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.


Feb 23 2011

Telling Time

Sun Cat

Years ago, I entered a new world of desks

in straight rows, bells, and tasks like

see-jane-run and

m is for mr munching mouth.

I loved mixing more

paints and colors with gooey glue

all over hands and

paper blue birds with beak and tongue

(Birds need tongues too)

Time was everywhere at once yet now



marked off by things to do

read. listen. repeat. write.

a start-stop world.

When Time-to-Clean-Up arrived

I always chose my favorite featherduster

to-ing and fro-ing far from the flurry to finish

unworried by missing mittens or colorful gluey messes made

and teacher let me be, for a moment


(an edited repost from the archives, Susan Forshey, 10/2009)

Jan 2 2010

Making a Gratitude Journal


My recent posts have centered around two themes: gratitude and memory, the two areas I believe God is leading me to focus on for 2010. In this time between Christmas and Epiphany, the traditional twelve days of Christmas, I have been working on a gratitude journal where I’m recording both my One Thousand Gifts list (an edited version is on-line here), and memories of joy which come to mind as I review my life.

Just in the short time of making the list, I have found that I’m beginning to look forward to the time I spend reviewing the day.  Sometimes it is easy, sometimes it takes a little digging.

Making the Journal

I selected some magazines for images and patterned craft paper my dad gave me to decorate the cover and each page:


(My own tastes lean toward nature photography, flowers, and victoriana, but a journal could easily be crafted differently.)

During the course of the afternoon, my mom came in to see how it was coming along.  One magazine, The Girlhood Home Companion, had some paper dolls in the back, which led to my mom delightedly telling me about her afternoons as a child (before Barbie) cutting out paper dolls.


And the finished journal:

Gratitude Journal

Jan 19 2009

Word of the Day: Justice

Women Singing Earth by Mary Southard, CSJ

Women Singing Earth by Mary Southard, CSJ

Martin Luther King, Jr, quoted Amos, saying: “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

What is justice?

In Luke 4:18-19, Jesus describes his vocation to justice when speaking in the synagogue: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Often justice and “prophet” are put together–the people who take a stand against injustice and call for change. A connection that is not often made is that of “prophet” and “artist,” but Hans Urs von Balthasar, a Roman Catholic theologian, suggested that the vocation of prophet and artist are intimately united. The prophet-artist, while prophetically calling for justice, can creatively paint a picture, weave words or use other mediums of expression that inspires people with a new vision. The prophet-artist uses their own hope–their very life–as the medium for crafting an image of a transformed future. When I listen to MLK’s “I have a dream” speech, I am caught up in his hope–his words and his life richly enfleshed his prophetic call for justice and hope for change.

What is your vision of justice? What is one vision that engages your heart and the heart of your community? Maybe it is racial reconciliation, an end to hunger and economic justice, humane health care, a future without human trafficking, earth stewardship, or educational opportunities for all children. Describe it as richly as possible–paint it, cook, write, or sing it. How do you already embody this vision of hope in your daily life? What are other ways? Share your vision with your family, with your children, with your friends and ask them for ideas.

Jan 17 2009

Christina’s World

Christina's Worldpennsylvanialandscape3 wyeth

Christina’s World and Pennsylvania Landscape

Andrew Newell Wyeth

“Really, I think one’s art goes only as far and as deep as your love goes.”
Life Magazine interview, 1965

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