Monthly Archives: March 2009

Creativity and prayer: An interview with author Ellen Morris Prewitt

Ellen Morris Prewitt‘s work has appeared in several literary magazines, including Image, North Dakota Quarterly, Texas Review, Brevity, and Relief. Her book, Making Crosses: A Creative Connection to God, will be released by Paraclete Press on April 1.

LiturgicalCredo recently emailed Prewitt a few questions, and she graciously replied.

You started this new practice of making crosses after 9/11. How did you arrive at the idea to make that first cross, what was it made of, and what did it look like?

Earlier, before September 11, when I’d found my personal life in disarray, I’d picked up the pieces – literally – and begun making vignettes from the scattered debris. I used whatever was at hand to tell small stories, and the frame on which the pieces were glued was an integral part of the story. When I needed something more after 9/11, the cross was the “frame” I turned to. One of my earliest crosses was made from the louvres of a shutter I had used as a dog gate, with fabric glued onto the crossbeams. My first “outdoor” cross was a three-pointed stick I found in my driveway. To adorn it, I threaded straight pins through tiny fake pearls and added leftover silver trim to make a scepter for what I named a “Royal Diedam” cross. It is hard to adequately describe how halting these early crosses were. They were very complicated, with many things stuck and glued onto them. Interestingly, over time, as the practice has deepened, the crosses have grown simpler. The principle of using whatever I find discarded in the world is stronger than ever.

You say that Making Crosses teaches the reader how to make a personal cross. What kinds of things can a personal cross represent?

A personal cross can represent whatever the person brings to God while making the cross. My motto is that these are not “Nicene Creed Crosses: I belive in God the Father, God the Son, . . .” but are “Lord’s Prayer Crosses: Give us this day our daily bread.” As a result, we’ve seen in the workshops pain, celebration, delight, deep insight – so many, many things. One of my most personal crosses was entitled, “It may be the Trinity, but Only Jesus had to Die,” a cross embedded with nails and staple “tombstones” which came out of my grief at the fully human sacrifice Jesus made for us. I love the description below of a cross one my workshop participants made, “Dancing in the Wind”:

My relationship with God is never static; it is like dancing with the wind: sometimes gentle and warm, or breezy, playful and impish. At other times – when I try to lead the dance myself – I struggle just to hang on under the cold, fast wind. Then God coaxes me back into the rhythm of life.

– Evelyn Baker, workshop participant

I am setting up a website,, that offers a “cross making community” where you can become a member and share your cross making experiences. I am hoping that folks will join in the community, and we will see even more fully what a personal cross can represent.

How is making a cross similar to praying? How do you think understanding comes from doing?

I think of cross making as a type of prayer, if you define prayer as spending time with God, which I do. It is very interactive prayer, to me, because you are asking and asking and God is answering and answering. Many of the questions are along the lines of, what am I supposed to do with this? When God tells you, there usually comes with it the “why.” “Because I want you to celebrate gratitude.” “Because the beauty is always tempered with the sacrifice that brought it.” The understanding is very much wrapped up with the physical thing you are creating; much of the explanation lies in the visual. Sometimes the understanding doesn’t come in the two-hour workshop; but participants have stopped me later to say, now I know why.

Also, it’s interesting to me how my focus on thrown-away material that the world considers worthless has affected the rest of my life. I’m not sure I would have been so taken with the “sustainability theology” if I hadn’t been practicing seeing all the world as God’s creation in making crosses. That is a level of “understanding from doing” that I could not have predicted, but for which I am grateful.

Have you witnessed others being transformed by this process of making a personal cross? What kind of transformations took place?

I have seen people quietly amazed at the difference in where they began in the cross making experience, and where they ended up, the road between being paved with the workings of the Holy Spirit. I’ve seen the most wonderfully creative crosses made by those who consider themselves uncreative people. I had one woman tell me if she’d understood exactly what we were doing, she wouldn’t have come, and how much the experience meant to her. I also had one woman for whom the cross making just didn’t take; interestingly, she was from the arts community. In general, this is my favorite part of the cross making workshops: when people tell the story of their crosses, looking with wonder at the crosses they have created, rejoicing in something that they didn’t know about themselves.

I also have to say that, for me, the most basic transformation is that I am here, talking about God in public. For most of my life, that would not have happened. Because of this, I warn readers that cross making may affect your life!

How does the process of making crosses relate to your work as a writer?

Someone once told me that all writers should have a creative outlet that doesn’t involve words. In a way, the cross making is that for me, an alternative process of creating that doesn’t depend on linear, analytic thinking. More profoundly, it is a practice I go to when I need quality time with God. When I’m making crosses, I get away from what has become my work – writing – and I go to something that has so little worldly purpose. I guess you could look at the cross making as a “taking in,” where writing is a “letting out.” The similarity is that, in both instances I rely on God to navigate. I can do this in cross making, I can do it in writing; I hope one day to be better able to do it in all aspects of my life.

Visit Prewitt’s Web site or view the Making Crosses page at the Paraclete Press site.

Unusual charity:

I saw a segment on CNN’s American Morning about, an unusual way to help the homeless.

The founders of the Web site decided to pick one homeless person and feature him on their Web site. Folks could go online and purchase various food items, clothing, and grooming services for the guy.

Now, the first “bum” has turned his life around, and the site is focusing on a second homeless man.

Check out the site, and then ask yourself:

Could we do something like this in the Wilmington, N.C. / Myrtle Beach, S.C. / Charleston, S.C. areas?

Bono: ‘I don’t go to church for the view’

In the March 19 edition of Rolling Stone, the second-to-last paragraph of the cover story on U2 starts out with a discussion of the song “Moment of Surrender” from the new album:

“Moment of Surrender” tells the tale of a lost soul, borrowing an Alcoholics Anonymous term for the moment an addict admits helplessness. “The character in the song is a junkie, so that’s where I got it,” says Bono, who has written about heroin addiction before, most famously on “Bad” from The Unforgettable Fire. “I’ve been surrounded a lot in my personal life by addiction — in the last few years, in particular,” Bono says. “I know a lot of people — not least the bass player in the band — who has had to deal with their demons in courageous ways.” (In the Nineties — around the time he was engaged to Naomi Campbell — [bass player Adam] Clayton grappled with alcoholism, and went to AA himself.) “And maybe there’s a part of me that thinks, ‘Wow, I’m just an inch away’,” Bono continues. “There’s no doubt about the fact that I have a wild streak and I’d be very capable of setting fire to myself. So, you know, I don’t go to church for the view.”

Out of the mouths of babes: my daughter on atheism

“People who don’t believe in God, they should feel sorry for themselves, because God made them alive.”

-Audrey, age 6

Recently, Audrey has been genuinely troubled by the thought that some people don’t believe in God.

I’m surprised and refreshed by this, because I have steered clear of apologetics de jure and culture-war slogans. Perhaps we have a budding philosophical theologian.

Christian Book Awards: ESV Study Bible is ‘Book of the Year’

Friday, March 20, 2009, Dallas – The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) announced last evening the winners of the 2009 Christian Book Awards during the 2009 Christian Book Expo (CBE) in Dallas. For the first time in the award’s 30-year history, a study Bible was named Christian Book of the Year: the ESV Study Bible (Crossway).

The ESV Study Bible, which sold more than 180,000 units within five months of release, also won its category for best Bible, the first time a Bible has won both its category and the overall Book of the Year award. The ESV Study Bible released to strong demand in October 2008, selling out of its 100,000-copy first printing as quickly as it reached bookstores shelves. ESV stands for the Bible translation, the English Standard Version.

Presented annually to the finest in Christian publishing since 1978, the Christian Book Awards honors titles in six categories – Bibles, Bible Reference & Study, Christian Life, Fiction, Children & Youth, and Inspiration & Gift. The six category winners for 2009 are:

ESV Study Bible
Crossway Books & Bibles, 9781433502415

Bible Reference & Study
Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry & Writings, Tremper Longman III, Peter Enns, Eds.
InterVarsity Press, 9780830817832

Children & Youth
For Young Men Only, Jeff Feldhahn and Eric Rice with Shaunti Feldhahn
WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, 9781601420206

Christian Life
Spectacular Sins, John Piper
Crossway Books & Bibles, 9781433502750

The Shape of Mercy, Susan Meissner
WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, 9781400074563

Inspiration & Gift
Holiness Day by Day, Jerry Bridges
NavPress, 9781600063961

The 2009 Christian Book Awards were announced during an open-to-the-public awards dinner that kicked off the 2009 Christian Book Expo. The Christian Book Expo is the first Christian book fair of its kind and is happening March 20-22 at the Dallas Convention Center (

The Christian Book Awards, established in 1978 as the Gold Medallion Book Awards, recognize the absolute highest quality in Christian books. Based on excellence in content, literary quality, design, and significance of contribution, they are the oldest and among the most prestigious awards within the religious publishing industry.

The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) is an international non-profit trade organization, comprised of nearly 250 member companies worldwide, representing a combined revenue of nearly $2 billion and was founded in 1974.

A brief guide to Washington snakes and idiots; or, the clearest explanation of the AIG uproar

Congress decided to give money to an entity without understanding how that entity works.

The people who approved bailout money for AIG did not take the time to learn that AIG had legally binding contracts with some of its executives.

That alone should be irrefutable proof of Congressional incompetence.

If only it was the first time.

Creativity in worship

I am still surprised when one of my daughters brings me a drawing and says, “I made this for you.” It’s a pleasant surprise to find out — despite my feeling that I don’t give them enough attention — they love me and were thinking about me.

My three daughters express themselves in different ways. I don’t necessarily expect one of them to do the same as the other.

Our desire to worship God is a gift of grace, but maybe our way to expressing that desire will be as different as our fingerprints.

If God is our heavenly Father, and we are adopted into his house, and he gives us a heart to worship him, then that leads me to think that he will smile warmly on the expressions of his children, no matter how well those expressions were done.

Kind of like when 3-year-old Sadie gives me a mess of colored crayon on paper. I love it.