As we step into May and the weather starts to warm up (woo hoo!), I’d like to share a few more ideas for new spiritual practices as suggested by my colleague in ministry, the Rev. Linda Kurtz, who serves at the First Presbyterian Church of Lexington, Kentucky. As we look towards a future in which we can all receive vaccinations and rebuild our lives together, I invite you to consider changing up the way you pray and seeing if one of these practices might enrich your conversation with God.
FEEL GOD’S BREATH
Sunday, May 23, is Pentecost, the liturgical holiday where we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the church. Pentecost is a time to experience ruach , God’s breath, God’s wind flowing through our lives. This month, as we prepare for Pentecost, head out onto your balcony or porch to blow bubbles and watch them fly. Witness to the good news by placing pinwheels in your window boxes or yard. Or if you don’t have those supplies on hand and would rather not procure them, simply step outside and feel the wind on your face.
Let the ancient art of origami guide your reflections on prayer and God. Composed of the Japanese words oru (to fold) and kami (paper), origami has a rich and complex history that spans culture, class and geography. According to PBS’s Independent Lens , paper was first invented in China around 105 A.D., and was brought to Japan by monks in the sixth century. Handmade paper was a luxury item only available to a few, and paper folding in ancient Japan was strictly for ceremonial purposes, often religious in nature. By the Edo period (1603–1868), paper folding in Japan had become recreational as well as ceremonial, often featuring multiple cuts and folds. It came to be regarded as a new form of art that was enabled by mass-production of paper.
Written instructions for paper folding first appeared in 1797, with Akisato Rito’s Sembazuru Orikata , or “thousand crane folding.” Europe also has a tradition of paper folding that dates back to the twelfth century or before, when the Moors brought a tradition of mathematically based folding to Spain. The Spanish further developed paper folding into an artistic practice called papiroflexia or pajarita . By the 1800s, kindergarten-aged children in Europe and Japan were learning paper folding.
Perhaps you learned paper folding at that age, too. Today, make yourself a chatterbox (also known as a fortune teller or salt cellar) that will encourage reflection on God and prayer. Here is your template (a printable version is also included). Want to fold from scratch? Here’s a helpful video tutorial.
After you make your origami, use it yourself and reflect on the questions posed. You might also use it with others, asking them to reflect. This is a great activity for all ages, including kids!
LIGHT A CANDLE AND PRAY
When we pray, we often light candles, as a reminder of the light of Christ and as a familiar ritual to help bring our minds into a space for prayer and meditation. After you’ve prayed, you might take a picture of your candle and post it to social media. Share the light of Christ with your Facebook friends or Instagram followers. Remind them that God’s light shines in the darkness, and the darkness will not overcome it (John 1:5).
Encourage your friends, neighbors, and/or those who walk by your house with sidewalk notes and rocks of encouragement. Chalk your driveway, your sidewalk, or your garage door with words of encouragement for those who pass by. You might also paint some rocks to take out on a walk that have words of encouragement, leaving them in yards and planter boxes as you go. See how you might spread encouragement in these simple ways.