It's one of those things I keep running into, which makes it feel significant. I first stumbled onto it when crafting an art and prayer workshop for a ministry team at RealitySF a couple of years ago. It lingered when I ran my first art and prayer workshop here at home a few months later. Then it popped up in spiritual direction sessions with directees. It's the pattern of transforming processes: to observe (see), reflect (notice), and then respond.
Even now it strikes me that this is the process of art-making. We observe something that inspires us, we reflect on the act of our creation from that inspiration (planning what we will make), and then responding in the act of creation.
It's interesting to me how each step is so necessary to the outcome of transformation. If we didn't stop to observe, our responses would be more reactionary and less impactful to us. If we only stopped to observe, without pausing for reflection, we would engage only analytically, leaving our hearts untouched. Starting with seeing we engage our bodily senses; moving into noticing we use our minds to understand what we see and how it impacts us; then engaging the heart we respond from how what we've seen and noticed feels to us. Each step in the transformative process requires the prior step, and each step walks us deeper into our hearts.
But each step can feel like coming undone; maybe even a bit like sliding down a slippery slope in our souls, into depths we don't actually want to discover. And it can be painful. It can be so, so very hard to sit still long enough to really see the truth of our hearts. Yet, this is the invitation Jesus offers. He invites us to see the places he already sees; he invites us with him to explore the truths in our hearts. He calls us to the deep places of longing and loss, the place he is already loving us.
May we have the boldness and grace today to respond to Jesus invitation, and to see more fully and accurately his love for us.
Raised in the evangelical tradition I was more familiar with Easter than this season called "Lent." I was comfortable with somber Good Friday services, and celebratory Easter Sundays. Then I learned about Lent, and how it is a time to reflect on our longings, our losses, in a way that leads us to confession at the feet of Jesus. Sometimes getting to his feet I found I needed a little help, a gentle push to move forward. I needed someone to remind me of the love of God amidst all this grief.
From these experiences, and through gathering materials I've found helpful, we're offering this half-day Lenten retreat guide. It's filled with prayer practices, journaling prompts, and reflective invitations. It can be used individually, or with your community group. It can used on a half-day away at a museum or over a weekend up on the mountain. It was created with flexibility in mind.
It was also created to remind you how much God loves you. Using Scripture, art, and thought provoking journaling experiences this PDF guide offers you the opportunity to open your heart to God through these practices and to prepare to celebrate the hope we have in Christ Easter Sunday morning.
If this idea excites you, or feels like the last thing you want to do but you feel invited by God to do it anyway, click below to learn a bit more and view a sample page. The PDF guide is designed to be flexible in use and time, so feel free to take a half-day to yourself or a weekend away with your community group.
If you have any questions about this retreat guide, or how to best use it, feel free to contact us anytime. We'd love to hear from you.
Prayer journaling was something I started upon accidentally in high school. One day had felt particularly tragic after a fall in front of all my peers in between changing classes when everyone saw me hit the ground. I burst into tears almost immediately, but the kind of quiet sobs I didn't want anyone to see. My teacher, thank You Jesus, was gracious and kind -- a very grandfatherly teacher who saw, immediately understood the emotional dynamics of such an embarrassment to a 16-year-old-girl, and excused me from my post as a class assistant to go cry in the bathroom. And cried I did.
Eventually I made it back to class, but wasn't "up to par" you could say--with my bruised ego and the lump forming on my knee. I sat at my post, at the teacher's desk in the back of the classroom, every few minutes feeling tears well up in my eyes. I didn't know what to do, and it "just so happened" the class I was TA'ing for was a Bible class, but I felt a rush of words and emotions pushing their way out and I felt like I had to do something.
I pulled out a tablet I had tucked away in my book bag. It was a drug store tablet with tape binding on top, and roses on the cover. I pulled out a pen and furiously began to write and pour out what was inside me. I began to feel better little by little the more I wrote. I didn't realize it at the time, but what I was doing in that moment was praying in my journal. It didn't feel like a practice of prayer, or a spiritual discipline, in the midst of my muffled cries--but nonetheless it was. And from that point on it's been a fairly regular practice in my spiritual life.
All these years later I come back to journaling my prayers to God when I don't know how to sort out my feelings, or when my thoughts feel foggy. In seminary I ended up writing a research paper on it and found out my experience wasn't new. It was profound for me, yes; but it was not unique in its power to connect with God and myself through praying in my written words in my journal.
One thing I learned while writing my paper on prayer journaling that I read in a book was that this prayer practice helps us say in private what we otherwise might say out loud and regret. I attest to that one. My journal has held my pain, but it's also held my anger, my fury, my disgust, my reactive words, the violence of my heart. It has also held my most secret dreams, and fears. My journals are a reflection of my journey with Jesus, but just as my journals have held these tender and broken parts of me, I've experienced Jesus hearing my words, receiving my pain, tending to my wounds as I write.
I realize not every spiritual practice is for everyone all the time; but I feel this practice is worth a try. It's worth an experiment to give it a go and see what happens. You might be surprised at what you find.
If you give it a go, will you share with me what happens? Whether you love it, hate it, swear to never do it again or feel indifferent, I'd love to hear your experience in the comments.
and you held me and there were no words
and there was no time and you held me
and there was only wanting and
being held and being filled with wanting
and I was nothing but letting go
and being held
and there were no words and there
needed to be no words
and there was no terror only stillness
and I was wanting nothing and
it was fullness and it was like aching for God
and it was touch and warmth and
darkness and no time and no words and we flowed
and I flowed and I was not empty
and I was given up to the dark and
in the darkness I was not lost
and the wanting was like fullness and I could
hardly hold it and I was held and
you were dark and warm and without time and
without words and you held me
"And You Held Me," by Janet Morley
printed in All Desires Known
Wednesday marks the beginning of a new liturgical season: Lent. It is a season of waiting, of longing, of loss. It is a season of lament. Lent gives us space to grieve, to let go, to exist of the tension of already and not yet with Jesus.
Below is an image, followed by instructions, to help you engage and process and connect prayerfully with Jesus as you open to the places of your heart and life where you feel tugs of grief and yearning.
Peace as you enter this sacred space.
Begin in a quiet place...
How did it go? What surprised you? Where were you led?
Tonight we had our first Sacred Space: An Evening of Prayer and Quietness Together. It was simply that: a time filled with journaling, praying, sharing. It was utterly refreshing and filled with calm settling.
Crayons, markers, our photo cards, and a projected image filled the first part of our time together. Then we prayed through the Thursday Compline in the Celtic Daily Prayer book. At the end we shared a piece of where Jesus led us in our time.
And when I got home, to a surprise delivery of an order I'd forgotten was arriving today (All Desires Known by Janet Morley), I started flipping no through the book. I discovered a poem called Sacred Space. Seemed fitting. And I was surprised by how drawn in I was by this poem as it captured my heart for starting this event:
whose presence is known
in the structures we build,
and also in their collapse;
establish in us a community of hope,
not to contain your mystery,
but to be led beyond security
into your sacred space,
through Jesus Christ, Amen.
Like a kid who knows they're going to Disneyland, I can't wait till next weekend. It's the second Art & Prayer workshop. The first one in October was so much fun, powerful, and connecting we decided to do it all over again with a new group (and few returning) of amazing people.
One of my favorite parts is not that we learn a lot of amazing things about Jesus, how he connects with us in prayer, and how beauty is a very helpful tool in helping us go deeper in our faith journeys (and we do all that) but we get to experience together the power of praying in this new way. We meet together as we meet with Jesus. It's a communal experience I love to be a part of and witness at the same time.
Sat. Feburary 21