the world. That he is already working, and is completely aware of my limits.

And still loves me.

Trust that while outer silence can often be in short supply, inner silence, an inner resting in God, is possible anywhere.

Anywhere.

It only takes God’s grace blending with my intentional desire and a little practice.

There are many ways to worship. Being a human-at-rest is one of them.

The Old Testament called this Sabbath, to cease from labor.

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An experiment for you: For ten minutes (set an stove or egg timer), turn off the TV, the radio, any background noise you can control. Ask worry and guilt, task lists and projects, for a time-out.

Sit and close you eyes.

Or lay on the floor.

Or stare out the window.

Or hold your loved one.

Or pet your four-legged companion.

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Let the moist, quieting fog of  Holy Spirit breath surround and still.

Listen.

A fog horn blows and God says,

“I’m here. Be with me. In this moment. Exactly as you are, where you are. Come. Rest.”


Jan 17 2009

Word of the Day: Creativity

Time Spiral by Susan Forshey

Time Spiral

One of the most delightful aspects of my job with theology students is hosting Sabbath Space. Each Wednesday and Thursday, students come to a stain-glass and candle-lit chapel to feast on crayons, colored pencils, coloring sheets, and anything else I can find to tempt them to take a risk and play for a moment.
Most students are right-brain starved on their academic diet of dense theological and philosophical texts, weary from wrestling with justice issues, or just tired from the frenetic pace of life. They come in, take a deep breath as they sit down at the craft table, and for 5 minutes or 3 hours, they find the eye of the storm. The art product is secondary–it is the moments of attention that they pay to the project at hand, choosing medium, colors, getting their hands and hearts involved, that gives rest.
Rest is also found through the moments of attention that others at the table extend to each other, “How are you? How are classes? What a beautiful color choice!” Some students start talking as they walk in, grabbing a blank piece of paper and random pencil, shapes and designs soon punctuating their narrative.
Something beautiful happens in Sabbath Space, but most would not call themselves artists. Rather than focusing on production, I see students gingerly walk or wildly run into their creative hearts, finding healing to take back into the rest of life.
Fittingly, the large, beautifully carved table used for creating and conversing in Sabbath Space is also used for a weekly community feast of the Lord’s Supper. Different gatherings, but both means of grace, renewal, and communion.
  • What is one area you experience flow of creativity? How do you get caught up in God’s creative nature? (Think outside the box–it may not be playing an instrument or drawing, but it could be creatively organizing a project, managing a staff, listening to someone in a way than communicates presence, cooking a feast, computer programming, etc.)
  • What does it feel like to be creative?
  • When you are creating in this way, how are other people blessed by your effort?
  • What is one small way you can cultivate creativity this week?
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