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Press > MISSOURIAN: Pastor, artist, poet explore life's journey through collaborative book. Sep 14, 2014

MISSOURIAN: Pastor, artist, poet explore life's journey through collaborative book. Sep 14, 2014

COLUMBIA — Early one morning in June 2013, Tim Carson, senior minister at Broadway Christian Church, stopped mid-shower and was overcome by an image.

In his head, he saw a cube with six corresponding openings. The openings were actually doors to a house, and each led to a separate room. As a metaphor for life, he thought, this could become a way to explain an individual's needs, habits and relationships.

To him, it was a striking revelation.

"I can still see the shower head," Carson said about the experience. "I can see the moment where I stopped and thought of it."

During that summer, he became intrigued with the idea of turning the house and its doors into a book, but he didn't want to do it alone. He spent several months refining his thoughts, then picked up the phone and made a call.

Genevieve Howard was on the other end. He explained the idea and asked if she wanted to collaborate as a writer on the project.

"Normally I would say no," said Howard, who works as a strategic communications associate for MU's College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. "But I just had this calling that I needed to say yes."

Next, Carson contacted local artist Jenny McGee about including her work in the book.

"I felt like it was an opportunity to grow in my own faith, but also in a community with these people," she said.

Collaborative undertaking:

It's been a year since Carson contacted Howard and McGee, and the image of the cube has become the foundation of a 63-page book, "Six Doors to the Seventh Dimension." It was published by Wipf and Stock Publishers in Oregon and officially launched Sept. 5 at an event at the Columbia Art League.

Carson wrote each of the chapter narratives, McGee responded to his words through her painting and Howard reflected on the themes with journal entries that later turned into poetry.

The authors encourage readers to go through the book actively, exploring the house as a way to become more self-aware and self-forgiving. They call it "a detached renewal."

All three authors identify themselves as Christians but say they welcome the reader to take the journey from any spiritual, emotional or creative standpoint. They see it as a way to prepare for the future, accept the past and find the emotional energy that drives motivation.

"That's the power of using words and symbols," Howard said. "Things may hurt so much, but you're not alone; we are in this life together. This is our time, and if we can support each other to stay in the light, then let's do it."

The cube as metaphor:

In the book, the back door represents the past. Carson describes it as a familiar place where friends enter and the family piles into the house from the car. It is also a door that can remain locked because the past can be painful.

The front door symbolizes the future; one of the side doors opens to nature, and the other has human connections. The attic door can be a spiritual link, and the basement door represents passion and drive.

"We connect with our basement and its forces to stand against adversity, pursue what is important, seek satisfaction and stoke our creativity," Carson writes.

According to the book, the attic can "provide you with your own highest humanity: superlative moral codes, vast compassion, and a way of life that is filled with faith, hope and love."

The seventh dimension is achieved when there is balance in the center of the house.

"Everything is connected," Carson said in retrospect. "If you just wait long enough, you will find out how."

Intersection of lives:

Carson came to Broadway Christian Church in 2009 after a combined 28 years as a pastor in Texas and at other Missouri churches.

Howard, a California native, moved to Columbia with her husband and son in 1998. She kept her spiritual beliefs private until losing two family members in 2010, when her family found their way to Carson's church.

"I had a revelation that I would become a public Christian," Howard said.

McGee's parents were both missionaries. She was born in the Philippines, lived in El Salvador as a missionary with her husband after college and opened a studio in Columbia in 2009.

"I started painting in secret when we moved to El Salvador," McGee said. "I was really trying to discover if this was going to stick and if it was truly a passion."

She said her paintings in the book were done with string dipped in ink as she read Carson's words.

"I started moving my hand in response to the emotions that I felt his words were bringing up inside of me," she said.

Each of Howard's responses to the text were written by longhand without any formal sentence structure. Later, she reworked them and filled in punctuation where needed.

"I lit a candle and spent some time meditating and centering and getting my mind quiet," she said.

The collaborators hope the book will allow the reader to achieve balance in life and make peace with the unknown.

"My dream for someone to get out of this book is a total life transformation," McGee said. "I really hope this will give people peace and companionship through their journey in search for something deeper in their life.”

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