Connect with me on Facebook Connect with me on Twitter Connect with me on LinkedIn Connect with me on Instagram Connect with me on Pinterest Connect with me on YouTube Connect with me on iTunes Connect with me on Podiobooks

Tag: Paraclete Press

My definition of the Holy Spirit at work is when you think you’re doing a very important x, but, unbeknownst to you, the true point of your activity is y. You trundle along, doing your x, and all the while, God is doing y. Suddenly, a beautiful thing blooms into being, something you had no idea was in the works, and all you can do is stand in awe, mesmerized by God’s hand in the world.

This is the way I feel reading Bead by Bead: The Ancient Way of Praying Made New (Paraclete Press, 2018). The book is about the history, use, and joy of praying with (and without) beads, but what’s really happening in the book is an encounter with a life lived hand-in-hand with the Holy Spirit.

Bead by Bead is part of the Active Prayer series that contains my Making Crosses: A Creative Connection to God (Paraclete Press, 2009) and written by my friend Suzanne Henley. It opens with the concrete—a history of beads and specific instructions on how to pray a set of beads—and moves to the metaphysical: praying “beads” even when we don’t have a string in our hand, and making our own lives into prayer beads. Suzanne has lived with beads for years, patiently creating her extraordinary creations, which are featured on the cover and throughout the book. I can’t help but think this immersion informs her ability to view the world as a luminous string of prayer.

In all ways, the book expands the concept of prayer beads beyond the traditional view of a rosary. The book contains a wide variety of prayers (or hymns or chants or whatever your little heart desires) to be used as we pray the beads. Those who love history and memoir and diamonds of insight will savor the book. Those who specifically appreciate the opportunity to combine physical activity with prayer will find a home in the book—Bead by Bead concludes with suggestions on how to draw and label our own beads. Along the way, there is no retreat from the messiness of prayer, or our lives, for that matter. Suzanne invites us into her  experience of a “widow maker” heart attack, for example. The primary prayer beads are not called Cruciform beads for nothing.

Please, take the time to be with this book. Settle in. Absorb it as you slowly turn from page to page enjoying the beautiful photos of Suzanne’s prayer beads and the delightful phrases crafted by her pen (okay, probably her computer, but definitely her unique mind.) You are going to want to re-read sentences. You’ll pause and ponder the insights she is making. You’ll guffaw at her humor. You will never look at lemons in the grocery store the same way again. Instead, when you spy the lemons in the bin, you will stop and say a prayer. I can’t think of a more wonderful gift a book can give.

Bead by Bead by Suzanne Henley

How God Comes

“I never procrastinate, except for Christmas shopping,” I told the woman . . . as I bought my last gift the evening before I left at six am the next morning to see my folks at Thanksgiving and exchange gifts. “So I’m still procrastinating, just earlier.”

It’s no surprise, then, that I am a teensy bit late telling you about Sybil MacBeth’s wonderful new book The Season of the Nativity: Confessions and Practices of an Advent, Christmas & Epiphany Extremist. For those of you knew to the Advent concept, this liturgical season preceding Christmas began this past Sunday. But according to Sybil’s calculations, the season of Epiphany that follows Christmas rolls right on through Ground Hog’s Day so you’ve got plenty of time to enjoy her book. And enjoy it you will.

Many folks—like Sybil—did not grow up with the practice of Advent. I did, and it was boring. A stupid paper calendar where you opened a door to reveal—surprise! . . . the day of the month. I already knew what day it was. This practice was improved somewhat when people began making chocolate Advent calendars—a piece of chocolate was stuck behind the door—but still, what was the point?

Then I’m reading Sybil’s book and one of her suggestions made me smile.

“Create a progressive crèche,” she suggests. This suggestion echoes my family’s tradition of not putting Jesus in the manger until Christmas morning. (It’s hard sometimes to find a nativity set where Jesus isn’t glued into the manger, but it can be done). When my sister began to host Christmas, she expanded this concept to include, first thing on Christmas morning, everyone running through the house to scoop up all the baby Jesuses we could find and gathering them into one spot of celebration—Jesus always got a birthday cake, too, at her house.

Sybil’s idea is even more fun. First, you decide where you want to locate your nativity scene. Put the animals in that spot. Gussy it up with some fake hay or greenery. Place Mary and Joseph way across the room or even in another room—after all, they are traveling to Bethlehem.

Let them take the journey through Advent toward the manger with you. Move them a little closer each day. On Christmas Eve move them to the manger. Until Christmas Eve, hide the baby Jesus or find a way to attach him to Mary. (Season of the Nativity, page 80)

Now how cool is that? A physical movement toward Christmas, maybe including an actual pregnant Mary? I’ve already started Mary on her journey—she’s outside under a bare-limbed maple because Sybil isn’t the only extremist in our midst. I’ll also let additional animals converge, including all types of critters to symbolize the extravagant presence of God in everything.

Of course this idea of physical movement as a contemplation of the mystery of God would appeal to me—I wrote a book about making crosses from broken and found objects. (Making Crosses: A Creative Connection to God (Paraclete 2009). Such is the genius of Sybil’s book: her abundance of suggestions on how to celebrate the time before, during, and after Christmas appeals to writers, drawers, gardeners, dancers, meditators, crafters, givers, teachers, singers, prayers, readers, talkers, candle-lighters, yogis, and yes, even Tweeters. When so many of us are searching for paths that we can use to truly connect to God, this book is a gift.

Along the way, you get to meet Sybil, if you don’t already know her: she is the author of the tremendously popular Praying in Color series. Sybil has a delightful voice, and it shines on the page. Her exploration of faith is an inspiration, and the soft-cover book is beautiful. Almost every page (did you read that? almost every page) of the book is illustrated with a great photo or line drawing; Christmas ornaments act as bullet points; and purple, the color of the Advent season, abounds.

If you can, imagine yourself seated in a big comfy chair with a steaming cup of tea by your side on a grey winter day, slowly turning the pages as you sip your tea, when that spark of recognition lights inside you: oh, you breathe, I know this. This is how God comes to me.

Thank you, Sybil, for giving us that gift.

Season of the Nativity

Follow Me

Connect with me on Facebook Connect with me on Twitter Connect with me on LinkedIn Connect with me on Instagram Connect with me on Pinterest Connect with me on YouTube Connect with me on iTunes Connect with me on Podiobooks

Subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,177 other subscribers

© 2017 - Ellen Morris Prewitt | EllenMorrisPrewitt.com

%d bloggers like this: