Apr 20, 2014

Lesson of the Junkyard Cross

As I join Christians around the globe celebrating Resurrection Sunday, I am reminded how elegantly art can handle complicated stories, big and small. Sometimes one creation can even handle multiple stories.  Imagine that. A simple work of art can transcend the dimensions of our physical understanding of the world, pique our imaginations and inspire visions of new possibilities.   

A handcrafted wooden crucifix that graces a wall in my home kind of does that in its own modest way. I happened upon it at an art and gift gallery just outside of Phoenix, Arizona a few years ago on a business trip. The central New Testament story is all there in the symbol; the arrest, the trial, the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. So is Jesus' transcendental message from the cross; a metal spiral in the shape of the cosmic circle, a universal symbol of life force, springs outward into the time-space continuum away from the confines of the two-dimensional platform.

The metal of the spiral moves. At the heart of every great story is mystery, and the metal spiral almost seems to hum with energy that asks: What lays beyond the realm of our five senses? Life, which humankind eventually realized about the world, aferall is not flat. And what greater demonstration of love (in life) is there than the sacrifice of a life?  (NT, John 15:13). Jesus affirmed the answer on the cross.

Now, I will never know exactly what possessed the craftsman to create this cross. His signature, J. Wallingford, is signed in white ink on the back of the large outer ring of rusted tin. The gallery owner informed me that he was a carpenter, coincidentally the same trade Jesus was born to inherit had he not become an itinerant minister. 

Wallingford built and mended fences in the local area, and recycled discarded materials he found on the side of the roads. To reimagine scrap wood and rusting metal as media of artistic value is disruptive. To transform it into a work of beauty is radical. It shatters accepted beliefs about a reality built by humankind based on materialism and hierarchy. The message from the cross rings as disruptive and radical today as it did 2,000 years ago. (NT, Mark 8:36). This Resurrection Sunday is a joyous occassion to celebrate life, and all the ways it matters in the awakening and care of the eternal soul. 


Jan 8, 2014

When the sun sets ...

There are no goodbyes for us.  Wherever you are, you will always be in our hearts." ~
Mahatma Ghandi

Jan 3, 2014

Living in Liminal Spaces

For those who lived in a state of transition in 2013, turning the corner to 2014 is a little complicated. Either the fruit from the seeds of change you sowed will be there --  or new phases of transition await.

I should know; spent most of the year there. It was time for change, starting with my diet. In January 2013, I put in motion a plan to change my eating habits and my relationship with food. Yes, I learned, we form attitudes, feelings and attachments to food and what it represents.

So, wth the help of a nutritionist and naturopathic physician, I explored the emotional, cultural and physiological stories behind my cravings.  Long story short, I dramatically cut back on carbohydrates and sugar and adjusted my semi-vegetarian diet to incorporate more whole protein. Shedding a few pounds was a bonus. The real goals though were to retool a routine that no longer served my highest physical, mental and spiritual good, and increase my energy and clarity.

The journey toward restoring balance in my body and metabolism became a metaphor for addressing other areas of my personal and professional lives, most poignantly the relationships, that were out of whack. Positive changes are a many splendored thing.  It's making them that sucks. Sages have developed helpful frameworks and language for understanding the betwixt and between phases of change.

The forefather of analytical psychology,  Carl Jung, who came up with many of his psychological theories while dealing with the ambiguities of his own midlife crisis, called this in-between space liminal. He viewed liminal spaces as thresholds.  Milestone birthdays,  a health crisis,  changes in friendships, marriage, divorce, job loss ... the list of events that usher us to these thresholds is practically endless.

The stories of the search for the symbolic Holy Grail during liminal passages are as varied as people's personalities. Many embark on physical and spiritual pilgrimages to ritualize the passage.  My trip to Ghana, for example, was liminial.  I'd  not too long switched career gears, leaving an established and respected position in journalism for the ambiguous world of communications in the nonprofit sector. 

In the end, it panned out. But in the beginning, a trip to Ghana, where I spent three weeks traveling cross country on a cultural, educational and spiritual pilgrimage,  proved to be the perfect antidote for transition ennui. In Africa, my eyes were opened to the horrors of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade in ways they never were before.    

I returned to my responsibilites - at home, in my community and the workplace - rejuvenated with a renewed commitment to promoting human worth, dignity and creativity. The following year, I entered a seminary recognized internationally for its work in fostering interfaith dialogue. 

Studying theology and spirituality, and engaging in dialgoue with theologians from muliti-faith tradtions on issues of  religion, race, gender and class fueled and informed my purpose and passion. 

These milestones might never have been achieved or their value fully appreciated had it not been for the disequilibrium and chaos of my transition. 

Richard Rhor, founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerqe, eloquently paints a picture of the shades of gray found in liminal spaces seen through a spirtual lens:
" ...  where human beings hate to be but where the biblical God is always leading them. It is when you have left the tried and true, but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when you are finally out of the way. It is when you are between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer. If you are not trained to hold anxiety, how to live with ambiguity, now to entrust and wait, you will run .... anything to flee this terrible cloud of unknowing."

One need not be particularly spiritual, or religious for that matter, to make the most of  life on the edges of change. But it sure helps. Connecting and sharing with others is essential.

Other quick tips: Volunteer. Help someone else while you figure out your next leap. Collaborate. Surround yourself with positive, supportive people.  Dance. Write. Paint. Or, just be still. You need your rest.

 Remember, change takes time, but it is always certain and never dull.