One Person’s Junk … The Labyrinth Journey Continues

When Easter arrived and my Lenten labyrinth-walking experience was officially over, I was ready to release myself of the daily discipline of finding the time to: choose a labyrinth, get myself there, walk it, transport myself back home, and then journal about it all. And I can honestly say that I have enjoyed the reprieve during the three weeks that have followed. That said, my long-term intent was to continue walking labyrinths every so often, especially seeking them out during my travels. Well, I “traveled” to DC this past week and decided to try out a labyrinth I had found on the World-Wide Labyrinth Locator website ( early in Lent, one that was on the rooftop of an 8-story professional building just a block from Union Station. In all the walking of labyrinths I’d done during Lent, none had been on top of a roof so I was excited to discover what this particular experience would offer.

I wasn’t disappointed.

First off, the rooftop setting was beautifully designed with multiple sitting areas containing chairs and benches arranged around low coffee tables for intimate group sharing. While there wasn’t an obvious bar up there, I still envisioned rooftop Happy Hour gatherings enjoyed by the professionals who worked in that building. The most stunning visual was the L-shaped metal pergola, enveloping most of these sitting areas; it was dripping with heavy bunches of purple wisteria blossoms. Maybe it was the thought of Happy Hour still lingering in my mind that invited me to see these gorgeous blooms as grapes.

I took about 20 minutes to sit and meditate in this visually stunning “vineyard” before walking and, perhaps no surprise for a biblical storyteller, the thought that kept coming to me was Jesus’ parable about the wine and wineskins, particularly how new wine has to be put in new wineskins because its vibrant potency would be too much for the old skins, bursting them to the point of waste and ruin. Many sermons have been preached on this metaphoric passage, encouraging congregations to renew themselves, their spiritual lives, even their outdated physical buildings so as to invite, accommodate, and nourish new beliefs, methodologies, and members. And many of those messages have not been welcomed because change is perceived as too hard, too scary, too much work. Humans tend to be creatures of comfort and change, especially big change, is simply a step too far. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And we ain’t broke!”

It was with these thoughts still swirling around in my heart, soul, mind, and spirit that I began to walk the labyrinth. And the message I seemed to receive was that maybe change didn’t always have to involve big, earth-shattering, “road-to-Damascus” differences. It was indeed possible for small changes in location and perspective to open up completely new vistas.

My urban rooftop frame of reference was in the midst of a densely populated neighborhood of other tall, professional buildings, each with its own unique architectural style. There was a lot to take in visually. So while I had often walked my Lenten labyrinths with my eyes cast downward, on this day I consciously looked straight ahead at the various structures in my direct line of vision. Of course, “ahead” kept changing with each curve of the labyrinth. But what I also noticed, perhaps for the first time, was that where I was within the labyrinth also determined what was ahead of me. I could be facing due north but what I saw while facing that direction from the far right side of the circle was different from what was revealed from the far left side or from the center. Once I realized this, I intentionally looked for new perspectives as I journeyed along the meandering path.

Sometimes, just one additional step suddenly opened up a vista between two buildings, allowing me to now see something completely new in the gap that had previously been obscured. The closer I was to the large building to the south, the less I was able to see the dome of the Capitol in the distance; but when I moved to the opposite rim of the labyrinth, I not only saw more of the dome but now also several stone eagles gracing the top of a structure in between. Occasionally, getting closer to a building gave me a better glimpse into its windows so as to realize that curtains or other décor were actually shabbier than they appeared at first blush. I was even amazed by how just moving a little further into the middle allowed me to notice that a large pot housing a big plant just outside of the labyrinth’s circumference was seriously damaged on one side, a fact that was completely hidden from the vantage point at the labyrinth’s opening.

I was fascinated by how little effort it took on my part to experience dozens and dozens of different views and perspectives. Hm … perhaps there’s a sermon there …

Which made me think, again, of the wineskins. Maybe if the new wine is only minimally different, the old skins will be able to handle it. And once the old skins acclimate to this new reality, they’ll then be able to accommodate another boost or change in wine vibrancy … and so on, and so on, one baby step at a time. This approach takes longer, for sure, and can be extremely frustrating for progressive thinkers who want bigger changes ASAP. And, yes, sometimes circumstances do require BIG. CHANGE. NOW.

But other times, maybe it’s possible—preferable, even—to move more incrementally, where the main surrounding structures are still in place and reassuringly visible, where they, in fact, might actually be integral to the new perspectives, requiring only slight shifts in location and point of view. This approach could possibly allow humans to be more willing to see and acknowledge that some things, anyway, are indeed “broke” but by not throwing the baby out with the bath water, or the new wine out with the old wineskins, progress and growth could actually occur while also providing common areas to gather together for intimate conversation, maybe even under lovely wisteria-draped pergolas.

Tax-Inspired Year (’16) in Review

Today is tax day so it’s time, once again, to take a look at the saved receipts and records from eight years ago before tossing them, and review what was going on in my life back in 2016. Here are some of the highlights that got my attention this spring as I prepared the annual packet for my CPA:

~ a January gig took me to North Palm Beach, in an election year, where the candidate many of us thought was a joke had a home. (Well, according to the local zoning rules, it shouldn’t have been considered—or used—as a primary residence but, like everything else in his life, he subsequently got away with that. And technically it’s located further south on the barrier island than North Palm Beach, but it was still closer than I wanted to be!) The good news is that the day my host and I walked around the island site seeing, I got over 20,000 steps in, according to my Fitbit, which was a first for me. I often struggle to get the daily 10,000 step goal accomplished so it was an exhilarating feeling when my wrist started to vibrate and I was privy to not one but two celebratory digital fireworks that day. Woohoo!

~ I was hired by an Eastern Shore Conference-wide United Methodist MEN’S group for a weekend retreat. Usually it’s the ladies who seek me out, so I was tickled that the men likely branched out from their norm and sought the wisdom I had to offer.

~ I was still selling DVDs of my story performances, pulling in $282 that year.

~ I remodeled my kitchen. I distinctly remember the first time I walked in after completion and how I struggled a bit to remember what the old kitchen had looked like. Only about three weeks had passed since I’d been in the former reality, a reality I had used for over 16 years! But the new look was clearly so … right … it immediately eclipsed all the prior experiences from that space. Being in there still makes me happy today.

~ I led a 10-day mini-course at St. George’s College in East Jerusalem and had to wait over a month to get paid the remaining $3000 owed to me when something went wrong with the direct deposit of it. For a freelancer who lives on a shoestring and plans my budget with the expectation that I’ll get paid immediately after providing the services I was hired to do (something my contract clearly states) and who was somewhat strapped for cash after having laid out an enormous sum of money to remodel my kitchen, this was a BIG deal. And this “deal” was exacerbated by the fact that the dean of the college sent me a curt message saying that he didn’t need to be cc’d on all the emails sent trying to right this wrong. Gee, excuse me for assuming that the dean would want to know if his institution’s systems and employees were functioning properly and who might have ideas for rectifying the situation in a satisfactory way for all involved! 🤨 (He didn’t last long as dean!)

~Prior to that gig, I was able to spend almost three weeks on vacation in Europe with first-time visits to Romania (including Dracula’s Castle) and Slovenia (my AirBnB host’s opinion of Melania was that “She’s not that bright”), and Croatia for the second time (where I had the best day of my life—see earlier post on May 28, 2023). It was also the one time to date that I’ve set foot on Serbian soil—at the Belgrade airport where I briefly popped outside during a short layover. I didn’t want to linger because, somehow, I had ended up with a first-class ticket (trust me, I hadn’t paid for it!) which also entitled me to the first-class lounge at the airport. So many treats and amenities, so little time …

~ Prior to that vacation time, the thing that had gotten me across the ocean in the first place was leading my first Footsteps of Paul pilgrimage in Greece and Turkey. It was early in that trip that my right vitreous detached from the retina. Not nearly as serious as the retina itself detaching but still enough of an ordeal that I wasn’t supposed to lift anything heavy for three weeks, including my suitcase. So that made all the ensuing travel (which included lugging said suitcase in and out of old rickety Romanian trains, up and down flights of stairs in places of lodging with no elevators, and hoisted into overhead airplane bins to avoid the risk of it getting lost in transit as checked baggage) more than a little extra challenging! I ended up having my eye checked three times while abroad: twice in Greece and once in Jerusalem. The total out-of-pocket amount I paid was $50. That’s it. Back home, with my $10,000 deductible, who knows how much I would have shelled out. In fact, shortly thereafter, a friend told me about an upcoming foreign trip he and his wife were planning and how he had opted to get the insurance that would provide airlift back to the States in the case of a medical emergency. I laughed and said that my prayer was to be out of the country if I needed medical care!

~ Speaking of medical care, I had my first colonoscopy. I got it scheduled just prior to turning 51. When I got there for the procedure, the nurse asked why I was having a colonoscopy. “Uh … because I’m 50 …” “Good for you!” “Uh … doesn’t everybody do this when they’re 50?” “Heavens no!” I took pills instead of drinking fluid to cleanse my colon the night before, which was a lot easier (and also could lead to kidney problems, I found out later!). I woke up in the middle of the procedure and when the anesthesiologist made eye contact with me, he just about cleansed his colon! A tiny, benign, polyp was found, putting me on the every-5-year-instead-of-every-10-year colonoscopy track. (sigh …)

~ A few years earlier, when I was following the “healthcare by Groupon plan” I had gotten a partial porcelain inlay on one of my molars. Well, in 2016, it came out, while I was out of town. I was on the coast of NC, in a little town where I had interned at a church back in 1988. One of the church members was a dentist and she was able to fit me in with a day’s notice. She only charged me $83 and told me that the repair was temporary. “It could last two months or two years but you should at least be good until you get back to Baltimore.” It lasted over five years!

1950’s Sci-Fi

Witnessing the recent eclipse of the sun from within the path of totality felt a bit like participating in a 1950’s sci-fi experience! We all had our special glasses on and were facing the same direction with our chairs tilted back to the exact angle needed to best watch the spectacle.

That spectacle was one of the most stunning things I’d ever seen, to be sure. It was easy to imagine how our ancestors would have been freaked out by such an amazing cosmic rarity, rushing to sacrifice virgins to appease the gods.

But the view above is the one that tickled me the most!

Lenten Labyrinth Journey Visuals