Coloring Books in Cutting Edge Adult Spirituality

colorBy Joe LaGuardia

Every Wednesday at Trinity, an intergenerational group uses the church’s art studio at the church to paint, sketch, play card games, and fellowship.  I visit every now and then, sometimes joining in the fun or crafting a bulletin for a special service.

One time, however, I was caught off guard.  When I arrived, I did not see anyone painting or drawing or talking.  Rather, people were coloring pre-printed pages from a coloring book.  These were no mere children, and the pages were not from a coloring book intended for young audiences.

The coloring pages consisted of elaborate designs and wildflowers.  One lady–an octogenarian whose original artwork adorns Trinity’s hallways–was coloring one such page of a floral design.

I always enjoyed coloring with my children, and the fresh smell of new crayons and feel of a new coloring book always brings back childhood memories.  This, however, was a craft entirely intended for adults.  It was more than art or recreation, the group colored for the sake of worship.

Trinity is not alone in offering this type of artwork; in fact, several articles published in the last year–one from Baptist News Global and another from Religion News Service–outline a new movement in creative churches that utilize coloring books in its liturgy and special services.

Leslie Miller quoted well-known Episcopal priest, author, and spiritual director Lauren Winner in Winner’s declaration that coloring (or, “prayer by color”) has been a significant spiritual discipline in her life.

The medical community is finding the act of coloring to have both spiritual and therapeutic benefits. Cathy Malchiodi, writing for Psychology Today, claims that coloring is reminiscent of the Tibetan practice of mandala art and ancient disciplines that incorporate the fine arts, liturgical movement, meditation, and centering prayer.

It taps into a basic spiritual longing that connects people across cultures and time–from those who value iconography in the Christian cathedrals to our earliest ancestors who drew crude sketches in the caves of France and Africa concerning battles against the elements and wild beasts.

The discipline of coloring also crosses generational lines.   Ministries similar to Trinity’s provide safe spaces for older members and children of a church alike to express themselves without fear of “staying in the lines” that make too many worship services formal.  (How many of us spent time doodling on tithe envelopes in the pews during service as kids anyway?)

Coloring benefits older saints by improving concentration, decreasing anxiety, and mimicking the effects of meditation, according to Priscilla Frank writing for the Huffington Post.  It benefits children in helping them feel included in an otherwise esoteric service largely intended for adult audiences.

As anything else in the Christian community, coloring will have its critics.  Controversy surrounding the place of fine arts in church is nothing new for Christians; and, like the iconoclasts of yesteryear, many will claim that coloring strange patterns in general and mandalas in particular will have an adverse–even satanic–impact on the Christian mind.

For others, it will invoke adolescence and will be too juvenile to incorporate into any “serious” worship service in which the soul should focus on God, the heart on worship, and the ear on the proclamation of God’s Word.

My guess is that the groups who utilize coloring as a way of prayer and worship will be in the minority, but will greatly benefit from it.  And for churches searching for creative ways to engage young and old alike, it may provide an activity that brings people together, opens up informal times for the sharing of testimonies, and affirms churches as adventurous, artistic sacred spaces in local communities where resources for art have all but dried up.

At Trinity, my hope is that the arts will continue to play a central role in the life of the congregation, not to detract from the traditional worship experiences for which the church is known, but to broaden the mission and ministry of a God who is our Creator creating still.

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Daylily reminds us to rejoice in the day the Lord has made

Wild Daylily HEMEROCALLIS FULVA

Wild Daylily
HEMEROCALLIS FULVA

By Orrin Morris

Charles Dickens penned a famous first line that states, “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.”   That is the way I look at our current situation — locally, nationally and internationally.

There are many good things happening all about us and around the world.  At the same time, there are some terrible things occurring.  We make a serious mistake if we focus on one to the exclusion of the other.

A verse in Psalm 118 has been a guide for me from the time I memorized it in Sunday School over 70 years ago:

This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it” (v. 24).

This is not a Pollyanna response, but a challenge to accept the fact that God gives life.  If God wanted me to live in another era, He would have so chosen.  Thus, I view “this day” as His affirmation that my uniqueness is needed now to make a difference.  Since I am His adopted child by grace, I have tasks to perform that should benefit those with whom I have a relationship.

Make this verse a buffer against being overwhelmed by the evil that surrounds us, because, “This is the day which the Lord has made…”  And, speaking of “days,” let us examine the common daylily.

The wild daylily, often called the orange daylily, is the lazy gardener’s best friend. These flowers range from 2 to 6 feet tall and require very little attention. They adapt to their surroundings, wherever there is water, and grow at an exponential rate every year.

The wild daylily is a hybrid from Eurasian species.  It does not produce seeds, as do other species of the lily family.  Instead, it spreads from the tough rootstocks.  When the rootstock must be divided, a hatchet or limb saw is needed.  They are unlike the bulbs or corms of the other lilies that are more easily divided by hand.

Another difference within the lily family is the way it blooms on a single leafless stalk.  Stalks of other lilies have various configurations of leaves: in whorls (Turk’s-cap lily), opposites (tiger lily) and triplets (most trilliums).  The leaves of the daylily are long and sword-like, rising from the base of the stalk.

A third difference is that the wild daylily bloom is short-lived.  It blooms from May to July, but may grow earlier or later depending on the season.  The rusty-orange bloom is trumpet-shaped and generally has six petals.

A daylily’s habitat includes fields and waste places. There are large clusters of daylilies throughout Rockdale County, and clusters usually indicate the site of a former homestead.

Just as a daylily finds a home wherever it grows, find a home in God today.  This day is yours, so rejoice that God has counted you worthy to serve Him in it.

Rabbit’s Clover reflects God’s Intimacy

Rabbit's Foot Clover Trifolium arvense

Rabbit’s Foot Clover
Trifolium arvense

By Orrin Morris

In chapter 16 of Matthew’s Gospel, we have an account of Jesus asking His disciples for input on who they thought the general public perceived him to be. They responded by naming John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.

He then turned to them and asked, “But who do you say that I am?”

Peter, being the oldest, responded, “Thou art the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him “Blessed are you because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” Then He added, “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock (the confession) I will build My church; and the gates of Hell shall not overpower it” (vv 13-18).

Churches within God’s Kingdom come in all sizes and varieties. None are perfect but all are committed to proclaiming the good news of God’s love and redemption made possible through the Easter message. Empowered by God’s Spirit, the true believer strives to live the kind of life exemplified by His Son.

Generally, I have been part of a small church (attendance under 200) where most members know each other, pray daily for those with special needs, makes visits to comfort and support one another. Such a congregation meets a personal need that some of you might call the “warm and fuzzies.” I like that kind of a sense of belonging. I guess that is why I like the wildflower for today, a warm and fuzzy wildflower, the Rabbit’s Foot Clover.

Rabbit’s foot clover is one of the most delicate of the several varieties of clover. It is small and the light lavender and pink of the blooms gives the appearance of a gray or even a dead weed. Thus, it is easily overlooked. In fact, it is likely that not many of you have even stopped to take a close look.

Rabbit’s foot clover is so abundant and prolific in the spring that no damage to the species will occur if you pulled up a handful of the plants to make a careful inspection. Here is what to look for.

The leaves are three-part like most clovers, however, rabbit’s foot clover leaves are narrow rather than the broad spoon-shaped leaflets of the other clovers. Most of those leaves are found at the axil where branching occurs. Note also that the stem and branches are covered with soft hair.

At the tops of the stems and branches are the flowers. Technically, this is a fuzzy head that measures 3/4-inch tall and 3/8-inch wide. The actual flower is a pea-like bloom about 3/16-inch in diameter buried beneath long hairs that dominate the head.

The rabbit’s foot clover is an annual and thrives in dry fields and roadsides. It starts blooming in May and may be found as late as October.

Religious research conducted several years ago revealed that many members of very large churches were participants in small groups, for example, Bible study groups, music ensembles, cancer survivors clubs, grief support clubs, and book clubs, to name a few warm and fuzzy opportunities. Of course, there are those who prefer large setting in which they, like rabbit’s foot clover, can be overlooked and left alone.

Whatever circumstance you find yourself in this year, may your journey of faith be empowered by God’s spirit to live the kind of life exemplified by Jesus.