Here is the calendar of the Music Department at the Community of Jesus on Cape Cod. Band members and singers, adults and children made their contributions to the calendar. I like the idea of taking turns and watching the calendar grow with the prayers and drawings of a group.
Today is the 80th birthday of Phyllis Tickle. She is one of my best friends; I am one of Phyllis’s 3500 best friends. I first met Phyllis at a Christian Education conference at Shrine Mont (a restored late 19th century summer resort, now Episcopal conference center) in Orkney Springs, Virginia. It was July 2001, two months before the fall of the World Trade Centers. Phyllis was the keynoter of a conference called “Spirituality in the 21st Century.” At 67, she was tall, elegant, white-haired, feisty, smarter than almost anyone I had ever met at any age, and a devout Christian. At 80, she is still all of those things.
Phyllis describes herself as a “religionist.” A religionist is someone who studies and observes the trends and changes in the patterns of religions. Since religious trends and changes do not happen in a vacuum, Phyllis also knows about history, sociology, science, physics, and spirituality. The stories and knowledge she can share about these fields go back to about 4 CE. Her books number somewhere around fifty.
As much as I admire Phyllis’s brain and her knowledge and her ability to communicate to a large roomful of believers and skeptics, what I really love about Phyllis is her openness to people. She welcomes strangers and listens to their stories. When I moved to Memphis ten years ago, she invited me to lunch at an old Memphis “ladies” institution. We got to know each other over greens and tea sandwiches. I showed her my notebooks of doodled prayers. She said, “You’re going to write a book about this.” I said, “Yes, m’am” and did.
Phyllis mothered me through the process of writing a first book. She became my doula. A doula is a person who mothers a mother through pregnancy and childbirth. I was honored to write about this relationship in a book dedicated to Phyllis called Phyllis Tickle: Evangelist of the Future, edited by Tony Jones and published by Paraclete Press. The book is a Festschrift, a “celebratory piece of writing” that honors a person’s achievements while the person is still alive. In this book, a dozen people highlight various aspects of Phyllis’s long and ongoing career. My chapter is called: Mothering an Author Through the Birth of a Book: Phyllis Tickle as Doula. Paraclete will offer this book at 40% off for Phyllis’s birthday weekend.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, PHYLLIS. Thank you for the many gifts you have given me and others. I am honored to call you mentor, doula, and friend.
Watch over thy child, Phyllis, O Lord, as her days increase; bless and guide her wherever he may be. Strengthen her when she stands; comfort her when discouraged or sorrowful; raise
her up if she fall; and in her heart may thy peace which passeth understanding abide all the days of her life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, p. 830)
I have added a new page to my website called Handouts. On it are two different calendar templates for Lent this year as shown below. One is a regular box calendar format. The other is a starburst. (or crown of thorns) On my starburst calendar I drew arrows from one date to the next. You can click on the word Handouts above to access the calendar you want, not on the pictures below. Please pass along the link to friends who may be interested.
I plan to go to a copy store and blow up the size of mine to fit on an 11″ x 17″ piece of card stock. (129%)
May you have a Holy Lent.
Writing, writing, writing for the past two months…. A manuscript was due at the publisher six days ago. It’s getting there. (Do not panic, dear editor.) If the finished book will change my erratic blog-posting behavior, I do not know. March or April will tell.
Two practices continue to inform and enhance my life. I was going to say my “spiritual” life. Separating my “regular” life and my “spiritual” life is an unhelpful split. One day maybe the two will be one.
The two things I have learned are two practices:
1) Staying in bed for five or ten minutes when I wake up. Unconscious and conscious thoughts meet there. Prayers pop up. Answers to yesterdays dilemmas (or take-home math tests in the past) are there. Creative solutions to my writing problems surface. The soliloquy of my emerging nighttime self has things to tell me. I need to listen.
2) Writing three pages in my marble notebook before I do anything else. Even before I pray. (Okay, while the coffee is brewing.) I write anything that comes to mind. Some of those things might be events from the day before. More often they are ramblings, brainstorms, thoughts captured from the 5-minute lie-in before my feet hit the floor. I do this every day, even under the looming, finger-shaking February 1 deadline. The things I need to pray about are in the pages . Ideas for my present book and for a new one are in the pages. Complaints about writing the three pages are in the pages. Feelings I didn’t know I had are in the pages.
If my husband Andy is awake, he knows not to speak to me during this 20-25-minute exercise. It’s to his benefit. I am nicer and saner after I write, as if I’ve been to a Zumba® class or taken a long walk. As if I had my clogged brain cleaned out and plunged free. Writing this way is a spiritual exercise. Fifteen+ years after Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way told me to write three pages every day, I still do. She calls them the Morning Pages. I call them a goldmine.
Advent 2013 Finished Calendar– Posted only 6 weeks late!
I am an “Advent Fanatic” or “Advent Extremist” or “Advent Fundamentalist” or “Advent ____.” I’m trying to find the right word to fill in the blank. Yesterday a friend proposed “Advent Advocate.” I like the alliteration, but it feels less hardcore than I am. I really want Advent to have its almost four-week due. Then let Christmas and Epiphany have another two or more weeks. Maybe, it turns out, “Advent Grouch” is a more apt word for me. Anyway, I’m still waiting for the perfect word duo to express my resolute devotion to a real time of preparation and waiting before Christmas. (without being a cranky old lady about it)
I discovered I’m not the only pre-Christmas, purple-light person in the neighborhood. There is a magnificent light-covered tree about a half-mile from me. I haven’t knocked on the owner’s door yet to ask if they are making an Advent statement or if they just like purple. To me the tree says, “It’s Advent!, Prepare the way of the Lord.”
The picture on the left is our porch; the fabulous tree is on the right.
Here is the first half of my Advent calendar. This year I decided to pray for people and places. For the past couple of years I’ve been pondering and praying Advent words: wait, hope, anticipate, darkness, prepare, light….
My email and praying in color dynamo and friend, Lynne M, sent me yet another wonderful way to share prayers. She has been praying for a young man named Tyler with cancer. She drew a black and white prayer template and then colored it. Then she suggested that family and friends print out their own copies of the template, color them, and send them to Tyler with personal prayers and messages. The last I heard, Tyler’s refrigerator had started to fill up with these beautiful prayers. Maybe this is a kind of prayer flash mob. What a great way to shower someone with Christ’s love and care from far and near.
Below are the uncolored template and Lynne’s colored prayers. The first of Lynne’s prayers looks like a peacock. She says the peacock can be a symbol of God’s radiating love for protection or a symbol for fierce fighting for one’s health. In the second drawing, Lynne saw flames and imagined the flames burning away the cancer.
Any blank surface can become a place for prayers.
“The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.” (Isaiah 58:11 NRSV)
P.S. This is not ME! I saw a woman at Virginia Theological Seminary and asked if I could take a picture. She said she also combines Prayer, Play, and Art.
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.
I like using nature, geometry, architecture, everyday objects,…whatever is in view as templates for my prayers. The only problem is my inability to draw what I see. I modeled the prayer below from the rose windows at the Archabbey Church at St. Meinrad in Indiana. I taped an 18″ x 24″ piece of paper on the wall of my room and proceeded to draw. What emerged looked more like a mutant dragonfly. I’m a little embarrassed by my below average skills in art realism. But, “Hey,” I remind myself, “this is not about art; it’s about prayer. Go with the mutant dragonfly.” So I let it be.
My artist friends tell me that drawing is more about seeing than the skill of the hand. There’s probably a lesson for me about looking and watching with more care.
Here is the dragonfly prayer and a real rose window.