Drawing God: A Conversation with Karen Kiefer
I’m excited to introduce you to Karen Kiefer and her new book, Drawing God. It’s out today! My friends, you have to get a copy. Probably multiple copies. It’s a beautiful story with beautiful pictures, and its message will surely resonate with parents looking to help give their children new ways to think and talk about God.
Karen’s book will inspire you and the young children in your life. Click below on the image of the book cover to order your copy. (Spiritual Parent may earn a commission from purchases made through affiliate links on our site.)
Also, what are you waiting for right now? To hear about a job you applied for? To heal from an injury? To talk to a friend who hasn't returned your call? For your faith to return? A new perspective on something? A prognosis?
Each day of Advent this year, I will publish a story of waiting—and I want to include yours. All you need to do is write a paragraph, or even just a few sentences. Click here to share yours.
I love the story of your inspiration for Drawing God. Would you mind sharing this with our readers? Also, what might your experience of being inspired teach us about hearing God’s voice?
It was an ordinary trip to the grocery store, or so I thought. I was meandering through the produce section when I overheard two young children talking. One said to the other, "My mother said you shouldn't talk about God at school, because it makes people feel uncomfortable."
I stood still, shaking my head, as I uttered, “Oh, no,” under my breath.
For weeks those words stayed with me. I was having lots of conversations with God on my early morning walks. I kept asking, "What kind of a world are young children growing up in when talking about God is uncomfortable? What might our world look like in 20 years? Could God talk actually become extinct? What can we do?"
Then, on a quiet Sunday morning, I began writing the children's story, Drawing God. When I finished, it appeared to be a creative roadmap to God.
Thinking back to that moment in the grocery store, I could have been on my phone, or listening to music on airpods or just pulled away by life's distractions. But, it was a blessing that I was just there, open to the buzz of activity that defines a grocery store.
That was a God wink.
A God whisper.
It's clear that God is always working, but it's becoming harder and harder to hear God's whisper in our daily distractions. Being open and listening to those whispers is both a challenge and an opportunity. I had no idea that the challenge of that overheard conversation would become an opportunity to use my imagination to create something that might get more young children talking about God.
Even though you began writing the story with a certain idea in mind, did your thinking about God, or faith, change in any way throughout the writing process?
It's funny, I didn't write the story with an idea in mind, it just seemed to flow. I didn't know where I was going next. My 21 -year- old daughter, Emma, was my muse. I felt the spirit of her younger, 7 -year-old, creative self with me as I began to create the main character, aptly named Emma.
Museums have always captivated me. They are a kind of creative church, a place where God lives in art and discovery. I love that the story begins there. The works of Picasso inspire Emma to draw something beyond spectacular. Emma decides to draw God. I remember tapping on my keyboard, just waiting to see what might happen next.
I began typing:
Emma escapes to the comfort of her bedroom and draws a brilliant sun. "It was so dazzling and radiant my cheeks throbbed. Its rays were so long they poked at my heart." Emma knew she had drawn God. The next day, Emma takes her drawing to school to show her best friend Peter. But Peter looked at Emma and said, “Emma, that’ s not God, that’s the sun.”
Emma tries again and again to draw God, but her classmates can’t see God in any of her drawings. They actually find her attempts laughable.
Emma finally realizes, through a prayer answered, that she doesn’t need their approval. “I knew I had drawn God. God knew I had drawn God, and maybe Picasso knew, too. That finally felt like enough.”
The story stopped there. But I remember feeling that urge to keep writing, because this wasn’t the end of the story.
Emma eventually returns to school on the following Monday, and something beyond spectacular happens. I won’t spoil the ending of the book, but when I finished writing, as I mentioned, it felt like the answer to my conversations with God. Guess you could say, I felt God "drawing" on me.
I’ve been thinking a lot about creation and what it means to be creative. In your experience, what is it about creating art that helps us better understand the Divine?
Creating art is an expression of wonder and grace. We start at the beginning, maybe a blank canvas, and we don't always know where we are going until we get there. Then, we decide if we stay or keep creating. I love that.
It's so reflective of the journey of life, the journey of our faith. Creating for me helps me feel closer to God. I'm not sure I'm explaining well. It's a feeling, a freedom, an excitement that fills me. I don’t know where God will take me next, but I find great comfort in knowing that I’m being led.
I do believe that everyone is creative. We all have this beautiful gift. It's finding a way to connect with this gift through your deepest desires and then giving those desires away so that others can benefit from them.
How can parents help their kids find God in unexpected places?
As we know, God is everywhere. Seek out those unexpected places: the laundry room, the grocery store, the kitchen, the car and see God working there.
Maybe you can pack up some clothes to donate in the laundry room, bake bread or food to offer to others in the kitchen, give a neighbor ride to church in the car.
Take those everyday experiences and create memories, create conversations. Conversation changes things. Conversations and actions will change your children.
Can you share a little about World Drawing God Day and the Drawing God movement that you’re starting? How can folks get involved?
The World Drawing God Day movement was inspired by the Drawing God book and the powerful message that we all see God differently.
So today, October 8th, the children's picture book is released into the world. May it be a catalyst for more God talk and inspire children and adults of all faiths to connect their very own faith imagination and to realize the contagious faith that lives powerfully within.
The World Drawing God Day celebration on November 7th will be an opportunity for our world to “draw” God, whatever that might look like, using the hashtag #drawinggod.
Our hope is to have thousands of people posting images of the way that they see God. There's a World Drawing God Day IDEA KIT for more inspiration on the Drawing God website.
As the book gets out into the world, I am reminded of the words of a friend who said that books can't necessarily change the world, but the people who read them can. To future readers of Drawing God, my hope is that this book will make you a little more comfortable, knowing that there will be a little more God talk in our world because of you.
Karen Kiefer is the director the Church in the 21st Century Center at Boston College and has worked at the university in various roles collectively for over two decades. A mother of four daughters, Kiefer has taught religious education at the parish level for 25 years. She is the co-founder of the grassroots bread-giving organization, Spread the Bread, and the anti-bullying initiative, the Million Misfit Sock March. Kiefer wrote The Misfit Sock, a children's book, in 2010, and is the author of the new children's book, Drawing God, published by Paraclete Press. This latest book has inspired World Drawing God Day on November 7, 2019.