At Play in God’s Creation: Q&A with Tara Owens

At Play in God’s Creation: An Illuminating Coloring Book by Tara M. Owens, Daniel Sorense Franciscan Media, 2016

How did you and the illustrator come to work together?
I’ve been attending an annual conference for Christians in the arts called The Glen Workshop for the past eight years. I don’t remember which year I met Dan, but we hit it off. He lives in Denver, which is not too far from my home in Colorado Springs. I believe art-making in its various forms is also a spiritual discipline: it teaches you to attend, it reminds you of the responsibility of stewarding creation into the good and beautiful, and it engages the gospel in many different mediums. When the opportunity arose to work on a coloring book based on the discipline of contemplative prayer, I knew just who I wanted to partner with. I can’t be in Dan’s presence without smiling.

Coloring books are an unusual form of spiritual practice! What are some other unexpected experiences that might lead to spiritual practices?
Anything that can help us train rather than try is a good candidate for a spiritual practice. I remember when I was babysitting my sister’s two young children and the oldest would color a few lines with a crayon before dashing off to play. Each time I put the crayons away in the box, she would return to color a few more lines and ceremoniously dump them all back out. While this sounds like a recipe for frustration, I recognized that God was inviting me to practice letting go of something that keeps me from deeper relationship with God—my desire for control. So each act of putting the crayons back and having them dumped out was a moment to surrender to God instead of to let my irritation consume my experience.

In the same way, spiritual practices can rise out of our normal, everyday lives to bring transformation and wholeness. Whether it’s choosing to bike to work instead of driving as a discipline of slowness, or practicing God’s presence by truly entering into the celebration of a friend’s birthday, or turning off your cell phone in church as a discipline of being unimportant—the possibilities for spiritual practices are nearly unlimited.

Tell us a little about your own spiritual journey and how you worked on a journey for others to take.
I became a Christian as an adult, while I was working as a journalist in the Washington, DC area. I’ve always been spiritually sensitive, but it wasn’t until adulthood that I really understood the gospel of Christ, and the ways that Jesus had been seeking me. I loved words and writing, but I wasn’t fully vocationally at home in political journalism. I felt drawn by God to study at seminary, but I wasn’t sure why. I knew I wanted to be an agent of healing, but I didn’t know what that would look like. It was at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto that I encountered the concept of spiritual direction for the first time and made the link to God’s call on my life. The practice of spiritual direction is about helping people connect their story to the larger story of Christ. It’s a place to meet and grow in God in all the corners of our lives.

In many ways, that was my hope for At Play in God’s Creation. The whole book is crafted as a journey meant to bring people deeper in their relationship with God. There are prompts and quotations, moments for reflection and guided prayer. All of these activities are profoundly healing things, in and of themselves, but when we surrender them to God, the Spirit moves in to speak, to inspire, and to heal.

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