She came up behind me at Cochrane Coffee Traders, embraced me with her signature enthusiasm and said, “You have to read Rob’s book!”
Elaine Phillips had my full attention. But a book of prayers and meditations?
It turns out Elaine, a scholar of English literature as well as professional editor, knew what she was talking about. In fact, she knew the book intimately almost from its start, having done the cover photo and principal editing for this delightful collection.
I acquired a copy of Playground Prayers and Monkey Bar Meditations over an A&W coffee soon thereafter as a gift from its author, Dr. Rob Low.
Rob, a spiritual life coach, is known to many in southern Alberta. Currently based in Calgary, Rob served for eight years on the staff of the King’s Fold Retreat & Renewal Centre, west of Cochrane. A real fan of such centres, he wrote most of this book while on personal monthly outings to the Mount St. Francis Retreat just north of town.
And what a refreshing experience it was for me as an adult reader to have my sense of childlike faith and wonder reawakened by these nearly four dozen prayers.
How about a bubblegum prayer? Or a kite-flying prayer, a red rover prayer, a hopscotch prayer – or even a Lego prayer (Rob’s favourite)?
Lego? Yes, Rob writes, “Kids love Lego, God, because of three words: / Creativity / Variety / Freedom. / These words describe You, too, Lord.”
This is a prayer for deliverance from fear to freedom – “free to enjoy all You have to offer / And I want to be creative and joyful with my life / Like a child with a new bucket of Lego . . . .”
Of course, all of these prayers are playful and reflect well on why Rob enjoys the retreat centre experience so much.
In fact, it was while attending a retreat centre near Nashville, Tennessee, that he first had the idea for this book of prayers. During an afternoon of silent reflection, while trying to find an outdoor place to be alone, he came across a quiet children’s playground.
“Magically it drew me, as if it were calling my name,” he writes: “‘Rob, come play with me.’”
He yielded to its call and soon found himself stretched out on some monkey bars, suspended between heaven and earth.
“With the sun above me, the leaves falling around me and the wind gently blowing underneath me I felt weightless, like floating on water or flying in outer space. It was a truly liberating feeling. . . . I began to realize this was what it was like thirty years ago when I played as a kid: free, fun, creative, restful and at peace.”
Inspired by this moment, he wrote “Monkey Bar Prayer,” the first poem in his book, in which he addresses the Lord of the Sky in words like these:
“As these monkey bars suspend me in midair, / You, too, sustain me, holding me up as wind beneath my wings. / As vast as the open sky is, so immense is Your love for Your children. / Thank You.”
Playground Prayers is available locally at Bentleys Books and at the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary and the Mount St. Francis Retreat bookstores. Or you can order it online through Amazon or Friesen Press.
I’ll close with my own favourite from this collection, “Tree Prayer.”
This is one of the shorter prayers, only 12 lines. Opposite it is a photo (also by Elaine Phillips) of Rob and his two boys, James and Brayden, sitting in the crotch of a tree that reaches out over a peaceful pond on whose blue-green surface float a half-dozen ducks. From the background you can almost hear the fluttering leaves “crinkle together like a chorus” singing to God in harmony.
“I want to join that chorus, Lord,” concludes this soul-sensitive spiritual life coach, “the chorus that sings to You / And moves to the rhythm of Your Spirit.”