“For the Beauty of the Earth, Sing, Oh Sing Today
Of the Skies and of our birth, Sing, Oh Sing, always.
Nature, Human and Divine, all around us lies,
Lord of All to Thee we raise grateful hymns of praise.”
These simple and beautiful words are from the “Canticle of Brother Sun” from the Missa Gaia by Jim Scott and Paul Winter (Litchfield, CT, Living Music Records, 1982). This is one of my favorite thanksgiving songs.
This year’s turkey is a gratitude journal of all of the things I am grateful for from this unique year in Colorado. As I wrote, drew, and prayed, more and more things kept coming to me. It was as if gratitude was an exponential function. First I was grateful for one thing, then two more, then four more, then eight more, then sixteen more, then thirty-two more…. Lest you think I am a pious pollyanna who reeks of gratitude, be not deceived. I am a grateful person, but I am equally an ungrateful, cranky, and cynical person. Maybe I should do this visual gratitude list more often. I could think of so few things for which I was ungrateful. But I notice how much space and energy those few things can take up in my mind and life.
If you want to try your hand at filling in the blank Gratitude Gobbler, here are the two versions: .jpg OR .pdf. Just remember to download first, then print.
Happy Thanksgiving and God’s Peace.
“Let us come before God with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.” (Psalm 95:2 NIV)
Here is a template to use for a Thanksgiving prayer. In the spaces within the turkey and on the sides of the page, write your “gratitude list.” (Or if you are feeling grumpy, throw in your grievances as well) In the center of the turkey I usually write my name for God: “Loving God, Gracious God, Holy One….” Sing or hum or recite the above Psalm as you write and color.
If this gratitude gobbler is a little too goofy for you, trace around your hand to make your own template. If I could have drawn a beautiful cornucopia of autumn vegetables as a template I would have. (not in my skill set) A Blessed Thanksgiving to all.
Download first choosing the .pdf or.jpg version below the template. Then print. Feel free to make copies.
.jpg or .pdf
Below are two examples of gratitude turkeys from previous years.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken us? Why are you so far from saving us, so far from the words of our groaning?* These are some of the few words I can find right now. I know that the terrorism in France is not about God forsaking us. But like the Psalmist did, throwing those words at God keeps the pathways open. God can handle it.
My prayer below is a release of feelings. The words are mostly about my fear and powerlessness with a smattering of love and hope thrown in. As someone who lives in her head, it’s important for me to pay attention to my heart and gut and quit the constant analysis. I think it was Richard Rohr who said, “What gets buried gets buried alive.”
*Variation on Psalm 22:1 NIV
Many of my friends and family members have been moaning and groaning about the disappearance of the warmth and beauty of summer and the emergence of the colder, darker days of autumn and winter. I confess; I am a winter person. Maybe it’s because I romanticize the cold and the dark. Sitting by the fire, eating by candlelight, and snuggling under a heavy quilt are alluring scenarios. I forget about the nuisance and difficulty of shoveling the driveway, sliding around in the car on icy streets, shivering through layers of heavy clothing, and stuffing screaming toddlers into snowsuits and boots. But in spite of these inconveniences and the bone-chilling temperatures, I remember Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany–my favorite seasons of the year–and I become even more of a fan of autumn and winter. Paradox is what I really love about this time of the year: comfort in the cold, hope in the despair, light in the dark….
So here is a template/coloring page of leaves. You can do whatever you want with it, but I used it to offer up to God both my gratitudes and my gripes about autumn and winter. Some of the things written in the leaves have the infamous status of fitting into both categories.
Click for the .jpg OR .pdf of the template. Download the template first, then print.
In a recent Facebook discussion someone said, “There is too much emphasis on making pretty prayers.” I agree. Now that I have doodled for a few decades, my prayer drawings sometimes look decent, maybe even pretty. It’s easy for their appearance to become a priority, to feel like my prayers should be an art project and always look good. But that misses the point. For me the point of praying in color is to create a prayer time and a visual prayer list. If a prayer is ugly, maybe that will implant the prayer in my mind even better than a nicely executed, appealing one.
Maybe it is important to draw sloppy visual prayers in the same way that it is important to pray sloppy, inarticulate verbal prayers. The point is to pray–beautiful or ugly, articulate or blathering wherever and whenever. I believe God receives all of our prayers, without judgment, without giving us a grade.
If you’re tempted to only keep your pretty prayers, commit to praying a few ugly ones. Choose colors that clash or ones you do not like. Use an uncomfortable name for God. Draw on a paper napkin, a paper towel, or the back of an old envelope.
Now I have showed you some of my ugly little prayers, please show me yours.
On Friday I left Colorado for the first day of a marathon road/air trip: seven cities in twenty-six days. The trip includes a retreat, several workshops, and multiple visits with friends and family. Though some of it is work, I hope all of it will be pleasure.
When I travel I carry markers, pens, a clipboard, paper, and a 6-inch x 6-inch hardback sketchbook. The square sketchbook is perfect for airport and airplane prayers. Here is a prayer I drew on the plane from Denver to San Antonio.. Because it is in tangible form on real paper, it becomes a visual prayer list and a reminder for me to keep praying for the people in the drawing.
In contrast to the smallness of the sketchpad prayer, the large easel pads I use during workshops provide a space of 30 inches x 27 inches. So much space can be intimidating except for the way I often use it. In the prayer below (with the same people as the small prayer above), I use only two shapes and use two colors. This gets me out of the “too-many choices” and “art-project” mode and lets me focus on the people I’m praying for. After I drew the initial shape for God and the arms extending outward, I drew only lines and arcs. As a non-artist, limiting my stroke choices was liberating and not constricting.
Workshop: Christ Church in Greenwich, CT will host two Praying in Color Workshops® on October 24th and 25th. For more information click here. Please Share this with people in the CT and NY areas who might be interested. Thanks.
Paraclete Press, the publisher of all of my books (except for the famous Algebra 1 Printed Test Bank and Instructor’s Resource Guide I wrote in 2005 for Addison-Wesley ), has just released three coloring books. They were created in-house by artists at Paraclete. I was lucky enough to see them before they went to press and to write an introduction and blurb for each.
Here is what I wrote for the introductory page of each:
“Sometimes coloring is just coloring. To put crayons to paper and create a rainbow of marks and swaths is relaxing, playful, and maybe even artistically satisfying. But sometimes coloring is more. To put colored crayons, markers, or pencils to paper is to create a pathway to the numinous. Coloring invites the body and the senses into an experience of inner stillness. While the hand moves, the mind and the body slow down. The heart and the ears open carving a space for a time of rich silence and an opportunity for God to speak.”
I have mistakenly assumed that everyone can or likes to doodle. “If my ‘C-minus-in-Art’ self can doodle, then anyone can,” I thought. This might be true, but not everyone wants to doodle. Coloring books allow people to express themselves visually and colorfully without dealing with the “I can’t draw” or even “I can’t doodle” voice.
The three new coloring books are a special addition to the coloring book market. I like the size (7″x8.5″), the format, the simple but beautiful designs, the spiritual content and the layout. There is space for my notes or thoughts. I can even add some of my own doodles if I want.
Here are some sample pages from Words of Faith and Celtic Blessings.
Paraclete did not ask me to write this blog. I just like these coloring books. And I know that the designers and production staff prayed and loved them into existence. You can purchase these books from all of the usual booksellers and the publisher.
Phyllis Tickle–author, religionist, scholar, Christian, mother, wife, and friend– died on Tuesday, September 22. As one of Phyllis Tickle’s 1500 (or maybe even 15,000) best friends I have unique experiences and stories to share–as do all of her other 14,999 close friends. She loved both lavishly and deeply and personally. So here are a few teasers from my treasure chest of Phyllis stories. The format I’ll use is:
“I could tell you about ______________, but I won’t.” *
- I could tell you about emailing Phyllis to tell her about our potential move to Memphis in 2004 and her generous three-page response with the history of the city… but I won’t.
- I could tell you about how I showed my notebook of doodled prayers to Phyllis at our first lunch together in Memphis and she said, “You’re going to write a book.”
- I could tell you about not having had a mentor at age 15 or 25 or 35…or until 55 when Phyllis became one for me.
- I could tell you about how Phyllis mothered me through the process of writing Praying in Color.
- I could tell you about the instructions she gave me to get rid of the Imposter Syndrome when I felt like a loser and thought I had no business writing a book.
- I could tell you about my husband Andy and me going to the Farm at Lucy (her home) for 4:30pm dinners so she could be in bed by 7pm.
- I could tell you about how her husband Sam kicked her out of the kitchen when he retired saying, “I never liked your cooking anyway,” and cooked the meals from then on.
- I could tell you about eating Sam’s weird concoctions of squash and tomatoes and okra from their garden on the Farm.
- I could tell you about the hundreds of books on the shelves in Lucy that have dedications and acknowledgments to Phyllis Tickle written in them.
- I could tell you about how every time I look at my dining room table I picture Phyllis and Sam seated there for a dozen Christmas, Easter, and Birthday dinners.
- I could tell you about substituting portobello mushrooms for ground lamb in a classic moussaka recipe so vegetarian Phyllis could eat it.
- I could tell you about how she would read any manuscript sent to her and respond to every email and text.
- I could tell you about our visit with Phyllis in late April at the Farm and the strawberries, glasses of sparkling water and wine, and goodbye kisses that (unknown to us at the time) would be our last ones with her.
- I could tell you about how she emailed Andy and me the following day to say she hadn’t wanted to ruin our visit with the news that she had only four months to live.
- I could tell you about our shock at the news because she looked so vital and radiant when we saw her.
- I could tell you about a woman who was unafraid to die because she had done that in her 20’s and had seen the Light.
- I could tell you about the first ever unanswered text and prayer I sent to Phyllis on September 19.
- I could tell you about how infinitely grateful I am that she shared herself and her wisdom with so many of us in her four-score and one years.
- I could tell you about how different my life would be without Phyllis Tickle in it.
- I could tell you about how I am less afraid to die knowing that Sam and Phyllis have preceded me into the Kingdom of Heaven… but I won’t.
* For about 15 years I have been an InterPlayer. InterPlay, founded by Cynthia Winton-Henry and Phil Porter, is a set of playful practices and structures/forms that build community and reunite us with the wisdom of our bodies and our stories. One of those forms is called “I could tell you about…but I won’t.” It’s a great way to tell a story or relay information and not bore the listener with too many details.
My paisley prayer has been growing. Instead of finishing the prayer in one sitting, I have been adding names over the course of a couple of weeks. Adding a new color reminds me of when I started praying for certain people. At the same time, I can pray for the original people on the prayer all over again–with words in my mind and mouth, with words written near the names, with added strokes and marks, or just with the release of the person into God’s care.
Here are a couple of upcoming Praying in Color Workshops® and Retreats. If you know anyone near these cities, please pass on this information. Thanks.
1) October 9-11, 2015: A weekend Prayer Retreat at Mo-Ranch in Hunt, TX: Praying in Color: Doodling and Coloring as a Pathway to God
More details later on these events, but Save the Date:
2) October 24-25, 2015 Two Praying in Color Workshops® , Christ Church Greenwich, CT
3) November 7, 2015: Praying in Color Workshop®/Pre-Advent Retreat, American Lutheran Church in Grand Junction, CO.
4) November 20-21, 2015: Praying in Color Workshop®/Pre-Advent Retreat, Christ Church Cathedral, Indianapolis, IN.
In a recent comment to a blog post, someone suggested using paisley shapes for prayers. When I was a teenager I sewed several blouses and dresses with paisley designs on them. They were deep teal and dark red fabrics. I loved the basic tear-droppish shape and the intricate patterns inside of them. I’ve been drawing paisley shapes for the past week with varied success and many variations on a theme. Below is a sheet of paisley shapes.
What I notice about the page is the large paisley in the middle and the smaller versions all around it. The smaller ones look like swaddled babies. And I like the idea. So here is an idea or suggestion: Use this page as a framework for intercessory prayer. Write the name you call God in the large paisley. As you color the shape and maybe even add more lines and dots, ask God to be part of this prayer time–ask with or without words. Then imagine the other smaller shapes as children and images of God, each swaddled in God’s love and care. Write the name of someone you are praying for in each shape. Think of each person as “made in the image and likeness of God.” Pray for them with words, with swaths of color, and with silence. If words come to you, pray them. If words do not come, know that you are still praying for them. Maybe even write words or hopes for the person near the shape. After praying for each person, say an “Amen” or other words of letting go.
The prayer doesn’t have to be completed in one sitting. Add names as you think of them during the day or week. Revisit the people you have already prayed for. Place the page in a place where you see it. Let it be a reminder to you to pray for each person again.
Below is my partially finished prayer and a template. You can download the uncolored page as a .pdf or .jpg. Remember to download first, then print.
pdf or jpg