by Sandy Drescher-Lehman, Souderton
Making safe space for people to experience the love of God has been a passion of mine ever since I can remember. That passion has been given life in camp settings, in prison cells, in our home and yard, in homeless shelters, on bicycle trips, in mental health facilities, and in churches.
Thirty years ago, after a profound experience at a retreat center of God’s love totally enveloping and holding me, my life verse became Isaiah 43: “But now, [Sandy], the Lord who created you says, ‘Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name. You are mine.’” Since that day, I have had the desire to live as many minutes of my life as possible in the heart of that much Love and to help others to connect with that much Love in whatever way they can experience it, thus receiving the healing we all need to become more fully human and to hold more of the Divine.
A formative book for me was, “Prayer and Temperament” which taught me the different ways that different personalities pray. I resonated with Sue Monk Kidd, when she said “Symbols are the language of the soul” and Paul Tillich who called Christians to the revitalization of their inner lives through the recovery of symbols. I began to notice how not only symbols but color, also, called my soul to go deeper into the wordless heart of God.
Brother Lawrence and Frank Laubach encouraged the practice of looking for God in everything. I noticed, as a worship leader, that when all of our senses are called for, people more easily engage in the heart of worship rather than only staying in their head with words and reasoning. And I’ve always loved the stories of Pippi Longstocking, who hid treasures in old tree stumps so she could watch her friends joyfully discover them on their “thing-finding” adventures.
So, when I became one of the pastors at Souderton Mennonite Church, I had the chance to combine all those learnings and passions! Joy Sawatzky and I began inviting people to special times of prayer to begin the Lenten season, combining input with times of silence; spending time alone with God in any of the several prayer centers we created, each with colors and symbols and scriptures. The variety was in the ways participants were invited to use their body or mind or taste buds or ears or sense of smell or sight. When we ended these retreats by “sharing the wealth” of our time with God, we were always overwhelmed to hear how God had come to each person in exactly the way that was most needed – far beyond anything we could have planned or imagined!
Then about 7 years ago, the ideas for different ways to pray suddenly exploded into 50 and then 60 centers, as more people joined the team, creating ways to express and make available to others how they prayed most easily. In experimenting with each other’s favorite methods and colors and symbols for praying, we discovered that when we try new ways of prayer, we sometimes go even deeper into the heart of God than engaging our usual patterns over and over. We organized the centers into rooms of a house – the kitchen (where we pray as we eat), the study (where we pray as we read and write and kneel and listen to music), the playroom (where tactile centers and craft centers help children play their prayers), the bedroom (where it’s enough to just BE; resting in God’s comfort), the art room (where all kinds of things to create wait to be discovered), and the great outdoors (where the sounds and smells and sights of creation invite us to pray in our walking and in noticing God in the world)
And my Pippi-heart loves to hide treasures in places where those who enter may or may not find them! The “House” symbolically calls us to see every room we enter as a place of prayer; every moment we live is another chance to be aware of God’s love and peace and mercy and grace and healing and whatever else we need from the One who created us and continues to create through us!
Souderton’s Lenten House of Prayer will be open February 8-18th, from 9am to 9pm in the congregation’s fellowship hall. All are welcome to visit. For more information or to access other Lenten resources from Souderton congregation, visit their website.