Naked Prayers // Book Review

MMcover1I first came across Mara Measor last year when I was getting into prayer doodling. I loved the simplicity of her drawings, yet expressing something quite deep, so I was delighted to be asked to review her book ‘Naked Prayers’ recently (and note to all, do not google ‘naked prayers’ under images as I just did…).

Measor started to doodle her prayers some years ago when in Ethiopia and whilst feeling isolated, her relationship with God, as she notes, ‘blossomed’. Written in diary form with short entries, ‘Naked Prayers’ is easy to navigate through, or just dip into, however it is not an easy read – the book itself came later and grew out of a difficult period in her life. It is in fact a heartfelt journey through Measor’s faith and a severe bout of depression. Reading it feels like being allowed a glimpse into someone’s own personal struggle, and the battles that she has faced with herself and with God.

Having come alongside people with depression I can recognise some of her thoughts in others experiences, but for me too, some of her words just resonate, times when I don’t know what to pray, or what to do, she expresses some of what it means to just be human.

April 14

I’m scared right now.

I’m scared of not knowing what I’m doing. Scared of going

for the wrong things. Scared I’m all wrong.

prayerMM1

 

Restore me, Oh God.

 

Similarities have been drawn with the book of Psalms and indeed some of the words she pours out bear the same expressiveness of David, the pain and hurt, as well as the celebration and joy. Measor’s strength of faith is evident throughout the book and there are lots of scriptural links too. Her honesty amidst pain and turmoil, is sure to help many people as they struggle with their own battles and journey of faith.

The similarity with Psalms also follows as Measor is also a musician and some of the entries in the book have songs to go alongside which can be accessed online via spotify or you can download the album via iTunes. The songs really do add to the book, just taking her thoughts and prayers to another level, but in the same intimate way. Do give them a listen if you can.

 

 

October 29

Lord, I am a bit sad today.

But I love you with all my ability.

And lack of ability.

 

Naked Prayers is published by SPCK and is available now, priced at £7.99. 

Thy Kingdom Come

This week the Church of England has been focussing on ‘Thy Kingdom Come‘ which is (in my opinion) a rather fantastic initiative set up by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, with the aim to mobilise the church to pray for the nation.

Around here I have been staggered by how many churches have engaged with this and not just Anglican ones either, it really does feel like an exciting time for the church (and the nation).

So, I’ve been praying and thinking on this line from the Lord’s Prayer this week and so here’s a little video of my prayer doodle on those words…

I sometimes take part in a Twitter initiative called ‘Colour Collective’ which encourages artists and illustrators to create a piece each week, on a different colour and then we all post at the same time on Friday evening. So this week’s colour is ‘light yellow glaze’, so I used lots of yellow in this – though it might not be quite light enough it’s the best I could come up with, not really a yellow fan to be honest but I do like the balance of colours in this!

 

Creativity within…

The theme of last weekend’s Premier digital conference was Create. If you’ve read my blog before you’ll know creativity is a key theme in my life and it was so great to hear people talking about how we can all be creators, how we can all express ourselves and release some creativity.

So. I can draw, I loved art at school, I was good at it and I went on to become an artist selling my work and run2015-11-14 21.58.58ning my own gallery. However, english? not so much. I remember a teacher once saying to me that my writing was (something like) boring, predictable and unoriginal. Ouch. Now this isn’t a rant at teachers at all, but really teachers, you have a responsibility! I grew up thinking I was unacademic and no good at main stream subjects like english and maths. But you know what, school isn’t everything. I now have a degree in history of art, have run my own business, am currently studying theology and, just won runner up blogger of the year for my writing (it may of course still be boring, predictable and unoriginal but now I have a prize for it, so to my english teacher, ‘in your face’!).

So where am I going with all this other than sounding a bit boasty? Well, here’s the thing, we are all creators. Yes all of us. As an acreation1_SMALL2rtist I used to be really frustrated when people said to me, ‘oh I wish I could draw’. Because at school, where you learn to be creative, that’s what you get taughthere’s a still life, draw that, or do a portrait of yourself, so if you can’t do that, then you are ‘rubbish at art’ (& art teachers, I do know things are now a bit more encompassing than that!). But art is more than that, it is an expression of ourselves, a release of emotion, a portrayal of something within us. Everyone has the possibility of releasing what is inside of them, in fact I think people should find a way to do just that, it’s so valuable. It doesn’t matter what it looks like, sounds like, reads like, it’s just for us, for you.
Now, I can draw something like looks like what it is but my favourite thing when I
was working most was to produce big abstract canvases. Into them I poured out my feelings, emotions, vision, pain, and yes a bit of my soul. At PremDAC15 I went to a seminar by Rev Ric Stott, a Methodist minister and artist. He was very inspiring and one thing he said was that ‘painting is an excavation of the soul’. Wow what a line. Like it’s personal but not entirely within our control, it’s like a process that has to be done, to find the gems, to find truth or hidden treasure. But deep, intrusive and even with an air of violence.

…o0O0o…


My husband is a musician, so for him music is his creative outlet. On creativity he says that everyone has their own creative outlet, a ‘go to’ place. So when you write or play or create you are inspired to do so in the way that feels right for you. When downs4he writes a song he says he writes from the feeling he is experiencing. Embodying it, feeling it, releasing it. Whether that is from feeling love for someone or something, to a sense of frustration or anger, or a place of the realisation of God’s grace. So those feelings are part of the expression, which I think means it is more real and authentic. Some of those songs never see the light of day, just like some of my pictures, drawings and prayer doodles stay in my sketch book or behind closed doors, they are too personal but they were, are, valuable to us.

…o0O0o…

We all have the ability within us to create, in different ways and not to be held back by words that have been spoken over us or by those ‘I can’t’ or ‘I’m no good at’ thoughts.  Ok so you are not Grade 5 at the piano, you can’t draw a person, you can’t spell (neither can I, that’s what spellchecker is for) you might be ‘unoriginal or predictable’, it might be stick men, it might be ‘chopsticks’, but who cares?! Let your feelings your inspiration, your emotion pour out of you. Have courage and be creative…

 

Selah

An interlude, this weeks #Colour_Collective, colour Indian Red…

 

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As I have reflected on rest and Sabbath over the last 9 months the word ‘Selah’ keeps coming back to me. Opinions vary on what it means, but things like ‘Pause, rest, reflect’ are all suggested. That’s what it means to me, just take a step back, pause and reflect on God…

Imagining a mother’s loss #Syria

Everyone is talking about Syria today. My Twitter timeline is exploding with outraged people. And outraged we should be, but the situation is no different to 2 days ago, it’s just that as a nation we can no longer ignore it. Like many people I saw the images yesterday of that tiny little body laying on a beach and wept. There are no words, just the pain of imagining a mothers loss.

So I prayed, I drew…

 

Syria_Rose

I cannot understand those who can still say: no more refugees.

We have no idea, we really don’t, of what those people are fleeing from. What would make people so desperate as to leave everything they know to come to a foreign nation where they know no one, have nothing, cannot speak the language and on top of that risk not just their own lives, but their families too just to try and get there? What would make you even consider that?

As I prayed this morning I just asked God, where is the love in this?

They are fleeing evil, hate, terror and need to find love. Jesus told us to love people as he loved us. That’s a pretty tough standard to live up to, and right know as a nation we are nowhere near it.

Trust. It’s a black or white thing…

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This weeks prayer doodle as I wandered (or wondered) through Psalm 56.

 

So I’ve been thinking a lot about trust recently. 

The word trust (or derivatives of it) appear over 200 times in the bible (I’m looking at the NRSV but let’s face it, it’s a hard word to translate another way), and the phrase ‘Trust in the Lord’ or ‘Trust in God’ appears regularly. It’s a favourite of the Psalmist, frequently declaring his trust in God, even (or often) in the face of adversity (see Psalm 31 for example).

The Oxford dictionary online definition of trust is this:

Firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something…

and

Acceptance of the truth of a statement without evidence or investigation

(amongst other definitions)

So really, trust is black or white. There isn’t a grey in between, it’s a choice, a yes or no. Do we, do I, choose to trust God in all things? So often we say that we trust him but when we’re in a tricky situation or have a tough decision to make, we waver, we question, we doubt, we try to fix things ourselves (well, maybe that’s just me.).

As I prayed through Psalm 56 this week I’ve been thinking about that. Am I allowing trust to be in various shades of grey or am I saying YES, a big fat yes, I choose to trust?

And of course it’s not really that simple is it? If you’ve ever been let down by someone you love then trusting again can be hard. You don’t just do it, it doesn’t just happen as it once might have, you have to actively choose to trust.

But as the definition shows, trust is a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability and strength of Jesus. And an acceptance of the truth of who He is. Of course I can say I have a firm belief in the reliability, truth, strength and so on, of who Jesus is and of who He is in my life. So if I can state that and believe it, then I can choose to trust him, wholeheartedly in a black or white decision.

Psalm 56 was written as it says ‘under persecution’, in battle, and my only battle is not with military intervention but with my mind. As my head hits the pillow every night the questions and the plans start to whir around incessantly. It’s like the truth of what I am thinking is only allowed out then. So whilst I say I am trusting in Him, the reality is, underneath it all I’m still anxious, still uncertain, still questioning: why on earth would God have good and perfect plans for me?

for me?

The me who so often fails Him, who so often questions Him, who so often gets it wrong?

Well, if I can’t quite accept the truth of that ‘without evidence or investigation’, here is my evidence in Romans 5:8:

But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

That is all I need. To make my trust a black or white thing. Because every time I will choose the light (or white). I’ve been reminded of that so much recently in this time of healing and recuperation (I won’t call it tough because the time with God has been so amazing!), that He is all I need. In the wavering moments, I repeat to myself, I will trust in the Lord. In the sleepless hours I remember what can man do to me? I will not be afraid, in God I trust. In the anxiety I remind myself, that God has proved Himself, whether I need evidence or not, He has more than proved his love for me.

And He is trustworthy…

 

Colouring sheet // colour collective // creation

creation1_SMALL2This week’s #Colour_Collective colour is Forest Green. This is my third week taking part and I have loved being part of it. It’s a great community and I have some fab new people to follow on Twitter too! Not only that but it’s a real encouragement, with people retweeting and commenting on your design. If you are at all creative (and and I believe we all are) why not give it a go? Check out the hashtag above on Twitter and look for the different colour each week. Then everyone posts on Friday evening at 7.30pm (UK time) with the same hashtag. It’s amazing the things people come up with!

As it’s God that has brought me back to being creative I’m making mine scripture or God focussed.

This week, with ‘forest green’ I couldn’t help but think of creation. So this is mine based on Genesis 1: 11-13. I used The Message version which says:

God spoke: “Earth, green up! Grow all varieties of seed-bearing plants, every sort of fruit-bearing tree.”
 And there it was.
Earth produced green seed-bearing plants, all varieties, and fruit-bearing trees of all sorts.
God saw that it was good.
It was evening, it was morning— Day Three.

Genesis 1:11-13 (MSG)

I actually just drew the whole thing in forest green and I couldn’t decide whether to leave it as is, or colour in, so here it is before – and all ready to be used as another colouring sheet – just a green one! And above is the coloured in version. Two for the price of one for this weeks #colour_collective !

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Colouring Sheet and Meditation on Matthew 10:8 // Freely you have received

Here’s the latest colouring sheet and with a meditation or some guidelines on how you could use it, or of course do your own thing!

 

What ?

This is one of my fave scriptures ever! Matthew 10:7-8

As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

If we want to see more of God’s kingdom, then this is for us! But today I wanted to focus on the ‘freely’ bit.

Henna fun

Henna fun

This one is inspired by henna designs which I have been doing with my daughter recently!

Why ?

 

Everything we have comes from God and it is freely given to us. We so often take things for granted and I’ve found that myself recently with my failing health. Even just wanting a cup of tea meant weighing up how much pain I would be in and whether the need for tea outweighed that pain (well yes, of course it did, I mean it is tea, right?!).

But more than that, this passage shows us the abundance God gives us. Jesus tells his disciples here to do amazing things in his name – healing people, casting out demons, raising the dead even! And all this is only possible by the amazing gift He has given them, to become children of God, to carry His power, His love and His light within them. And what’s more it’s given for free! They didn’t have to do anything to earn it. So today’s meditation is to think about the blessings God has bestowed upon you, the abundances in your life and how you can share them more freely.

How ?

As with the last sheet, there’s lots of scope to make it your own and I really envisaged it being more of a prayerful experience so here’s my suggestions of how to do it.

1) Find a comfortable space to colour in.

2) Spend a few minutes just in prayer and giving the time to God, asking him to show you the blessings in your life.

3) Think/pray about how you want to start. Is each flower or pattern representing something in your life? an abundance or blessing God has given you?

4) Take time as you go, allowing God to lead you in your colouring. As you colour each section, be thankful for what God has given to you, offering it back to Him. You might find this is all you want to do, just creating something beautiful as a thank offering.

6) If you feel led to, ask God to reveal to you how you can share what He has given to you with those around you. He might highlight one thing you could do or one person to speak to.

7) Alternatively you might want to colour each section, or use one colour, to represent something you want to share, or one person you want to share it with. As you colour, lift them up to God and ask for His guidance in this.

8) One idea would be to colour the sheet in and then give it to someone else as a gift. Or print out a few copies and give them to friends. Freely you have received now freely give…

 

When you have finished, don’t rush off. Offer it back to God in prayer, a simple prayer is below for you to use or find your own words as you feel led.

 

Father God,

I thank you for being with me as I colour this sheet. I thank you for all you have given to me. You are the God of abundance and blessing, and I delight in the blessings you pour out on me. Help me Lord to give as you have given to me.

You are the God of creation and I thank you for this gift of creativity, enabling me to draw closer to you.

In Jesus name,

Amen.

freely3JPG

 

Bottles of Tears // Colouring Sheet and meditation

Here’s the latest Colouring Sheet – I decided to try and make these a bit more constructive – like a meditation or just offering some guidelines on how you could use each sheet. So here goes, and as always I’d love feedback, either here or via FB or Twitter. What would you like to see on these sheets or how can I make them better?

What ?

I love the scripture Psalm 56:8, which reflects how God mourns with us. In the NLT version it reads:

You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.

What a wonderful picture this gives, and has always made me think, I wonder what that would look like? collecting our tears. What would the bottle be like? Where would it be? What would He do with it? is it actually just one bottle? (Ok so I know the word is actually singular, whether translated as scroll or bottle but go with me…). Or how about what would the tears look like? Do they look different when God has them, or would they just be like liquid? just one big bottle of salty water?

Why ?

Well, if you look at things God creates they are usually beautiful and I just had this picture of each tear being like a beautiful jewel, a bit like how snowflakes are individual and just stunning in their design. I came across this article recently where a researcher, Rose-Lynn Fisher, had looked at tears under a microscope and found that in different circumstances they actually look different. Have a look at the docs in the article, it’s fascinating stuff!

So this picture came from thinking on those questions, I pictured everyone having their own bottle, some would be fuller that others, maybe each persons tears would look different. My daughter said, it looks like bottles full of marbles and I guess that’s a bit like what I saw. I love how marbles can be so beautiful in each design and yet together create something more lovely.

Tears_sketch2This week I also came across ‘Colour Collective’ on Twitter, where designers and illustrators are encouraged to draw or create an image each week based on that week’s colour, then everyone tweets them at the same time on Friday eve. I thought it was such a fab idea and having been creatively rekindled recently I thought I’d take part. This is my offering for this week, under #CyanBlueAzure, but do check out the hashtag: #colour_collective to see all the others.

How ?

So I’ve done this sheet a bit differently. There’s lots of scope to make it your own and I really envisaged it being more of a prayerful experience so here’s my suggestions of how to do it.

1) Find a quiet space. I have a feeling this might be the kind of sheet you want to colour in your own space away from others – not one for the train for example!

2) Spend a few minutes just in prayer and giving the time to God, asking him to show you what the tears on this sheet represent.

3) Think/pray about how you want to start. Is each bottle a person or are they all yours? Perhaps each bottle is a season in your life or a difficult time, an experience you have encountered? Or is each tear representing something? The bottle labels are blank for you to add whatever you feel.

4) Don’t forget tears aren’t always sad (see the article highlighted above!) sometimes they are in joy, at an amazingly happy occasion, or they can be at a time of change or uncertainty (or even chopping onions).

5) Take time as you go, allowing God to lead you in your colouring. If you are focussing on your own experiences, think through each situation as you colour, allowing emotions to flow and questions to be raised. When you feel ready, then move on to the next tear or the next bottle.

6) Equally it doesn’t have to be all about you – maybe you could focus on the experiences of others? A sick friend, or a loved one having a difficult time, or a wonderfully joyous time! Again, take time for God to guide you, perhaps praying for each person as you colour each tear.

7) I have deliberately left the last bottle empty for you to fill in as you feel led. You might want to finish with this one, allowing God to lead you to it. Perhaps it represents your life as a whole – are happy tears a different colour or a different pattern to those of sadness and difficulty?

8) When you have finished, don’t rush off. Offer it back to God in prayer, a simple prayer is below for you to use or find your own words as you feel led.

Father God,

I thank you for being with me as I colour this sheet. I thank you for helping me to find my way through the emotions and situations you have raised, as I colour. As I finish it now, Lord I offer it back to you. I lift up to you the people and situations I have thought through and ask for your continued presence with them. You are the God of creation and I thank you for this gift of creativity, enabling me to draw closer to you.

In Jesus name,

Amen.

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