When COVID locked us down I set myself a challenge: I, not an artist, would make some art and write a prayer six days a week, and share it by email with folks who wanted it, Monday through Saturday mornings. I found some art supplies, watercolor paints, and a sketchbook to be precise, in my daughter’s (the artist) room and figured she wouldn’t mind if I borrowed them. (She is 26 and doesn’t live with us these days.) I decided I would only use what I found, I would do my best to paint something I liked, I would add a prayer that could be read by many kinds of believers, and I called it all a “no shame zone.” With fear and trembling, I sent out the first email and waited to see if anyone would open it.
I have, with this prayerful practice of creativity, unlocked the COVID prison. Who knew that brief but heartfelt prayers would help form a community of strangers into people who pray together every morning. Granted, we don’t share space, faith perspectives, even geolocation sometimes. But every morning I can rely on three people to open my email immediately, and about 25 more will read, ponder, and pray with me through the course of the day.
One of the things I have learned about myself is that one day I can pray and paint a prayer of happiness and the next all is dark for me. I paint and pray that too. I think this is one reason people keep opening my emails! They have no idea what will come next. I have prayed and painted through springtime and terror. I have prayed and painted through summer and denial. I have prayed and painted through outrage and election fever. And my heart is still healed a bit every day. God does not expect me to pray the same prayer day after day, though sometimes that is a comfort to me. God wants me to come into God’s divine presence as a beloved child, seeking relationship, pondering injustice, confessing sin, cherishing beauty. Once I painted my oatmeal and berries breakfast bowl. That is the favorite of one of my friends. I was so thankful for hot oatmeal that day, and the blue of the berries and of the bowl was delightful to me. If life is hard, as it has been this year, I can write an angry prayer and paint a darker picture. Why isn’t everyone doing this, I wondered? So much is possible with God, in prayer in a no-shame zone.
There have been plenty of days when I wondered if I had anything to say or paint, but the more I have done it the more I know this. I wake up every morning and my soul rises to meet the Lord. I am who I am, and God is glad to hear from me. Plus, my daughter, the real artist, compliments me every time.
Let us pray. Holy One, in beauty and word we worship you, but we know You receive us from the wordless darkness as well. Thank You for Your welcome. Amen
Rev. Beth Newton Watson
Associate District Superintendent