How Coloring Can Help You Unwind
Amish Prayers coloring book
Another Way for week of August 4, 2017
How Coloring Can Help You Unwind
Breathe in. Breathe out. Relax.
For most of an hour, you could have heard a crayon drop on the thick carpet of the large seminar room at the Orlando County Convention Center, smack in the middle of one of the major entertainment centers of the entire United States: Orlando, Fla.
About 80 women and teen girls spent almost an hour silently coloring some coloring sheets that I had passed out at the beginning of the “seminar.” There were a few quiet words among women at some of the tables as participants sought different colored pencils (which we ran out of!).
If you’ve ever been to a place where you’ve been overloaded with input and your brain is gasping for space to process your thoughts and experiences, and to slow down a little, you might understand how a coloring seminar seemed an especially welcome reprieve after several days of multiple sermons, meditations, small group or table conversations, plus informal gab sessions with friends at a major church convention.
Over my 40+ year career, I’ve helped with or been in charge of countless seminars for a variety of associations and organizations, including the biennial Mennonite church conventions, as at this gathering in Orlando earlier in July. I think this was the most fun and restorative seminar I’ve ever been in.
The coloring pages came from the two coloring books Herald Press published in the last year, one of which I wrote about earlier, Beloved Amish and Mennonite Quilts, and the newest one, Amish Prayers. I had promised to revisit this topic after the coloring books came out.
What is Amish Prayers? This coloring book features prayers from an ancient German book, Prayer Book for Earnest Christians, which in German is Die ernsthafte Christenpflicht. I was thrilled to become better acquainted with this old text from 1708. It has been printed many times since the 1700s, and Herald Press published an English version in 1997 (translated by Leonard Gross).
The prayers are certainly earnest—impassioned in their love for and humility towards God. I began the seminar using one of the prayers and reminded these 14-18 year olds (and the several more “mature” women) that the prayers in the Prayer book and coloring book don’t sound like those we’re used to, and therefore are worth studying or at least trying out. Titled “A Fine Morning Prayer,” the first couple lines go like this:
“O Lord, almighty God and heavenly Father, you have created us as human beings, formed us and given us life. You placed us into this world to obtain our sustenance with grief and toil until we again return to the earth, from which we were taken. You have also set for us a time for our life, that we may fear and love you, and hold fast to you wholeheartedly. Just as you have given us the day for work, so also have you, through your divine kindness, ordained the night for rest. This rest we have enjoyed, merciful God and Father under your gracious shelter and keeping. For this it is fitting that we praise, honor, and glorify you from the bottom of our hearts and the depths of our souls.”
While this prayer is old fashioned and uses language we wouldn’t use today, it is lovely in the way Shakespeare is beautiful, but it also reminds me why some persons don’t feel they know how to pray or talk to God if they have to sound like this! Christians at that time may have felt not up to the task of repeating the extemporaneous prayers largely used in early Mennonite worship services, and desired a printed book to be used especially at home.
The editor for Amish Prayers coloring book took short portions from these prayers, modified them just a bit for 2017 ears and minds, and an artist, Lynn Sommer, created charming and beautiful fraktur drawings—an intricate and enduring Pennsylvania Dutch folk art form.
I do realize that not everyone enjoys coloring. I did a quick unscientific survey on Facebook prior to conducting this seminar to find who among my acquaintances on Facebook were into “adult coloring.” Of 24 who responded, 12 enjoy coloring, five don’t, and four said “it depends on the situation or how they are feeling.” One said “The only time I enjoy adult coloring books or pages are when I am in intense or emotionally charged meetings.” Others said they don’t find they are able to relax while coloring—they worry more about the outcome, picking colors, are they doing it well? Of course, the idea is not to worry about the end product, but just to enjoy the process.
And don’t feel guilty or inadequate or anything negative if you don’t like coloring! As my niece Cathy said “the whole point is to relax while you color.”
For a free coloring page from this prayer book, you can download one here, or write to me and include 2 standard U.S. postage stamps (for larger envelop) to receive one by mail. Send to Another Way Media, Box 363 , Singers Glen, Va. 22850 or firstname.lastname@example.org.