Sabbath: Coloring Outside the Lines

December 4, 2016 1 Comment »
Sabbath: Coloring Outside the Lines

An interview with Margaret Feinberg by Kelly Carr, editor

Do you recall that childhood enjoyment of opening a new coloring book and pulling out your box of crayons? Maybe you can even smell the scent of the crayons right now as you remember. Looking back, you can see there was creativity and relaxation built in to an activity we just thought of as fun.

Why leave that joy in childhood? Adults can join in on the fun. If you’ve noticed, adult coloring books are popular these days—they’re everywhere! Margaret Feinberg has noticed that too, and actually there is a series with her name on it as the author. But she wasn’t just jumping on a trend. She had a deeper motivation.

Interaction with Scripture

I met Margaret this past spring when she spoke at the leadership conference Catalyst Cincinnati. She writes books and speaks across the country, spreading joy wherever she goes. But her joy isn’t flippant—it’s a choice. Margaret has decided to use joy as a weapon to fight back against the challenges in her life.

screen-shot-2016-12-01-at-5-09-05-pmPart of what brings her joy is studying the Word of God and sharing his Word with others. She found a new way of doing that through the unexpected path of adult coloring books.

It happened like this: Margaret was with friends in a little shop in Ashville, North Carolina, and noticed a bunch of coloring books labeled “adult.” She wondered what they were, and her friend said it was all the rage. True, Margaret began to see more of them, but she also had another observation: many of them were using Eastern religion in their pages.

“I thought, If somebody is going to take an hour to look at a page, what if they were looking at Scripture?” Margaret said. “I had been doing my own personal study of really marinating on the truth of God’s fierce love—which I believe is the core of where joy emanates out of. I had this list of Scriptures that I’d been underlining, circling and trying to memorize. I thought, What if I put them in coloring book form?

Those Scriptures formed her first coloring book, Live Loved. And then Live Free, Live Fearless, and Promises of Blessing have followed. Even her new yearlong devotional book, Flourish, has incorporated coloring pages within. But the books are for more than coloring. Each also gives space for people to journal, reflect, and interact with Scripture, encouraging people to memorize God’s Word.

Mini Boundaries

I told Margaret that such a coloring experience felt, for me, like a wonderful Sabbath activity—slowing down, dwelling on the Bible. She agreed.

“Sometimes we can fall into spiritual ruts—either what we’re doing in our spiritual life is no longer transformative; it’s not working or we can get really legalistic: ‘If I spend this x number of minutes . . . check off my list; I did it.’ But this is a way to say, ‘I’m going to slow down and today I’m going to enter into a space of grace. With this coloring book, I’m going to think about one passage. I’m going to pray about it, try to memorize it, color it. I might even do it with my kids so the Word is getting in their hearts too.’ It’s created a fresh, grace-filled place for personal devotion.”

I asked Margaret to share about her own relationship with Sabbath rest, especially as she travels for speaking engagements and her husband, Leif, is a pastor. Margaret said that she sets mini boundaries:

• “Whenever I can sleep in, I do—when I sleep more, I sin less!”

• She doesn’t work on the way back from a trip.

• She and her husband use Mondays as their Sabbath day with nothing scheduled, since both of them serve in ministry on the weekends. They try to consider, “What can we both do on the Sabbath to go out and renew ourselves—not just spiritually, but physically, emotionally—that brings us life?” Then Margaret and Leif are intentional about pursuing those things. Sometimes she said it’s as simple as taking a walk, raking leaves, or attending her favorite tulip festival in the spring. “There’s a thing about seeing the Creator, seeing God in creation, that just refreshes and renews me.”

The Call of God

One blessing that comes through living out God’s rest is the chance to draw near to God, learn more about him, and seek his calling for our lives. Margaret had encouraging words to say to any Christians who are questioning what God has in store for them and how to best live for him:

“Recognize that the call of God in our lives first and foremost is not to a position or a job title; it is to follow Christ with wholehearted obedience. The way we express that following of Christ through our work and through our ministry—we’ve got to keep that broad. Allow God and the Holy Spirit to use you in a multitude of ways. Don’t narrow his work and where he may need you. There’s a myriad of ways God wants to use you.”

God is already using the work Margaret is doing in more ways than she anticipated. Just in the example of her coloring books, she’s heard about parents coloring with their children and grandparents coloring with their grandkids. She likened it to the way people might gather around and do a puzzle together as a family 30 years ago—when they sit together with crayons, these family members connect on a new level. She was shocked by the number of people who have told her they have purchased the coloring books for their aging parents diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s. As these parents color, the Scriptures are coming alive again in their hearts. “God’s Word is so sturdy and so true and runs so deep that even in the midst, it reawakens again,” Margaret passionately described. “I just say, ‘God, you are amazing.’”

Finally, I asked Margaret if she stays inside the lines or colors outside them. “I’m always coloring outside the lines—guilty as charged!—I think most creatives are. If I was an engineer, I would color inside those lines, like they were barricades. But I’m a creative, I’m like, ‘Oooo, we can add some more here.’”

So whether we color a page or take a walk or just take a nap—I know Margaret would encourage us all to enjoy the replenishing rest of God this week.

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One Comment

  1. Andrea January 7, 2017 at 9:34 PM - Reply

    I have loved hearing Margaret speak at the two conferences I attended where she was presenting. She’s down to earth and so relatable! I own one of her coloring books and will be buying the others.
    Thanks for sharing this conversation with her!

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