Möbius strips are intriguing. A Möbius strip is created by taking a closed band, cutting it, and reattaching it after making a single twist in one of the ends. Unlike a circular band, a mobius strip doesn’t have an inside or outside. If you place your pencil anywhere in the center of the strip across its width and start drawing a line along the path of the strip, you’ll end up right back where you started from. There are some interesting Youtubes and animations about Möbius strips–especially ones with ants and gears.
I want to be able to draw a Möbius strip. I’m getting closer, but not really there. Here’s an attempt.
I’ve wanted to draw a Möbius strip partly as a space for prayers–either in the center or along the band itself. I imagine the prayer being spoken or breathed along the strip. The prayer goes on and on without ever stopping–even when I no longer pray it. Here is a prayer for friends and their families using a model of a Möbius strip from a UCLA website.
Like yesterday’s prayer, I’m in simple mode this week. Here is another drawing which promotes praying in color as not an “art project” but a “prayer project” using art.
When I was a kid, progressive dinners were a social fad. A progressive dinner moved from house to house–appetizers at one house, salad at another, main course at still another, and dessert at a final location. The guests might be all the same people just moving around together to a different host house. Another model was to be with different people at each location–a kind of mixer or getting-to-know-you event. In each case, the dinner progressed throughout the evening to a different venue with different decor, dishes, atmosphere, and conversation.
I thought of the progressive dinner concept when I was praying for my friend Randall who is in a long recovery from a brutal surgical procedure. A vast cloud of witnesses pray for Randall constantly. When I keep an ongoing prayer vigil for a person, my prayers “progress.” That doesn’t mean they get better; they just move and morph. The places I pray, the time of day, the mood I’m in…all affect the way I pray.
This prayer started out unexpectedly in the middle of my morning writing with a black pen in hand. A couple of days later, my journal fell open to the same page and I was nudged to add to the prayer—color this time. Words worked their way onto the page at a later date. A new iteration may still emerge from this particular drawing. With a progressive prayer as with a progressive dinner, a new time and venue enhance and enrich the conversation. I hope this ongoing prayer is about listening and softening my heart, about being attentive to God’s new and ongoing care and healing in Randall’s life and in mine.
I’ve just come to the end of my supply of the tiny travel Pentalic notebooks I carry with me at all times. The shipping for a single notebook probably costs more than the item itself. The notebook is about 3″ x 4″. It has become the away-from-home place I pray, make lists, take sermon notes, doodle, write down interesting quotes, keep a mini journal entry….
In the midst of scary weather, depressing world news, and election-year hostilities, I can make a momentary retreat to the notebook and turn it into a portable prayer closet. Writing, drawing, and re-reading often remind me that I’m not in charge, but also not alone. “Do not be afraid or dismayed; for the Lord God, my God, is with you.” (1Chronicles 28:20 NRSV)
My friend Connie uses Artist Trading Cards for many of her prayers. She keeps them in loose-leaf binders in plastic pages designed for holding trading cards. The pages are a clever way to keep track of prayer concerns. They are an ongoing diary. Here are some examples of Connie’s prayers. She uses the front and back of the cards.
I’ve started to carry a package of the cards with me whenever I travel. The cards take up very little space; I always have a pen or pencil nearby.
Several years ago, my husband Andy and I noticed that the ratio of men to women in my Praying in Color Workshops® was a little low. For every fifteen to twenty women, there was one man. That seemed strange because we think praying with pen and markers in hand is a good fit for many men’s temperaments. It is concrete, physical, and practical. It is a process and a product—a prayer time and a prayer drawing.
So we wrote Praying in Black and White: A Hands -On Practice for Men, published by Paraclete Press. Maybe the title seems corny, passé, or sexist. The book is designed for men (or women) who are unlikely to tote around pink, yellow, and mauve markers. The practice uses only pen and paper and encourages drawing/praying anytime, any place. But more than the specifics of what drawing implement to use, it’s a special invitation for men who see prayer as just the gift or parlance of women. It’s an attempt to invite men who have relinquished their power as pray-ers back to the prayer table. Praying in Black and White has simple, step-by-step instructions for praying for others, for praying Scripture, for praying with the breath…. For people who might be embarrassed about reading a book on prayer, the black cover and paperback-size make it innocuous and pocket-ready.
Praying in Black and White: A Hands -On Practice for Men is available through all the usual suspects: Paraclete Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books A Million, Indie Bound–but not Borders :-(
If anyone is in Memphis on Tuesday or Wednesday of this week, The Episcopal Bookshop is hosting an Open House from 10AM-6PM. Andy will sign books from 4:30-6 on Wednesday afternoon.
Susan from Indiana wrote to me with some creative Praying in Color ideas and gave me permission to share them. Here are Susan’s ideas. Thank you!
1. As I read scripture, I either search online for a passage that is of a specific topic, or I just start reading until something goes “aha!” I copy and paste scripture, choose a suitable font/color and print it out. I then cut it out and paste it to my PIC page. I pray that scripture and as the spirit brings thoughts to my mind, I start doodling. I usually start with a specific need or person, but many times it is more of a worship/learning exercise. I’ve noticed two things: I am memorizing more scripture and I”m digging deeper into translations and word studies.
Also I’ve always loved geometric designs and they appear often in my prayers. I’ve started using some tools that really work for me–a t-square, a triangle and a nifty little template.
This is an idea my husband Andy and I mention in our upcoming book Praying in Black & White: A Hands-On Practice for Men (or anyone who is afraid of color and artsy stuff). The new book comes out in the late fall.
Here is Susan’s cool geometric drawing/prayer and her tools:
2. I take a lot of photos and I’d thought about using some with my prayer pages. I selected several of the people I pray for regularly and printed out a contact sheet. These are about the size of postage stamps. I then cut them out and the first one I experimented with was for my sister who had knee surgery. I had taken a picture of her leg and then I searched my folders for a picture of her and one of her and her husband.
Here is Susan’s picture prayer. Combining a picture with doodling is a great way to pray with children, especially when the children are too young to write names or words on their own.
Last year I read a book called Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by John Medina. One of the twelve rules and twelve chapters in the book is about Sleep. People have all manner of valid and varied sleep patterns. Some are early risers; some are late risers; some are in-between risers. The amount of sleep people need is still not certain. But one thing most scientists agree on is that the “biological drive for an afternoon nap is universal.” (p. 168) Mid-afternoon drowsiness is not just the result of an overload of carbs at lunchtime; it’s a basic human need.
Most of the adults I know don’t have the opportunity for a nap. I have a pseudo-heroic, stoic attitude of plowing through the afternoon drowsiness without benefit of sleep or rest. I’ve only taken about six naps in my entire adulthood. My husband, however, is a master at the twelve-to-twenty-minute nap. He can take one sitting up or lying down. I’ve teased him over the years about his infantile need for a nap; but I have to confess his late afternoon and early evening mood and productivity are way better than mine.
So one of the things I decided to do for Lent was to take a daily nap. Maybe naps would make me a kinder and gentler human being. I’ve been 85% unsuccessful. I have managed only three naps in the first twenty days. But those three naps made a positive difference in both my attitude and my energy. Besides feeling kinder and gentler, I woke up praying. The same thing happens to me most mornings. So if a nap can restore my stamina and serenity plus give me an extra prayer time in the day, maybe I should try it more often. It’s 3:22 PM and I think I’ll try again right now.
Last week in the woods of Idaho, I picked huckleberries. After a tedious, 5-mile, hour-long drive up a bumpy dirt road, friends Kate and Chris, husband Andy, and I arrived at the top of a mountain with empty plastic bags and a taste for huckleberry pie in our mouths and our imaginations. At first it looked like the bears had beaten us to the berries. But after 20 minutes of scrounging we each found bushes laden with dozens of the wild blueberry-like fruit. The picking followed a rhythm–a few in the mouth, a dozen in the plastic bag. I imagined I was in the midst of one of my favorite childhood books, Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey.
We were on vacation without calendars or meetings. On the top of the mountain, there was no opportunity for texting or folding laundry or working. There was only the sunshine, the magnificent view of the glacial lake, the berries, and the spontaneous outbursts of gratitude and praise. I love those serendipitous moments when my body is active and my mind is still, when what happens is a prayer time I could not have planned or arranged.
For two hours of picking time we gathered 8 cups of berries–just enough for two pies. I made the crust, Kate cooked the filling, Andy bought the ice cream, and Chris set the table. With a mountain-top experience and feast at the bottom of the mountain, I could not have asked for a better day. Hallelujah! Thanks be to God.
Below is a prayer drawing I have been using for a couple of weeks. As new prayer concerns came to mind and heart, I added doodles. The act of drawing focuses my prayers and my wandering mind. Every time I look at it, the resulting picture reminds me to pray.
Sometimes when I pray I think I’m being rude to pray over and over again for the same person or about the same issue. When I was a kid, my parents taught me that begging, nagging, and asking for something more than once was impolite.
But there is Biblical precedence for nagging in prayer:
Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, “Grant me justice against my opponent.’For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, “Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’ “ (Luke 18: 1-5 NRSV)
Luke encourages my nagging…or as my friend Claire calls it: “passionate begging.” I think I’ll just call it persistence; it sounds a little more polite.
Drawing: Sybil MacBeth 2010