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Praying on the Right Side of the Brain

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"[S]o far as I know, it’s the first innovative, post-modern, truly American approach to personal prayer," says Phyllis Tickle, Memphian and nationally recognized writer on contemporary religious practices.

Tickle's talking about, literally, "drawing a new path to God," the subtitle to Sybil MacBeth's book Praying in Color(Paraclete Press). And when MacBeth — a mathematics instructor and wife of the Reverend Andrew MacBeth, rector of Calvary Episcopal Church in downtown Memphis — says "drawing a new path," she means it: It's called doodling.

The idea came to her about four years ago when words didn't. She had friends faced with cancer. But armed with crayons and markers and through the use of lines, shapes, and colors, MacBeth was able to bypass her "left-brain math" mind and center on God’s help for those friends.

The images she’d drawn, she discovered, stayed with her all day. She had, in a sense, "prayed unceasingly."

Don't worry if you can't draw a lick, according to MacBeth. She herself is a self-described "third grade artist," but she's taking her idea on the road. She's already held a number of workshops on incorporating art into prayer. She's also scheduled in late May to publicize her innovative method at a major religious booksellers convention. And on Thursday, May 24th, she's signing Praying in Color at Davis-Kidd Booksellers at 6 p.m.

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