I am getting ready to launch myself into a new phase of life. I plan to work on a new book on creative spirituality and am beginning not with planning for the future but with looking back at some of the lessons I have learnt over the last few years. I am exploring creative ways to strengthen both my own faith and that of those I work with.
Above is one of my favourite prayers from the last few years, which seemed to be appropriate for the stage that I am hat in my life. I hope you enjoy it too. And here are a few of my most valuable lessons that I thought you might find helpful too. The post itself is adapted from this one I wrote recently for the V3 blog.
It is about 10 years since I started asking people What makes you feel close to God? The surprising responses have helped me realize that our traditional ways of practicing our faith and doing discipleship just don’t work for many. I have frequently affirmed that many of us encounter God much more powerfully when we walk through the forest or talk to a friend than we do when reading the Bible. Parents see God reflected in the faces of their children, and aid workers see God in the pain and the suffering of the destitute and the homeless. Others encounter God in the midst of “lostness” when they feel far away from friends, family and God, the dark night of the soul medieval mystic John of the Cross talks about.
Identifying the everyday actions and encounters that draw us into the presence of God and nourish our faith should be a priority for us. Forest church is one new movement that has taken this seriously and developed some powerful tools for helping participants strengthen their faith through interacting with nature. What forums could you create with your friends or in your church where participants have the freedom to ask faith changing questions?
One size does not fit all. I found many of the Bible study plans offered to me as a young Christian boring, but persevered because I thought they were the only possible ways to explore the Bible. Now I know there are many possibilities – some intellectual, some contemplative, some experiential. All of them have equal validity.
It’s the same with spiritual disciplines. There are many ways to pray, worship and practice our faith. Some of these like prayer stations provide inspirational and experiential approaches to bring to our worship services. Others, from the exercises encouraged by Sybil MacBeth in Praying in Color to the writing of poetry, knitting, whittling and the meditative archery taught by Angie Fadel, show an emerging world of creative, experiential practices we should encourage our congregations to explore and experiment with. These provide rich opportunities for all of us to express our faith in ways that appeal to our personalities, nurture our spirits and strengthen our faith perspectives. What inspirational new forms of spiritual disciplines could you explore with your congregation?
I love to journal and have been delighted in the last few years to discover new and creative ways to practice this. Journaling is no longer just about writing. There are art journals of various kinds including scrapbook journals, nature journals, collage journals and even Bible journals. You can prayer journal the labyrinth, doodle, write music, create maps, take photos, paint on rocks or plant gardens that map your journey.
There are an infinite variety of journaling forms that we can encourage people to experiment with. How could you explore these with your friends and or congregation?
Have Some Fun
Evidently, according to this Atlantic monthly article unscheduled, unsupervised, playtime is one of the most valuable educational opportunities we give our children. It is fertile ground; the place where children strengthen social bonds, build emotional maturity, develop cognitive skills, and shore up their physical health. I suspect it has the same benefits for adults, though less studies have been conducted that prove this.
A few years ago Volkswagon started a program called “the fun theory” where they explore new ways to get people to do things that are good for them or good for the environment. For example, it is noted that more people opt to take escalators than stairs even though stairs are much more healthy. So in Sweden, a team was hired to transform a staircase (next to an escalator) into a piano so that when people took a step, a note was triggered that would make a sound. The result was astounding. By making it fun, a ton more people took the stairs versus the escalator.
It is not just church picnics that provide opportunities for fun together. Painting murals at church, community cookouts, or hosting neighbourhood game nights all create fun environments in which to explore faith. Sitting around the table for a good meal with friends is probably the most faith strengthening activity we can engage in. What fun projects could you encourage with your friends or in your church to nourish peoples’ faith?
Our God is a God of infinite creativity. Prayerfully consider the tools shared above and other creative ideas you have for strengthening the spiritual life of your