Saturday, April 22, 2017

Planting Prayer Flags for Earth Day

How should Christians celebrate Earth Day? You might think that the best way to celebrate Earth Day would be to head to the garden to plant. But what if you don’t have gardening skills?

This year, let’s plant prayer flags.

I don’t mean the traditional Tibetan prayer flags, although those flags inspire this idea. Pastor Naomi Sease Carriker told me about her simple practice at a recent Create in Me retreat at Lutheridge.  

She writes prayers on tulle and ties them to a pieces of lattice fencing in her garden. She takes great joy in seeing them flutter in the breeze. The fluttering reminds her to pray.

I love this idea on so many levels. I love a good purpose for fabric scraps. Although the tulle catches the breezes easily, I imagine most fabrics would work. And what a great way to add color to the garden.

Any practice that reminds us to pray has value, and this prayer flag idea has an added bonus. I need to be reminded that I pray so that I turn over issues to the One who is much more powerful than I am. Prayer flags give us this ongoing symbol: that we release the prayers to go to the Creator who can handle it from there. The visual reminder to let go of some of these issues once I've prayed about them seems especially important in our culture that prizes self-sufficiency and the ability to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.

If we write our prayers, on fabric or on paper, we may find ourselves able to release the anxiety that often comes from our unacknowledged needs or our inability to find solutions. If we tie the fabric prayers in places where we'll see them, we can be reminded that we’ve handed it over to God.

I find many of my spiritual disciplines coming back to fabric. Even the ones that I think are word-based, like the spiritual journal, have some interesting possibilities in fabric. I have a vision of quilting the Psalms. I wonder how many other spiritual disciplines that I think involve other mediums could migrate to fabric.

I also like the idea that I can beautify the garden without having to deal with the dead plants that often come when people like me love the planting but forget the daily work of watering. The fluttering of the fabric scraps reminds me to pray for the mending of the planet.

There are as many ways to celebrate Earth Day as there are humans to celebrate it: we could clean vacant lots or reclaim poisoned plots of earth or buy a bouquet of flowers to remind us of green and growing creations. We could write letters to heads of corporations that need to clean up their acts or protest in a different way. We could run for office or go to schools to raise consciousness.

But we can also pray. Planting prayer flags can remind us to pray long after Earth Day has come and gone. The natural world needs our prayers now more than ever.

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