Sacred Space in the Frame

This month is interNational Photography month! Here at The Bardo Group, we will be playing with this theme all month long. On Sundays, we will be focusing on where the practice of photography intersects with our own experience and expression of spirituality.

Thomas Merton has a photograph he titled “Sky Hook.” He wrote about it, “It is the only known picture of God.” It is definitely not what you would expect! No heavenly skies, no angels, no beard. What was Merton thinking…a simply construction hook hanging from the sky towards the earth. (You can see the photo many places on the internet, but I couldn’t find a place with clear permissions.)

Often we see photos that prompt us to stop, look, and to appreciate what we have seen but also to wonder about something more. That something more can be something bigger or something smaller. My new friend and photographer, Paul Jeffrey, takes photos for the United Methodist Church for the General Board of Global Ministries—yes! He is a photographer-missionary. He typically focuses on the beauty and stories found in people. There is a photo of a young child in a box (all kids like to sit in boxes, no matter where they are in the world!)  He recently shared this photo with us in a small group and talked about the story. He said there was a huge reaction to the photo. Such a beautiful, young child abandoned in a box! What the photo does not show is that the family was just out of the frame.

How we frame our photographs tells a story.

What if Merton’s photo had the construction equipment in it? What if Jeffrey’s photo had the family in it? Would it tell a different story? Would that story be better? Worse? More effective? Less effective? What does this say about how we frame the stories of our own lives?

Framing is a spiritual practice. Or at least knowing what we are cutting from the frame. If we willingly cut off parts of the frame to focus our attention onto another part, that is fine. For the moment. But if we willingly cut of parts of the frame and never return to the whole, something is lost. I am thinking, in particular, of people who do things like cutting science out of their lives or people who cannot see the whole spectrum of society. When we get caught up in our own particularity, we forget the universal journey. And we forget that the child in a box has a loving, concerned family.

Below is a collage of one of my photos that I framed in two different ways. They tell completely different stories, in my opinion!

birdcollage

You don’t even have to be a photographer to understand the importance of framing. Hold your hands up around your face, blocking parts of your viewing field, and you will be able to frame your vision. Sitting right where you are!

In photography, we can say, “Where does framing help tell the story? Where does it hurt the story?”

In our lives we can say,

Where has framing helped you tell your own story? Where has it hurt you?

I’d love it if you would share your blog and perhaps a photo comparing two different ways of framing. That would be wonderful! 

birdatcemetary

    Shalom and Amen!

Post by Terri Stewart, 2014
CC License (CC BY-NC)

terriTerri Stewart ~ a member of our Core Team,  comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction with honors and is a rare United Methodist student in the Jesuit Honor Society, Alpha Sigma Nu. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual.

Her online presence is “CloakedMonk.” This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts (photography, mandala, poetry) and the need to live it out in the world. The cloak is the disguise of normalcy as she advocates for justice and peace. You can find her at www.cloakedmonk.com,www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk.  To reach her for conversation, send a note to cloakedmonk@outlook.com.

Sacred Space in a Phrase

I think it is fair to say that most of us here are word people. I appreciate hearing fun words, seeing a well-turned phrase, being sucked into a surplus of meaning…and wonder. Today, I heard a phrase that has captured my imagination and has launched a poetic exploration along with finding an image that I thought expressed the spirit of the phrase. What is it?

The soul is such a shy creature.

That is utterly delicious to me. I hope you enjoy the following haiku and perhaps, you will offer a poetic exploration of your own in the comments! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

the soul

peeking ’round corners

stretching frail tendrils upward

such a shy creature

flower
by Terri Stewart (CC BY-NC-ND)

Post, poem, and photo, Terri Stewart (c) 2014

terriTerri Stewart ~ a member of our Core Team,  comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction with honors and is a rare United Methodist student in the Jesuit Honor Society, Alpha Sigma Nu. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual.

Her online presence is “CloakedMonk.” This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts (photography, mandala, poetry) and the need to live it out in the world. The cloak is the disguise of normalcy as she advocates for justice and peace. You can find her at www.cloakedmonk.com,www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk.  To reach her for conversation, send a note to cloakedmonk@outlook.com.

Sacred Space in Opposition

I have been at a conference all week where we have been discussing how to organize ourselves to create social change. One of the most fun exercises what a Bible study linking the Book of Esther from Hebrew scripture with organizing for social change.

In the story of Esther, there is no mention of the Divine Name or any prayers offered, instead, it is a primer for racism and overcoming broken political systems.

Plot summary:

King Ahasuerus wants his wife, Queen Vashti, to come and show off her beauty to a bunch of drunk men (including the King). She says, “No.” She is then banished because she is a bad example for all women and all women must “know their place.”

Then the King is on a hunt for another wife. Mordecai pimps out Esther and Esther is brought into the royal harem. Why? She is beautiful, but primarily because she found favor with the eunuchs and maid servants. And they taught her how to find favor with the king.

Haman, one of the king’s guys, gets all pissy about Mordecai not bowing to him and asks to write a law that would destroy the Jews. The King is then able to rubber stamp the law (he gives away his ring) while never getting his own hands dirty.

When the new law passes, the Jews and Mordecai where sack cloth and mourn. Esther hears about the situation from the Eunuchs and encourages Mordecai to wear normal clothing. Mordecai then has the Eunuchs relay to her the situation (she was definitely isolated).

Esther convinces the King that this is a bad situation and the injustice that would have wiped out the Jews is fixed.

Yay! Injustice is fixed!

So, we all face injustice in our context. It may be threats to peace, the justice system, economics, poverty, etc. But we all face it! And some are actively working to correct injustice–creating sacred, healing, wholly, holy, space. In organizing ourselves, the question becomes, can we name:

  • Who are the Kings?
  • Who is the Queen who will lay down their power in order to maintain a just world?
  • Who are the Mordecais? Those who would be persecuted?
  • Who are the Esthers? The ones who know the King and can be educated as to a new way of living justly?
  • And who are the maids and Eunuchs? The ones who are also persecuted and underprivileged? Who may have sympathy for the justice issue?

What is wonderful about this is that it allows us to think creatively rather than to think that those with power are the only ones who can cause change. In this story, everyone becomes a change agent! Change for a more just world is another way of creating sacred space.

So mote it be!

And now for some inspiration from slam poetry, “Addressing Food Inequality.”

Post, Terri Stewart (c) 2014

terriTerri Stewart ~ a member of our Core Team,  comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction with honors and is a rare United Methodist student in the Jesuit Honor Society, Alpha Sigma Nu. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual.

Her online presence is “CloakedMonk.” This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts (photography, mandala, poetry) and the need to live it out in the world. The cloak is the disguise of normalcy as she advocates for justice and peace. You can find her at www.cloakedmonk.com,www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk.  To reach her for conversation, send a note to cloakedmonk@outlook.com.