Culture of Imagination

connecting spirituality to everyday life

Month: January, 2014

Book Review – Living Into Community: Cultivating Practices That Sustain Us by Christine D. Pohl


Christine D. Pohl has written a fantastic book on some practices that will sustain us as we live into community.  Some of these practices are: embracing gratitude as a way of life, making and keeping promises, living truthfully, and practicing hospitality.  The book suggests that these practices will help to bring us together over time as we work through our difficulties and find some discernment in our lives.  Living Into Community will help us to become more authentic expressions of love and compassion as we live in a world that fosters isolation from one another.

•  Gratitude keeps us from focusing on flaws in a community

“Gratitude and ingratitude are closely tied to what we notice, and once we start focusing on flaws in a community, they quickly dominate our attention.  There are always things about a community… that will disappoint us, and because our expectations for the church are high, disappointment and frustration can run very deep.”

•  Discontent blinds us to what we’ve been given

“Grumbling is highly contagious within communities, and occasional complaining and dissatisfaction can become a way of life.  Complaint is often overgeneralized, and soon everything seems unsatisfactory.  While gratitude makes us more sensitive to the gifts that other people bring into our lives, discontent blinds us to what we’ve been given.”

•  Establishing deep roots in a place

“Commitment to a place and a people means that relationships can be formed that are able to withstand trials and disagreements, but often people move in and out of… communities before deep roots are established.  When expectations of mobility are combined with a consumer-mindset, people are very likely to leave when things get difficult.”

•  Stay with the process in difficult times

“A willingness to ‘stay with the process’ or to stay in connection with a community during difficult or uncertain times allows progress to be made in spite of the messiness.  Although giving things ‘time’ does not guarantee that we will move forward or find healing, slowing processes down often provides opportunity for giving attention to relational issues.”

•  The importance of listening

“When we think about truthfulness in relation to speech, we do not often assume that listening is a top priority.  But listening is at the heart of wisdom and discernment…”

•  The practice of hospitality

“Often, the best gift we can give another person is our time and attention.  Human beings need a place in which they and their contributions are valued, and a hospitable community finds ways to value the gifts people bring.  Few experiences are more lonely or isolating than finding oneself unwanted, unneeded, or unable to contribute.  People come to life, however, when they and their offerings are valued.  This means that communities and folks within them must be willing to receive.  Only as we recognize our own vulnerabilities and incompleteness are we open to what others can contribute.”

What are your thoughts on Living Into Community?

A Noise Addicted World


Sometimes silence and solitude have seemed like a waste of time to me.  I remember times when I could not be alone within myself or be silent to just listen.  It was terrifying for me to practice this stuff.  But I have been experimenting with silence and solitude for quite some time now finding it quite helpful in my life.

•  Listening to all of life

We seem to have the hardest time with listening in everyday life.  Listening to others, listening to God, listening to our lives, listening to the true self, listening to our environment, listening to our locality, listening to mystery; these become problematic if we are not present to silence and solitude together.  There is so much noise all around us every day.  It’s like we are addicted to noise and hurried activity a lot of the time.

•  Liberation from the noise

God is calling us into the mystical imagination of silence and solitude as the body of Christ in the parish.  We will not be able to embrace this silence and solitude without listening to the mystery and beauty in life.  Listening to the mystery and beauty in life brings liberation from our noise addicted world.  Rene Gerard says in his book The Scapegoat, “No one ever wants to listen…”

•  Living into each moment

Do we really want to be listening to the mystery and beauty in life?  Do we believe there is mystery and beauty in life?  There is an abundance of mystery and beauty at each moment of our lives in the place we inhabit together.

•  Practicing a presence

The mystery and beauty in life is all around us.  It lives within us.  We just have not trained ourselves to experience it.  We have not practiced a presence to the mystery and beauty in life.

•  The experience of mystery and beauty

But it still remains there and Christ is leading us to seek him through the experience of this mystery and beauty.  We need to become a church that listens.  Listening is the beginning of love.

•  Seeking a posture of listening

Without listening, we lose our true selves.  We lose our souls.  We lose a connection with the practice of humility and grace.  The mystical imagination seeks a posture of listening to the mystery and beauty in life.

•  Being sustainable as a local community

Silence and solitude cultivates a listening within us to mystery and beauty.  We cannot fear this silence and solitude anymore.  It is essential if we are to be sustainable as a local community. Our locality will break down if this listening is not present within us.

How have you experienced the mystery and beauty in life through listening?

Caring for a Particular Place


I am slowly coming to see that my individual life has limitations so I need to become a part of a collaboration of relationships in a particular place so I can bring a sense of love into the world.  I cannot do this by myself.  The place I live is the context to create a new imagination for the world in the present moment of shared life with others.

•  Creating a sustainable culture

The parish imagination creates a sustainable culture, a livable environment, a holistic counterculture among us.  Christ is revealed to the world through the parish imagination.

•  An incarnational understanding of the church

Robert E. Webber says in his book Ancient-Future Faith, “The church is therefore to be regarded as a kind of continuation of the presence of Jesus in the world.  Jesus… is visibly and tangibly present in and to the world through the church.  This is an incarnational understanding of the church.  It is a unique community of people in the world, a community like no other community because it is the presence of the divine in and to the world.  This conception of the church has specific relevance to the world of postmodernism.”

•  Our lives together in everyday life

Our lives together in the parish, is “a kind of continuation of the presence of Jesus
in the world.”  Christ is always present to our world, but others need help to sense this presence through our lives together in everyday life.  The body of Christ is the physical presence of Christ to our watching world in the parish.

•  Becoming the hands and feet of Christ to the world

When we share life together through the parish imagination, we demonstrate Christ’s love to the place we inhabit together.  We become the hands and feet of Christ in and to the world through the parish.  We can only live in the world through place.  We can only be incarnational in and to the world through place.

•  A local culture of relational care

When a local culture of relational care is absent from a place, the result will be exploitation and destruction in the long run.  When there is no local culture in the parish, nobody seems to care for it.  Nobody will stand up for it.  Nobody will protect it from exploitation.

•  Caring for and protecting a place from exploitation

Wendell Berry says in his book What Are People For?, “Lacking an authentic local culture, a place is open to exploitation, and ultimately destruction, from the center…”  If we are not serious about an “authentic local culture,” we cannot be the body of Christ together.  It is the call of the body of Christ to inhabit a place, to care for its place, to protect its place from exploitation and colonialism.

How can we create a local culture of relational care together?

Learning Through On-The-Ground Practice


I remember some of my friends really struggling to understand the importance of shared life in the parish.  I think this was primarily because they were not really ready to practice their way into a new way of thinking.  They were only searching for understanding with their minds, and consequently they never really experienced an integration.

•  Revelation is difficult without practice

As a result, many of them could not connect and never entered the neighborhood with us.  We soon lost contact with many of them as our on-the-ground lives together demanded attention. This has affected me for many years and I still feel a sense of sadness about it, but without practice, revelation is difficult.

•  Something is missing

I always felt there was something missing in my past experiences of church as a service, or a series of programs, but I didn’t really know what to do about it.  My friend and mentor Paul Sparks worked with several us to create different experimental environments where we could practice an alternative together.  As I participated in learning, reading, listening, and practicing, I slowly became more aware of the importance of things like proximity, locality, shared life, centering in a place, creating a new culture, and embodying life together.

•  Becoming present

I soon moved into the neighborhood reorienting my whole life in the neighborhood of Downtown Tacoma.  I have not stopped studying, reading, asking questions, and listening to the wisdom of experienced voices, but I have integrated those with an on-the-ground practice-based theology within the context of our parish.  Slowly, the more I practiced my faith, and the more I became present to my place, the more that wisdom began revealing itself to me, however mysteriously.  I can no longer think of being part of the church in any other way.

•  Practicing in a particular place

The impossibility and hopelessness we feel toward life could be subverted if the body of Christ were to practice together the things that Jesus taught in a particular place.  Our imaginations would come to life and we would be able to dance again.  As Brian McLaren says, “practice makes possible some things that would otherwise have been impossible.”

•  The wonderful and beautiful takes practice

Everything in life that is wonderful and beautiful takes practice.  Will we dare to practice and see the impossible shattered?  Will we practice and see the ordinary miracles of everyday life manifested through our relationships?

•  An on-the-ground practice-based theology

We need to approach our spirituality in the neighborhood we inhabit with an on-the-ground practice-based theology that is life-giving and filled with hope for all.  “Our spirituality needs to become earthy practice that engages with the scruffy and wonderful world of which we are part,” writes Ian Adams.  When the body of Christ does not practice together in a place, it will be invisible and nonexistent to those around it.

What do you think of an on-the-ground practice-based theology?

Being Broken Open to Reconciliation


Sometimes I think that my pain is too great and there is no hope for reconciliation with others. But God constantly proves me wrong revealing to me how I can live differently with others in peace and grace.  This is a countercultural posture that could bring profound healing to our relationships.

•  Our biggest tragedies can be our greatest moments of reconciliation

When we go through sorrow and pain we can manifest Christ to one another through reconciliation and grace.  Our biggest tragedies in life can be our greatest moments of reconciliation.  Pain can become the medium that draws us together as the body of Christ in the parish.  Pain and sorrow can keep us grounded in our presence one to another.

•  We cannot run from or escape our pain

We cannot run from our pain.  We cannot escape it.  Some pain is a part of every relationship.

•  Pain can become our teacher if we are broken open by it

We will experience pain as the body of Christ.  But our pain can become our teacher if we are open to it.  Pain can bring us closer if our wounds, pain and sorrow are embraced as a sacred part of life that is necessary to our own human process.  Pain can foster maturity and depth if we are broken open by it.

•  Becoming authentic with our pain

The body of Christ cannot afford to mask the pain of everyday life in the parish.  We must become authentic with our pain.  Jesus has not completed us.  As much as we would like to believe it so, this is not the case.

•  Living into the ordinary miracle of reconciliation

Our lives are filled with brokenness and pain.  Most of the time we don’t know how to show grace and love.  But reconciliation can become a living, ordinary miracle among us.  Christ longs to reconcile us together so that we can live at peace with one another.  Macrina Wiederkehr, who has lived a monastic life for over forty years, says:

“We are absent from life far too much.  Sorrow makes it impossible for us to be absent, and so, bless us with real presence.  In the midst of sorrows, distractions fall away, and we are there, raw and open, often confused, always vulnerable, little and great.  In sorrow we are nudged to our depths.  I do not claim to understand the mystery of suffering, but I often meet people who have walked through great sorrow; they seem to wear the face of God.  These are the people at whose feet I yearn to sit.”

How can we be honest about our pain and brokenness to pursue reconciliation with others?

Embracing an Ongoing Awakening


Sometimes in my life I have lived as if I was asleep.  I’ve had experiences of depression where all I wanted to do was sleep my life away.  This has not been very healthy for me.  I am slowly learning to be present to my own awakening as it takes shape in my life.

•  Listening to our awakening

We cannot make awakening happen within us.  We have to listen to awakening and let it live through our bodies in the natural rhythms of our existence.  We need to trust awakening.  It will become a part of us if we follow it within the depths of our souls.

•  The awakening of reflection and rest

Christ is calling us to awakening in the depths of our being as the body of Christ in the parish. Reflection and rest call out to our awakening.  We need this.  We long for this.

•  Live the truth of our awakening

Stephan Bodian says, “In the end, the only conclusion we can make about the awakened life is that it assumes the form and personality of the person who lives it.  You can’t imitate it or will it to happen; you can only wake up, live the truth of your awakening and notice how life lives through you…”  We are called to live our awakening through our sensuousness.

•  Awakening is calling out within us

All of our lives need to touch awakening.  Not one of us can be content without embodying awakening in our local context.  Awakening is calling out to a local presence within us in everyday life.  Our reflection and rest is opening its hands to awakening.

•  The contextual form of awakening

Awakening always takes a contextual form in the parish.  Awakening does not hold back life within us.  Awakening is mysterious and uncontrollable.  Awakening shatters all holds on modernity that we might have as the body of Christ in everyday life.

•  Putting us in touch with the mystical imagination

Awakening can be frightful and unkind to our illusions.  But awakening will put us in touch with the mystical imagination in all of life.  The awakened life calls out to us in the place we inhabit together as the body of Christ.

•  Creating a posture of openness

Catherine Whitmire writes, “The opportunity before us in every moment is to choose to live awakened lives…”  We cannot make awakening happen within us, but we can create a posture of openness to awakening at all times.  We can practice reflection and rest as a way to be hospitable to awakening.  Awakening is bound to happen in all of us if we take this posture in everyday life.

•  An ongoing awakening in our local context

We are created for an ongoing awakening.  Every moment of our lives calls out to our awakening.  We can choose awakening.  We can choose to seek God as the body of Christ in our local context.

What seems to keep you from an ongoing awakening in everyday life?

The Sacredness of the Lived Body


When I have very little imagination in my body it seems I am not free and alive.  I sometimes struggle to have a correct view of my body.  I have at times been told that the body is bad and “sinful.”  But I am coming to see that the body is a gift from God and the holder of all imagination.

  • The ecology of life

Our bodies are meant to be lived in which connects us to the ecology of life in a neighborhood.  All of life is connected.  Nothing can escape the body.  It is how we experience our lives together in all our commonality and diversity.  The mystical imagination connects us to an embodied faith in our bodies. 

  • The lived body

Our locality and our bodies need one another.  The body longs for God in a particular place.  Esther Lightcap Meek says, “The primary phenomenon of human persons is the lived body…”  The lived body is how we experience our salvation together as the body of Christ in the parish.

  • The body is the holder of imagination

There is no life outside of the lived body.  There is no truth outside of the lived body.  If our bodies are not lived in, we are dead even though we are still breathing and walking.  The body is sacred, unique, beautiful, mystical, powerful, intuitive, intelligent and is the holder of all imagination.

  •  Created in the image of God

We need our bodies desperately to live and experience sanity.  We need to see the body as being created in the image of God.  The body can be used for good purposes and work within our everyday lives in the parish.  The lived body is meant to embody our redemption throughout our days.

  • Relational and interdependent

Our bodies are a gift from God and it is a mistake to take them for granted.  Our bodies identify with the ecology of life intuitively.  They have a power beyond what we can sometimes understand.  They are relational and interdependent on others.

  • A new view of the body

Craig G. Bartholomew says in his book Where Mortals Dwell, “Recovery of place requires a new view of the body…”  The body is extremely sacred in every dimension of life.  The body is created by God to be used for intentional purposes of love, grace, humility, shared life, embodiment, kindness, nonviolence and imagination.  The body is meant for life, is the receiver of life, is the expression of life and the proof of life.

  • Connected and rooted in place

There is no substitute for the lived body that is connected and rooted in place.  We have become a displaced, disembodied, dislocated society that rejects the potential and limitations of the body.  Our potential is in the imagination of men and women.  Our limitations protect us from exploitation and colonialism.

How have you experienced living into your body?

Book Review – Strength to Love by Martin Luther King, Jr.


This book is a collection of themes that Martin Luther King, Jr. taught throughout his life.  For Martin Luther King, Jr. everything comes down to the courage to love.  This nonviolent, civil rights activist points us to the interrelatedness of all of life in which hatred and fear do not create our reality for us.  We move out of the status quo, prevailing opinions of our day and into a new imagination for humanity.

  •  The fear of change

“The softminded man always fears change.  He feels security in the status quo, and he has an almost morbid fear of the new.  For him, the greatest pain is the pain of a new idea…  The softminded person always wants to freeze the moment and hold life in the gripping yoke of sameness.”

  • Standing out from the prevailing opinion

“Many people fear nothing more terribly than to take a position which stands out sharply and clearly from the prevailing opinion…”

  • Where we stand in times of challenge and controversy

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy…”

  • Hate destroys us

“Hate is just as injurious to the person who hates.  Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity.  Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity.  It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.”

  • All of life is interrelated

“In a real sense, all of life is interrelated.  All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.  Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.  I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.  This is the interrelated structure of reality.”

  • A courageous way of life

“Courage and cowardice are antithetical.  Courage is an inner resolution to go forward in spite of obstacles and frightening situations; cowardice is a submissive surrender to circumstance.  Courage breeds creative self-affirmation; cowardice produces destructive self-abnegation.  Courage faces fear and thereby masters it; cowardice represses fear and is thereby mastered by it.  Courageous men never lose the zest for living even though their life situation is zestless; cowardly men, overwhelmed by the uncertainties of life, lose the will to live…”

  • Curing the disease of fear through love

“Hatred and bitterness can never cure the disease of fear; only love can do that.  Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it.  Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it.  Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.”

How has the life and works of Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired you?

Listening to Others


Listening has been a foreign concept to me for most of my life.  My culture, family and religious tradition have all taught me that talking is more important than listening.  I have been taught that you must assert yourself through words or you might just be invisible to others.  Awhile back I began to question all of this because it didn’t seem like it was leading me to a place of reconciliation and beauty.

•  Learning how to listen

I remember when our Downtown Neighborhood Fellowship first moved into the neighborhood to become a local expression of the body of Christ.  We had to learn how to listen to each other and those in the neighborhood.  If we didn’t love, we could not get along very well.  We had to grow in our love for others through a new paradigm of listening.

•  The witness of listening to others

Our way of witnessing was to listen.  We started to build trust with one another and with others in the neighborhood who were skeptical about us through listening.  Now after years of listening, we have come to be better friends with our neighbors in the parish.

•  The miracle of listening

All kinds of things have developed out of us expressing our love for others just by listening.  We would have been driven out by the locals if we didn’t learn how to listen and respect them. Listening can drastically change the body of Christ as we share the particulars of everyday life in the parish.

•  The difficult task of listening

There is so much talking today within the body of Christ.  There is an overemphasis on preaching and converting others through words and information.  When will we ever learn how to listen instead of preaching so much?  Listening is much harder than talking all the time.

•  The experiment of listening together

What would happen if we had an experimental approach to listening in the particulars of everyday life together in the parish?  I think we would see amazing things happen.  Love is intertwined with listening.

•  Listening as an expression of relational love

Without listening, does love even exist within us?  The communal imagination has a desire for listening.  Listening is the foundation of all relational love in the parish.

What are some of the ways you have experimented with listening to others in the place that you live?

Finding Rhythms Together


When we first asked people to move into the neighborhood of Downtown Tacoma many people couldn’t right away, so we encouraged a participation of rhythms through small steps that would make the transition easier over time.  We encouraged a rhythm of spending an hour once a week in a coffee shop or going for a walk in the neighborhood or spending time with friends in the neighborhood doing something fun like a movie or going to a public space like a park.  These rhythms became important to us because even small rhythms of faithful presence in the neighborhood can become the seeds of imagination that grow with unlimited potential and possibility.

  • Remembering God’s presence within us

It is important to develop some kind of rhythms in the parish.  Rhythms foster rootedness and presence and they are symbolic toward helping us to remember God’s presence within us and our locality.

  • Life has been created to live in rhythms 

Edwin M. Leidel Jr. says in his book Awakening Grassroots Spirituality, “Life has been created to live in rhythms that coincide with God’s journeying presence with us.  The rhythms of the changing seasons and the rhythms of the day and night connected to the sun and the rotation of our earth on a skewed axis; rhythms of the tides and of insect and bird migration patterns connected to the moon’s orbit around our earth…”

  • Admitting our need for rhythms

All of life has rhythms to it.  We need to have locally based rhythms that help us to share life and cultivate the mystical imagination in us as the body of Christ in the parish.  Rhythms of silence, listening, togetherness, eating, laughing, planning, communicating, serving, reading, walking, shopping, sleeping, playing, relaxing, working, meditating, reflecting, resting, socializing and exercising all have a place in our lives together in the place we inhabit.

  • Becoming connected to the history of our place

When we create rhythms of locality in our lives together; we are reminded again and again of God’s presence with us, in us and through us.  We mystically become connected to the long history of that place at the creation of the world.  There is so much we do not understand about the world and our particular place that we inhabit together.  Our rhythms help us to remember and honor the place that we walk on.

What are some of the ways that you have found rhythms in your life with others in the place that you live?