This is who I am. I am a follower, seeker, and sojourner. I am a Christian, pastor, and child of God. I am a son, husband, and father. I am a builder, musician, and artist. In my search for spiritual direction and guidance, I have found a kindred spirit in N. Scott Momaday. I have chosen Momaday as my historic person of spiritual insight. He is an artist, writer, and story teller. In particular, three of his books (The Way to Rainy Mountain, The Journey of Tai-me, In the Bear’s House) provided reflection and inspiration for delving into my spiritual gifts and ministry.
These books contain poetry, stories, memories and twenty-four different Kiowa legends, along with the corresponding historical data. Momaday sees the world through the eyes of an artist. More than words, there is a visual presence. Both the author and his father illustrate the books with paintings, drawings and woodcut prints. Not only is there visual art, Momaday paints with words. We do not just read the words and imagine the scene; we experience it--feeling as if we have seen it with our own eyes.
The Way to Rainy Mountain has a balanced, almost Trinitarian, layout. The main body is divided in three parts: “The Setting Out,” “The Going In,” and “The Closing In.” 1Each of these sections consists of three parts--cultural, historical, and personal—and three different typefaces. In addition, three woodcuts accompany each division.
N. Scott Momaday approaches writing in a very spiritual sense. He talks about his grandmother and her nightly prayers. “I remember her most often in prayer. She made long, rambling prayers out of suffering and hope, having seen many things.”2 This was one of his last memories of her, and she was the catalyst behind much of his work. As an artist/writer, he has developed a style and layout that allows the reader to join in on the visual memories that he is offering. His use of typefaces, page lay-out, and location of text has produced a book that is visually and spiritually stimulating. This combination of layout and words builds a bridge to areas of our memory where we recall bits and pieces and reassemble them into a new whole. All who read have shared together. The paper, ink, words, and illustrations are no longer two dimensional. They become round, full and vibrant.
As I ponder the work of Momaday, I consider my own journey. What memories have I entrusted to others? What paths have I taken? What have I created that guides others to the Creator? My spiritual journey, like Momaday’s writing, combines words and art which deepen my faith story.
In teaching, leading and directing others on their spiritual journey, I have discovered that the church needs to broaden the method by which we share our message. Momaday reflects, “In one sense, then, the journey of the Tai-me is preeminently the history of an idea, Man’s idea of himself, and it has consummate being in language. The verbal tradition by which it has been preserved has suffered a considerable deterioration in time”3 In the books that he has written, Momaday is striving to preserve the stories, legends and spiritual journeys of the Kiowa people. In the telling of our stories, we cannot rely on one method--no matter how successful that has been in the past. Painter and Beckman point out “Draw or color your dream, move your dream, embody a dream character.”4 If we are to be instruments of God will, we need to use all the tools at our disposal. We need to dream and cast visions.
My ministry setting is the third floor of First United Methodist Church in Cedar Falls, Iowa. The third floor reflects my journey of spiritual discovery. It speaks of my memories, dreams and visions of what God is calling me to do. As an artist I have set about creating a space that is open and engaging, so that all who enter are encouraged to experience the Holy Spirit. Join me on a spiritual journey to the…