Day 14: Contemplative Arts

December 11, 2021

Day 14: Contemplative Arts

This creative entry on the Tree of Contemplative Practices brings me back to a gentle, bittersweet memory of a Saturday morning Lenten retreat planned by my then-spiritual director (may she rest in peace!).

Such a kind, compassionate woman of God. Always had her ears and heart open. Always had abundant and directed wisdom to share. Wonderful, loving presence.

She was an elder in a Presbyterian church where I used to attend, as well as serving on the national staff for a Christian organization. This was a periodic spiritual offering she made to her directees as well as the women of the PC(USA) church. I would attend when I could.

I remember the Bible passage she chose for this particular retreat: Psalm 23. As the women dispersed to go to various corners and rooms of the church education wing, I took the several sheets with the printed psalm, a photo of a lamb on a hillside, and some direction of what steps to take for the morning. As I followed the different steps and prayer prompts, I felt myself internally letting go of the rush-rush, hurry-hurry that had been gripping my insides.

What a relief! What a blessing, too.

One of the last things on the agenda for the morning was an open invitation: a suggestion to create an art project of some kind. My spiritual director had several different art stations. Crayons, art pencils, colored tissue paper, scissors, glue, cardboard, and other supplies available. Yes, I am artistic. And, yes, I felt drawn to some coloring sheets. I picked up colored pencils, and started to draw and color.

I still have that particular coloring sheet. It was a design of a Tiffany glass window – or rather, two windows, side by side. I colored one window in muted gray and brown tones, looking quite like the weather and the view outside on that gray, February day. The other window on that sheet? I colored it in warm, soft, welcoming pastels. The sun shone in the blue sky in the second picture, instead of the sky having all dull grey-toned clouds in the first window.   

This hope-filled portrait of the two different sides of my life and spirit seemed to be a natural outgrowth of my morning’s prayer, meditation and contemplation. Yes, I was still in a gray place, even at the end of that morning. However, I could see my way to approaching the place of color, of vibrancy, and warmth.

I am so glad I had the opportunity to create that drawing. I felt that picture so deeply. I appreciate my spiritual director. And, I pray that I might be able to provide opportunities for others to reflect, pray and contemplate, just as I did.

Dear Lord, thank You for my dear spiritual director. She walked with so many people during her life. She touched even more lives through her work and ministry. Help me to remember the abundant gifts she blessed me with. Help me – help us  to listen to You and to be creative, when offered the opportunity. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

@chaplaineliza

Thanks to the website www.contemplativemind.org for their excellent image the Tree of Contemplative Practices.

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: www.pastorpreacherprayer.com, matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks! )

Day 12: Improvisation

December 9, 2021

Day 12: Improvisation

               Television shows like Whose Line Is It Anyway? and Curb Your Enthusiasm are wonderful  Other shows (Parks and Recreation and Community come to mind) have a large part of unscripted improvisation, too. Comedy improvisation can be freeing, collaborative, immersive, and totally fun.

Twenty-three years ago, I providentially happened to start comedy improv classes at IO (formerly, Improv Olympic), with co-founder Charna Halpern. She taught me a tremendous lesson: both/and. Or, rather, she gave me words for something inside of me that was yearning to be expressed. Not either/or, and certainly not a restrictive approach, but showing the extravagant welcome [1] I find in the United Church of Christ. Improv released this tremendous mindset that the program of recovery also encouraged in me: that of affirmation, celebration, reconciliation, and the freedom-to-be.

On this Tree of Contemplative Practices, Improvisation is found on the Creative branch. And yes, I absolutely agree! It is so creative! I can still remember skits and games we played and acted out in that two-year period. Twenty-two and twenty-three years ago. So vivid, so much fun! And the concept of group mind as a totally collaborative, integral part of the whole is something I will never forget.

Sure, the Improv I did was at a “secular” place. Yet, I can totally see how it helped me to get closer to God. Closer to my fellows in Improv. And, yes, more in touch with my inner child – or klutz – or clown – or philosopher.

I would love to do improv again! I would do it, in a shot! Perhaps, one day soon…please, God.

               Please, pray with me. Dear God, thank You for laughter. Thank You for joy, and fun, and giggles, and just plain roars of laughter. Thank You for limericks and for pratfalls and for mime. Thank You for all the ways Improv artists have used all of the above to bring about joy and laughter and truth and even pain and suffering – and turn it all into something utterly wonderful. Help us all to learn from these marvelous games and skits. And, help us all to be ready to laugh. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

@chaplaineliza

Thanks to the website www.contemplativemind.org for their excellent image the Tree of Contemplative Practices.

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: www.pastorpreacherprayer.com, matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks! )


[1] https://www.ucc.org/about-us_who-we-are  Extravagant welcome is one highlight that drew me into the UCC.