Jacob wept. Esau wept. Joseph wept. Rachel wept. Esther wept. Peter wept. Mary wept. Jesus wept. Tears are everywhere–even in the eyes of the Bible’s biggest stars. When I drew this prayer I noticed the shapes were a bunch of big tear drops. The people I’m praying for are dealing with some tough issues—fear, illness, pain, and sorrow. But I also realize this: these are people who are basically full of joy. Tears and laughter often exist together in the same instant. We can multitask joy and sorrow at the same time. Joy and sorrow let me know I’m alive and experiencing the full range of human emotion–maybe even divine emotion.
The colored markers I took on my Santa Fe vacation turned out to be almost exactly the same colors as the landscape in the region. Maybe there was some Southwestern painter floating around my mind when I packed. Santa Fe is so beautiful I wanted to use the local colors and the geography to shape my prayer drawings. I’m not an artist, so usually when I try to pray with images of real life objects it destroys my attitude of prayer. My inner art critic goes into hyper-judgment mode. This time I warned her ahead of time to keep her mouth shut.
From an artistic perspective the results were pretty puny. A friend asked me what the tepees were for; the tepees were really mountains. I did, however, manage to pray for the people in the drawing without too much distraction or self-loathing. The shapes and colors stuck in my mind and reminded me to pray.
In general, I’m better off using the simple strokes of abstract doodles. Doodling keeps me in the now without focusing on the “success” of the end result. If you are an artist who can really draw mountains (or even if you just want to draw mountains), please feel free. Draw whatever tames your wandering mind or helps you to focus on God in prayer. Lines, arcs, dots, triangles, zigzags…seem to work best for me.
Our closest child lives about 750 miles from us. This is not my ideal family geography. When I’m missing my sons, I call or text them. When I can’t do that, I pray for them. The prayer below felt like a virtual family reunion. I drew and imagined all of us sitting together in a room surrounded by God’s love and presence.
Happy Cinco de Mayo–the 5th of May! Cinco de Mayo honors the 1862 victory of a small Mexican militia over a larger advancing French army in the town of Puebla. Throughout the U.S. Cinco de Mayo celebrates Mexican heritage and culture with yummy food and festive music. Any excuse for salsa, guacamole, and chips is my kind of party!
Today seems like an appropriate day to announce the arrival of the latest version of Praying in Color. It is now available in Spanish as Rezando en Colores through Paraclete Press and all of the other popular online vendors.
So ¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo! Que Dios te bendiga.
If you are looking for a Lenten discipline, consider using a daily calendar template for the forty days. It’s a simple, not very time-consuming discipline. Here are some ideas for ways to use the calendar:
• Pray for a person each day.
• Pray or meditate on a word of Scripture or a spiritual/religious word: peace, salvation, joy, Jesus, redeem, love….
• Pray a short phrase of Scripture: “My cup runneth over,” “Surely, it is God who saves me,”…..
• Meditate on “things done and things left undone.”—a confessional calendar
• Make a gratitude calendar.
I like to print the template and blow it up to fit a piece of 11×17 card stock–129% works well. Click for an 8 1/2 x 11 calendar template to download. The calendar has 46 days on it. (Sundays do not officially count as days of Lent or fasting but as days of celebration. For me it’s easier just to stay with the program of whatever discipline I choose for the whole 46 days.)
People say prayers anytime, anywhere–in the car, on the basketball court, under the bed, during a test, in dreams…. There’s probably no time, circumstance, or place where prayers are not offered. With my drawn prayers, I now see any piece of paper as a invitation for a moment with God. No napkin, newspaper, or notebook is safe from a spontaneous opportunity for prayer. Here is a pencil prayer from 35,000 feet in the middle of a Sudoku page.
(Sudoku torn from my Puzzler.com 252 Puzzles June/July 2008)
A friend who uses Praying in Color in her prayers wrote me with a comment and question, “I seem to have the same artistic pattern of circles & squiggles. How do I break the mold…?” I have the same feeling sometimes. My drawings always seem to have amoebas, lines, dots, and polka dots. So here was my suggestion to her and to myself. If you’re in a drawing rut, maybe it will give you ideas:
Decide ahead of time what shapes you’ll use. For example, “Today I’ll only draw squares, lines, triangles, and dots.” You could write all different kinds of shapes and strokes on little pieces of paper, put them in a basket, and choose 3 or 4. My vocabulary of drawing expands by using shapes I don’t normally draw. The limitation to only three or four choices of shapes and strokes frees me to pray without too much concentration on the drawing.
I used to teach pre-ballet to 5-7 year olds. If I put on music and asked the children to do anything they wanted, they were often stymied and did the same thing over and over. If I said, “Pretend you are in a small square. You have to have one hand on the floor at all times. See what you can do.” The limited instructions set them free to move in new and creative ways.
Here is my prayer with only rectangles, lines, and triangles. Using only three shapes did not feel like a boundary on creativity, but an invitation into a new vocabulary.
My friend Cindy gave me permission to doodle many years ago. Without her encouragement, I never would have had the nerve to draw. Cindy and I enjoy making Advent calendars. Here is the first two weeks of hers this year. To see Cindy’s entire calendar, go to her website Mostly Markers. I really like the words of hope and promise she includes each day. The whole calendar looks like a patchwork quilt anticipating the birth of Jesus. Since today is only the 6th day of Christmas, I will look at our Advent calendars and continue the celebration of Jesus’s birth for the rest of the twelve days of Christmas.
Cindy also has a ministry of making greeting cards for men and women in the military. The project of creating these handmade cards is called Operation Write Home. The cards encourage people who are deployed to write to friends and loved ones. Check out the cards she has made.