Updated: Mar 14, 2022
"Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
for You are the God of my salvation;
for You I wait all the day long."
The psalmist writes here about waiting "all the day long," but a group of faithful retreaters waited two years to come together to learn about visual faith. The Lutheran Women's Missionary League (LWML) from the Monroe Zone in southeastern Michigan first contacted me to speak at a retreat planned for March of 2020. Cancelled twice because of the pandemic, we recently met at the Maumee Bay Lodge and Conference Center in Oregon, Ohio. The theme of the retreat was Encourage One Another and, gathered around God's Word and in prayer, that is exactly the blessing God brought to this event.
Visual Faith™ Ministry has many resources and projects - new ones are regularly added - so the display table was full of examples. It's helpful to invite people to "come and see" as they arrive, which helps with understanding the practices as they are explained. Samples of prayer cards, prayer calendars, devotional journaling, as well as journaling Bibles and other resource books were displayed on the table, along with Visual Faith™ projects and collections of our Versicles, Memory Cards, Lunch Hugs, and Spanish resources. The iPhone comes in handy for taking a photo to remember a book you want to order or what a project or resource might look like!
After some teaching about the benefits and blessings of visual faith practices, visual prayer was introduced using a graph paper index card to help us slow down during a focused time of prayer - one letter per square, no spaces, no punctuation, choosing only upper or lower case letters. Some commented that it was hard - but the slowing down provided time to think deeply and share from the heart as conversations were lifted to the Lord. We had quite a few teachers in the crowd, who can now use this "secret code prayer" with their students!
The next visual prayer experiment was the "stained glass prayer" which begins with a shape in the center of an index card. Each participant wrote their name - or the name of someone they wanted to pray for - inside the shape. Adding dividing lines around the center, prompts were added and colored as each prayed. This type of visual prayer, as well as other prayer cards from the website, can be given as a meaningful "gift of prayer" to encourage others.
There were several tables of moms and daughters that came to the retreat as well as friend groups - what a wonderful time to spend in faith conversations, away from the busy everyday schedule! Because the event was open and welcoming to women and guests from all the area churches, there was opportunity to meet new friends, share conversation and prayer requests around each table ....and have fun coloring while doing it.
Events are always unique because of those who plan them - and this committee incorporated much "visual faith" of their own into the schedule! Strips of tissue paper were provided with an invitation to write out a prayer request, crumple the strip of tissue, and place in a bowl. During lunch the prayers were "mod podged" into the shape of a cross to create a picture of our gathered prayers - a beautiful image that will be displayed at later events and locations as a reminder of this day and an encouragement for prayer. They also marked Bibles and tied blankets to give to local women's shelters - visual expressions of faith to encourage others.
After lunch the practice of devotional journaling was explored. Copies of a devotional resource called Portals of Prayer were distributed and, after each person read the devotion, they paused to reflect on the meaning. The challenge was to add a one or two word "take away" or a simple image in the calendar square - an application or main idea that might help to remember the devotion. Coloring is always optional, but it provides a little more time to reflect, as well as a memorable "picture" to take with you through the day.
Visual Faith™ Ministry resources - and the many ways to use them - fit well into the theme of Encourage One Another. These tools certainly allowed for us to reflect and remember the encouragement we receive from our gracious God during time in His Word and in prayer, and stories have already been shared about spiritual encouragement given to others as these women put what they learned into practice in the days following the retreat.
God had a surprise for me: the encouragement and blessing of seeing these gals from college days - one a fellow teacher and two that have been friends since elementary school!
Many thanks to this most capable and creative committee - it was worth the wait!
May the God of hope fill you with all joy
and peace in believing,
so that by the power of the Holy Spirit
you may abound in hope.
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