Longtime Marriage

Sunday was Andy’s and my 46th wedding anniversary. We have been married for 70% of our lives. When we said “I will” to the beautiful and daunting vows in an Episcopal church, Andy was so young his parents had to sign a permission slip for the state of Maryland. “Yes, little Andy has our blessing to go on a lifelong field trip with Sybil.” It was a crazy thing Andy and I did. If we had been older we would have had the sense to be more scared. But we were convinced we were supposed to take this journey together.

I’ve been trying to write a post about our longtime marriage, but everything I write seems sappy or self-righteous. A few phrases and their visual images offer a playful, but succinct summary for me.

MARRIAGE is:
a playground,
a training ground,
a stomping ground
a campground,
a feeding ground,
a breeding ground,
a battleground,
a fairground,
a background,
a foreground,
an underground,
Holy Ground.

But another word that keeps popping up in my brain is community. Marriage is community. Without the myriad number of people in our lives who have encouraged us, chastised us, guided us, loved us, and prayed for us, we would not be together today. As a tight little twosome, we do not have the energy, creativity, or wisdom to weather the changes and challenges of growing up and living with another person. Support and training have come from both likely and unlikely sources. Family, friends, Christians, non-Christians, married people, single people, divorced people, old people, children. Clergy, therapists, authors, colleagues, alcoholics, addicts. “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2 NRSV) For this journey, God has given us teachers and angels with many different faces. Our marriage is not just about the two of us. It is a communal undertaking.

Longtime Mariage Cropped

Calendar Collaboration

As we near the end of the Easter season, I have a last set of Lenten calendars to share. Linda S. and her adult daughter collaborated on Advent calendars back in last December and decided to work together again during Lent. Since they had trouble choosing which Lenten calendar template to use, they decided to use all four! They each only worked on two of the calendars per day and swapped the calendars back and forth on a regular basis. Each calendar was a joint effort.

I love the idea of a prayer collaboration, of passing the calendars back and forth. Sounds like a prayer exercise for a prayer or church group or family. But why wait until next Advent or Lent? Use a simple calendar template for the month and pass it around among the members of your prayer/church group or members of your family.

Here is the explanation for each of their calendars:

  • The hexagon grid was where we prayed for individuals or groups. We were surprised at some of the people we felt compelled to pray for, but did our best not to ignore or judge those impulses.
  • The “path” grid that includes a few dates has words from the lectionary readings. However, we didn’t limit ourselves to the sequence, other than on the few dated shapes. We realize the words aren’t obvious and think in a few weeks even we won’t be able to identify all the words. One reads bottom to top rather than top to bottom and fools us repeatedly. Another, beginning with O, reads from outside to inside.
  •  Our spiral format is “anything goes” and we filled in without regard to sequence.
  • The calendar grid is also “anything goes” with the exception that each individual block has a black line that intersects each of its four borders. The lines don’t always go straight through from top to bottom, or side to side, but it is entertaining to follow them.

Linda--Lent Collage 1 resized

Linda--Lent Collage 2 resized

Expectancy, Not Expectation in Prayer

When I began praying in color, I did it out of desperation. I was praying for almost a dozen people  in my life with terrible cancers and I was left wordless in prayer. Doodling, sitting dumbstruck, and just releasing my friends into God’s care were the only things I could do. After a dozen years of praying this way and with a retrospective eye, I see this way of praying as “being expectant” rather than “having expectations.”

Prayer, for me, has often meant a list of specific requests and the expectation of specific results: “Heal John.” “Make my kids do what I think they should do.” “Make me a nice person.” “Tell me exactly where to live and what to do with my life.” My prayers for healing and direction will be answered. Isn’t that the promise? “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7 (NIV) I don’t always–maybe not even often–get the direct, specific response I want.

Advent, my favorite season of the year, has taught me to be “expectant” rather than to have “expectations.” Though the roots of the words are the same, the first feels like an attitude of wide-eyed openness and humility rather than a sense of entitlement and arrogance that the second implies. “An expectation is a premeditated resentment” says the daily reader The Courage to Change on p.153. If I “expect” to get what I want, I may not just be bitterly disappointed, but also resentful. And when I expect specific results in prayer and don’t get what I ask, I resent God and sometimes even conclude that God does not exist. “Expectancy” helps me to honor the possibilities beyond my wants and my imagination. It bows before the wisdom and creativity of a Power way bigger than my puny, often self-focused mindset.

So when I doodle in prayer I try to let go of my expectations and trust God. “Here’s what I think I want, God; now it’s yours.” God knows the real needs and has marvelous things in mind for my friends and for me. “Healing always takes place,” says my priest friend Merry. “It just may look and feel different than we ever imagined.”

Expectancy resized

Praying the Scripture with Doodles/Drawings–Holy Week

For Holy Week I created a circle-a-day template to house a-word-a day from the daily Gospel readings from Palm Sunday through Holy Saturday. I suggested writing a three-sentence story to summarize the gleanings from the words. This idea can be used for any daily readings from Scripture, not just for special liturgical events.

Here are two examples from Holy Week:

The first is from Debbie Detten Huff. She describes her intent: “As I committed to walking the Holy Week’s readings and praying with them, I found that the words that
were shimmering for me were the ones that pointed to first Jesus’ love and patience for those around him and then the love shown to him. About mid-week, the phrases “where is the love?” and Mister Rogers’ “Look for the helpers” (when there is so much tragedy around that it can be overwhelming) became welcomed companions as I read these difficult readings.
Holy Week Debbie Detten Huff Resized

At the end of the week Debbie wrote her story:
“When troubled and wondering “where is the love?,” remain near, tethered to the one who cares deeply for you. Like a shepherd who tends his beloved sheep, he will wash your weary body, and raise and soothe your tired spirit. Follow him. . . he can be trusted.” 
Thank you, Debbie.

For my template I chose a word each day and first brainstormed about the word. Then I doodled, listened, and wrote other words that came to me. My words were a combination of strong verbs and visual nouns.

Holy Week 2015 Lectio Divina Resized

 

“Untie your hair and anoint the feet of the Holy One with perfume. He in turn serves you as a slave, washing and drying your feet with a towel. For this surprising humility and seeming weakness, we betray, mock, and crucify Him, unaware that no stone can contain or repress the power of this radical, unexpected God.”

 

 

Lenten Calendars 4

From Debbie Huff “Here’s my Lenten Butterfly Spiral intent:  Making a butterfly a day felt like it might be a wonderful way for me to come in thru the Lenten back door, with an eye towards Hope. So that’s what I did.”

Thanks to everyone who shared their calendars.

Debbei Detten Huff Collage Resized

 

 

Lenten Calendars 3

Two more Lenten Calendars:

Gwyn Varozza says, “I’ve struggled to believe that I’m included in what God says that we
are…so I decided to pray about what I thought God was telling me I
am…even if I don’t feel like I am.”

Gwyn Varozza Lent 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Catherine Windsor:  “As a hospice chaplain, I find that doing this Lenten practice was a journey to quietness and stillness, creativity and language [I love words], prayer and contemplation.”

Catherine Windsor

 

Lenten Calendars 2

Here are several Lenten calendars in the spiral format.

Lent Spiral Susanne Hukari 2015 resized

 

 

Susi Hukari created this calendar.
“To my Lenten reading, all I did was like you said- going here and there. Mainly I added to the calendar what was important to me for the day’s reading or what was happening.”

 

 

 

 

 

Martin Boardman15-04-04 lent Resized

 

 

Martin Boardman used the spiral as part of his Lenten blogging. “I was reading through the gospel of Luke. Each day from the reading I would choose a word from the text of the main theme of the text and would add it to the spiral. I added the Lords prayer around the outside because it just seemed to fit.”

 

 

 

Connie D's Spiral Calendar Lent 2015 resized.jpeg.crdownload

 

 

 

Connie Denninger prayed for people each day during Lent.

Lenten Calendars 1

I have had the privilege of seeing some of the calendars people filled in for their Lenten discipline. For the next few weeks during Easter I will post some of the calendars with a sentence or two about the pray-er/doodler’s intent.

Thanks again to Hilary Ann Golden for sharing her blank spiral template for us to use. It was a wonderful way to take the journey through Lent.

The two calendars below were a daily response by Connie Denninger and Pat Maier to the Lenten devotional called 40 Things to Give Up for Lent and Beyond by Lutheran pastor Rev. Phil Ressler.

40 Things to Give Up for Lent Resized

Good Friday Prayers

My Good Friday prayers were for friends and the people who love them and stand with them as they struggle. As I was doodling/praying, I remembered one of the first Christian pop songs I ever heard back in the 1970’s called “Lay Your Burden Down” by Chuck Girard. The first verse was:
“Lay your burden down, lay your burden down
Take your troubled soul, your tired mind
And lay your burden down
Lay your burden down, get your feet on solid ground
Take your worries to the foot of the cross, and lay your burden down.”

Good Friday Prayers Resized 2015