Ruth Woodliff-Stanley

What is Paintbox?

Paintbox is a palette of resources and reflections to help you write sermons and develop thoughts inspired by the church’s propers with input from several different disciplines. It’s a website for preachers, leaders, and learners who follow the Christian weekly readings we call propers. Paintbox can help us think in more than one way about things that matter.

In many Christian traditions, weekly readings, called "lessons" (and a "psalm"), along with a prayer called the "collect", comprise a weekly offering called a "proper." In Paintbox, I create a new kind of proper, inspired by the propers of the church. In Paintbox Interdisciplinary Propers, the lessons are talks, works of art, articles, or other resources that I bring to you from one or more of the following disciplines:

Disciplines used in Paintbox

  • Spirituality & Psychology
  • Education & Communication
  • Current Events & World Affairs
  • Arts & Architecture
  • Science & Nature
  • Business & Technology
  • History & Culture

After these resources, I offer my own take on how these interdisciplinary lessons relate to the scriptural lessons from the church's proper for the week. I do this by writing a reflection and summarizing a key theme put in the form of a question, which I call the collect–inspired by the church's tradition of offering a prayer to "collect" the themes for the week. The lessons and the collect comprise a proper. The idea is to take a tried and true structure and broaden it as a means of encouraging us to bring more different disciplines into conversation with our biblical studies.

Getting Around Paintbox

  1. Find the current interdisciplinary proper on the homepage of Paintbox or find a past proper in the archives.
  2. Open the interdisciplinary "lessons" by clicking on the colorful boxes.
  3. Read the collect to consider the lessons and the church's proper from the vantage point of a focusing question.
  4. Read my reflection for the week for another point of view to hold with yours.
  5. Note that the date of each interdisciplinary proper in Paintbox corresponds to the date of a proper in the church year.
  6. Review the church’s proper by clicking the Revised Common Lectionary link at the top of each interdisciplinary proper.

What Inspired Paintbox?

For some time, I have wondered what it would be like if those of us who practice faith in the church could take our newspaper reading, our TED talk watching, our review of interesting articles, books, and works of art into the conversation we have with the scriptures each week in an intentional way. These thoughts were the first source of inspiration for Paintbox.

The second source of inspiration is a painter's porch. When I was a child, I spent summer mornings on the painting porch of Mississippi artist Marie Hull. Each week, she had us paint lots of simple pieces, encouraging us to experiment with different saturations and to observe what happens when one color runs into another. We were learning the art of mixing as a first step in creating an original work.

From those days on Mrs. Hull's porch, I learned that having distinct and sometimes contrasting elements converge is necessary to creating a bigger picture that has complexity and beauty.

Paintbox Interdisciplinary Propers are intended to invite us to do the kind of mixing I did with paints on Mrs. Hull's porch with ideas in the public square. I've realized that asking what other disciplines have to say about important questions is a way to practice my faith that draws me into the complexities of life, rather than removing me from them. I hope those of you who share this conclusion might find this to be a helpful tool to strenthen your discipline of thinking in interdisciplinary ways about what matters to you.

I have intentionally kept each proper sparse, understanding the barrage of demands on your time and mine. Think of these more like haiku or bento boxes than like full-blown exegetical works or smorgasbords.

Uses for Paintbox

The propers can be used for personal meditation, as a springboard for discussions in small groups and book clubs, or as a resource for speakers and preachers. I hope they might inspire us all to mix, to experiment, to find the gift of thinking in new ways.

A word about the creator of Paintbox:

Ruth works inside and outside the church often with a focus of bringing disparate points of view into earshot of one another to help build the future church. Now, she works in several settings with a focus on engaging change effectively. She moves through life in the incredible company of the love of her life Nathan, her two grown sons, George and John, and beloved family and close friends.