Thursday, February 18, 2010

Coloring outside the lines

I work, during the day, for Large Metropolitan Church (LMC)--large enough to have a full-time Communications Director. Much loveliness comes of this for LMC, including and especially seasonal devotional books. The over-arching Lenten theme at LMC is "coloring outside the lines."

"Interesting approach," mused my Internal Worship Planning Geek, when I first heard it. "Wonder how, exactly, that will play out."

One way is in a beautiful devotional. It contains original art by a member; meditations submitted by staff and members; a scripture reading and a prayer for each day; and--wait for it--a coloring page for each Sunday. And the book comes with a little box of six crayons.

Genius. An invitation to approach Lent in a very personal, creative and fresh way, if a body is willing. Staff and most members who've seen it have responded with delight. But yesterday, as our receptionist offered a book and crayons to a rather elderly member, I heard her say rather archly, "Well, I'd prefer to behave like an adult."

But she took them.

And I (goody for me) managed not to make a crack about needing to have the faith of a little child. Because faith takes us to all kinds of uncomfortable places. Some of them are deserts; some of them are moral crossroads; some of them are invitations to try something a tiny bit loose and silly and joyful.

My home congregation (both midwestern and Lutheran!) did just that on Transfiguration Sunday. Our opening song was the South African freedom song "We Are Marching in the Light of God." In subsequent verses, we are "dancing," "praying" and "singing in the light of God." Our drumming director worked out some simple dance moves for everyone to do while we sang and the drummers played. This sort of thing has been a bit lackluster in the past, (we're sort of self-conscious about all that movement and exuberance, don'cha know) but not this time. Almost everyone at both services, from age 3 to 83, was moving and singing and grinning. Maybe even transfigured, in a way.

The incandescent Barbara Brown Taylor notes in "An Altar in the World" that

We need the practice of incarnation,
by which God saves the lives of those
whose intellectual assent has turned dry as dust,
who have run frighteningly low on the bread of life,
who are dying to know more God in their bodies.
Not more about God.
More God.

Sometimes when people ask me about my prayer life,
I describe hanging laundry on the line.
After a day of too much information about almost everything,
there is such blessed relief in the weight of wet clothes,
causing the wicker basket to creak as I carry it to the clothesline.
Every time I bend down to shake loose a piece of laundry,
I smell the grass.
I smell the sun.
Above all, I smell clean laundry.

Above all, I am happy for practices that bring me back to my body,
where the operative categories are not "bad" and "good"
but "dead" and "alive."
As hard as I have tried to be good all my life--
as hard as I try to be good even now--
my heart leans more and more toward that which gives life,
whether it is conventionally good or not.
There are times
when dancing on tables grants more life than kneeling in prayer.
More to the point,
there are times when dancing on tables
is the most authentic prayer in reach,
even if it pocks the table and clears the room.

And now I have a hopeful image in my head of my crusty friend at home alone, using those crayons and chuckling to herself. And my wish for you, gentle reader, is that you give it a try, too. Dance. Laugh. Sing. Remember that life is our first, best gift from our loving Creator. Don't you think it's God's hope for that life to be colorful and extravagantly vibrant?

Some deserts are of our own making. I'm just saying.

Peace, y'all.


Cecilia said...

Goodness. We are so on the same wavelength this lent. See both my blogs, Cecilia first.

Catrina said...

Thanks for this! And welcome back to the blogosphere! I've missed yer musings. :)

All the best to you, Beloved, and the pups,
The Mad Preacher

Diane said...

oh, I've missed your posts!

this is so awesome, and I wish wish wish I'd thought of it...

Mompriest said...

Good to have you back....yes, a little bit of playful childness is important regardless of our age. Love the idea of that Lenten devotional!

Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.