Culture of Imagination

connecting spirituality to everyday life

Month: March, 2014

Book Review- Open the Door: A Journey to the True Self by Joyce Rupp

$_35

Joyce Rupp has written a fantastic book!  This book is all about finding what is authentic within us.  Joyce encourages us on a journey of courage to embrace our true selves.  She uses the metaphor of opening the door to guide us deeper within ourselves to befriend what we find and learn from it.  It is emphasized that divine revelation is happening all the time, but we need to become more aware of its message of transformation within.

  • Experiences are stepping stones to wisdom

“We can find ourselves grumbling when life does not give us all we want or when the price of transformation costs us dearly.  Failures, defeats, and disillusionments temporarily wipe out our hope of reaching the promised land of our true self until we realize these very experiences are stepping stones to the wisdom we need…”

  • The realm of beauty and potential growth within us

“We have this realm of beauty and potential growth within us, but we do not always believe in it or know how to reach it.  When we do find our way to our true self, there is work to be done in order to resurrect or restore our innate goodness…”

  • Nothing is left out from divine revelation

“Not a person, place, or moment is left out from divine revelation.  Something of value for our growth is always being made known to us in the midst of our ordinary lives.  This revelation stretches far beyond and much deeper than how we usually perceive life.  Our spiritual development depends on our being alive and vigilant enough to hear the message of transformation that weaves through our daily existence.”

  • The freedom of becoming our true selves

“While Jesus opened physical eyes and ears, his deeper message centered on an interior releasing that led people to the freedom of becoming their true selves…”

  • Befriending what is within us and learning from it

“When we open the door to the true self, we uncover more of the sum of who we are.  Initially, this may lead to discomfort instead of peace, for not everything we find is what we want.  But if we befriend what is within us and are willing to learn from it, serenity will ultimately reign at the center of our being.”

  • The greater the contribution of our presence in the world

“The further we enter our authentic self, the greater the contribution of our presence in the world.  Within the confines of our inner sanctuary, fuller love arises and keener awareness grows of how intimately connected we are to all that exists.  We become a nonjudgmental, listening, caring presence.  Rather than engendering fear or animosity in us, the vast diversity of people with whom we engage enlarges our compassion and broadens our enthusiasm for the complex and mysterious nature of humanity.”

How can we have a greater contribution of presence to the world through living into our true self?

Book Review- Down We Go: Living into the Wild Ways of Jesus by Kathy Escobar

down_we_go

What a great book by Kathy Escobar!  I love this book because it places an emphasis on being in relationship with the marginalized.  Kathy emphasizes the practice of love, community, dreaming, inclusion, equality, creativity, justice and freedom.  This book is a call to reimagine our humanity as created in the image of God, to dream together, value all people and embody authentic relationships in our lives.

  • Diversity is difficult

“Diversity usually sounds best in theory.  Most of us profess that groups are stronger and better when they include a wide range of people and experiences.  However, humans have a natural propensity towards homogeneity and structures that keep us safely contained with other people mostly like us… We tend to stick with other people who look like us, think like us, act like us and believe like us.  It makes life much easier…”

  • Becoming active networkers and bridge builders

“Breaking down ‘us and them’ means we become active networkers and bridge builders within our local communities, fostering peace, partnership, and open-handed generosity with a diverse range of people.  Why?  Because inside each person is the image of God just waiting to be discovered.  We unveil that image through the gift of loving relationship.”

  • Learning to live with the paradoxes

“If we can’t accept the paradoxes in ourselves, it is impossible to accept them in others.  This means we won’t be able to live in free and generous ‘with’ relationships because we will constantly be consciously or unconsciously working to squeeze the paradox out, instead of learning to live in its tension with others.”

  • Cultivating community requires a practice of love

“…cultivating a community requires an extremely high level of relationship that most of us haven’t really learned to do well… Christianity has largely become a system of belief, as opposed to the practice of love…”

  • The courage to dream

“Never be afraid to dream.”

  • Living with a spirit of inclusion instead of exclusion

“People engaging in a life of descent give power to those who have never had it before in noticeable, concrete ways.  They live with a courageous spirit of inclusion instead of exclusion.  They recognize that in the Kingdom of God there is room for everyone.  What’s critically important, though, is that we make sure we give to people different from us.”

  • Imagining a world where equality is the norm

“It’s hard to imagine a world where equality is the norm.  We just have to dream a little.  We have to see the world from God’s perspective, a world in which each of us is valuable and worth it.  Each of us has a deeply embedded sense of dignity, regardless of gender, race, nationality or creed.  With a sense of the intrinsic value of people at the core, we can begin to create a better reality.”

What others books would you recommend that have similar themes to Down We Go?

Book Review- Radical Gratitude by Mary Jo Leddy

rgcover

I love this book by Marry Jo Leddy!  It is such a powerful cultural critique of North American culture, where consumerism is exposed as causing a perpetual state of dissatisfaction within us.  Mary Jo Leddy calls us to a radical gratitude in the midst of it all.  Then she leads the reader to explore a creative form of power based on a sense of gratitude that will liberate us together.

Radical Gratitude emphasizes an ordinary mysticism that is open to all through gratitude.  It is embraced locally, relationally, in community and communion with God.  Highly recommended!

  • We have been wasting away from want of gratitude

“…for ingratitude is ingrained in our economic system and in the worldview that has shaped our imaginations for more than 200 years.  We have been wasting away for want of gratitude for some time.  Gratitude will not come easily here and now – not, or at least not primarily, because we are morally or psychologically weak but because the predominant values of our culture are so subtle and all-pervasive.”

  • A culturally induced dissatisfaction

“This dissatisfaction is not natural.  It is a culturally induced dissatisfaction that is essential to the dynamic of the culture of money.  It is a spirit of craving that swirls around us and within us, as pervasive as the air we breathe.  It is a dissatisfaction that will never be alleviated, because if it were we would not go shopping, we would not seek out more experiences, relationships, information, or whatever, and then the whole system would collapse.  We are enticed by the promise that with just a little bit more of whatever we would be happy and satisfied…”

  • Taking the basic gift of life for granted

“We are afflicted with ingratitude.  Because we take the basic gift of life for granted, we can assume our lives are, for better or for worse, what we have made of them.  And we cannot look on what we have made and see that it is very good.  On the way to getting something more, we fail to see what we have.  We disregard what we step over on the way to somewhere else.  We pay no attention to the person by our side on the way to someone else.  We dismiss the good that we do on the way to something better.”

  • An ordinary mysticism to be embraced

“…there is a more ordinary mysticism to be found in discovering the liberating attitude of gratitude.  This is not given rarely or only to a few but exists as a present possibility for all of us.”

  • Relationship, community, communion

“While it is important that we learn to distinguish who we are from others, it has become ever more important in this culture to identify the relationships that connect us with others and with all living things.  We cannot be liberated alone.  Gratefulness grows in relationship, in community, and in communion.”

How have you practiced a radical gratitude?

Created in the Image of God

HD-New-Abstract-37

One of the greatest seeds of revelation that I have experienced in my life has been when I started to understand that I am created in the image of God, as beautiful, loved and valued.  This has made all the difference to me as I have lived with a childhood woundedness by my father who communicated to me that I wasn’t seen and valued for who I was.  God has been healing me over the years to show me that I am a beloved child of God.

  • Settling into the status quo  

Jamie Arpin-Ricci writes in his book The Cost of Community, “…yet too often we settle into the status quo of nominal obedience, emphasizing our articulated beliefs rather than focusing on our living and active faith.  When challenged, we often cite our sinful imperfection and dependence on grace as a way to minimize or dismiss the indictment of our compromises…”

  • We are created in the image of God

So many people seem to dismiss the potential of obedience as a lifestyle of worship because they do not realize they are created in the image of God.  We just like to focus on our sin and ignore the image of God within us and say, “I’m just a sinner,” as if we could not be anything more than that.  Why do we rarely focus on the image of God within us that calls us to something more?  Is it because we don’t understand, are apathetic or something more?

  • Reflecting the image of God through our way of life

We do not have to live according to our sin!  So much of scripture points this out.  “Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness…” (Romans 6:13).  We have the potential to reflect the image of God to others through our way of life.

  • Life, wisdom and strength

The Father, the Son and the Spirit live inside of our bodies to give us life, wisdom and strength.  How can we not see that this is so important to understand as the body of Christ in the parish?  We will do great damage if we do not understand this because most of our relationships will become exploitive and manipulative as a result.  And who wants that?

  • The image of God has been buried by layers of the false self

People in our culture have seen too much of the sin in us and not a lot of love and compassion from us.  The mystical imagination cultivates the image of God within us that has been buried by layers of the false self.  We need to work out our salvation through a radical odedience in the parish with others as the body of Christ in everyday life.

How come we have such a difficult time recognizing the image of God within ourselves?

 

Becoming Human Through Place

image-186660-full 

Sometimes I take for granted the gift it is to be human; to be able to move, breathe, create, work, reflect, dream and walk.  The ability to love, experience friendship, pleasure and laughter is wonderful.  I have been exploring my own growth in my humanity for over twenty years now, and I am always amazed how unending this journey is within me in the place I live.

  • Deepening our humanity

Thomas Merton writes, “It is the strict truth, and until we realize before a man can become a saint he must first of all be a man in all the humanity and fragility of man’s actual condition, we will never be able to understand the meaning of the word, ‘saint.’  Not only were all the saints perfectly human, not only did their sanctity enrich and deepen their humanity, but the Holiest of all the Saints, The Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, was himself the most deeply and perfectly human being who ever lived on the face of the earth…”

  • Learning to be human

Jesus Christ lived in his humanity in the place he inhabited.  He lived in a local context in his humanity.  He had to learn how to become human.  His incarnation manifested all that is good in humanity.

  • Manifesting goodness in our humanity

We are called to manifest this goodness in our humanity.  We are called to be deeply human as the body of Christ in everyday life in the parish.  We are called into becoming the hands and feet of Jesus to our world in the place we live.

  • To live as saints is to become human

To live as saints is to become human.  To live as children of God is to become human.  To work out our salvation together is to become human.  To live in the freedom of the Holy Spirit is to be human.

  • Living in reconciliation with others is to be human

To live reconciled with others in the parish is to be human.  To become human is a good thing as we practice reflection and rest.  Our reflection and rest helps us to become human through the mystical imagination.

  • Honoring human beings as beautiful

The mystical imagination is calling us to become human.  The mystical imagination is showing us that humanity is beautiful.  We need to honor and search for this beauty in one another.

  • Rest, quietness and trust  

“In… rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength…” (Isaiah 30:15).

  • Experiencing our salvation in everyday life

Our salvation cries out from the earth.  The earth blossoms our salvation.  Our lives experience our salvation in everyday life together as the body of Christ in the parish.  Our salvation is intertwined with our humanity.

  • Becoming a people of place

When we are deeply human, we will be a people of place.  We cannot become human without a love for locality.  We cannot become human if we abandon our neighbors.

How can we explore what it means to be human in the place we live?

 

The Awakening Gift of Gratitude

desolation

Gratitude does not make sense to my rational, intellectual mind.  My mind cannot understand how to practice gratitude because it doesn’t make sense most of the time.  I often ponder, “How can I practice gratitude when I am frustrated, angry or grieving.”

I have found this to be one of the most challenging practices in everyday life.  It seems that I am learning to live into this more by taking on life in a lot lighter way.  I am learning to laugh, smile, dream again, show more of my humor, and accept the things I cannot change with a gracefulness.  This has been so good for me!

  • Practicing gratitude will open up our imaginations

Practicing the humility of gratitude in our local context will open up our imaginations to our connectedness and commonality.  Seeing our friends as gifts from God and allowing relational revelations to surprise us constantly will open our imaginations to see one another anew.  To say “Thank you” to one another is such a simple but profound practice of gratitude.

  • Showing gratitude could bring healing

Do we alienate ourselves from one another when we refuse to say “Thank you”?  Our culture suffers from a lack of gratitude.  We would rather push others away from us than show them some gratitude.  Showing gratitude towards one another could bring about some healing to our broken society.

  • Authentic community nurtures gratitude

The communal imagination needs a spirit of gratitude.  Henri Nouwen says, “Authentic Christian community nurtures the spirit of gratitude …”

  • Teasing out the beauty in life

Gratitude has an authenticity to it that will tease out all the beauty that life has to offer us. Gratitude nourishes our relationships and gives us a peaceful rest in the midst of the stress of life and the pain it can bring.  Gratitude restores our life’s balance, which helps us to be whole in the midst of our pain.  Our pain will not destroy us if we embrace gratitude.

  • The miracle and gift that gratitude is to us

What a miracle the practice of gratitude is among us.  It is a precious gift that we should never take for granted.  The humility it cultivates between us in the parish is amazing.  The communal imagination embraces gratitude in everyday life.

  • Gratitude is always awakening us to new wonder

Thomas Merton writes, “To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us – and He has given us everything.  Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.  Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder”

  • Seeing everything in life as a gift

Gratitude consists of responsiveness, awakening, and wonder.  When we see everything in life as a gift, this process of discovery never ends.  Every breath we take and every moment of our life are all gifts from God.

How have you practiced gratitude in everyday life?

A Way of Life Lived and Practiced

download 

I always envisioned church to be rooted in a local community where others are cared for through relational connection.  But this has not been my experience.  I hoped it would lead me to a way of life that was honest, authentic and graceful.  I hoped it would lead into the relational diversity and commonality of my neighbors.

But I have had to work hard to create a new paradigm of church through the parish imagination.  One that is embodied, rooted, local and relational.  One that is known in the place that she lives.

  • The body of Christ is a way of life lived and practiced

The body of Christ is a local culture, livable environment and a way of life.  This is the making of the parish imagination among us in everyday life.  David E. Fitch notes, “The body of Christ is a way of life lived and practiced…”  The parish imagination is lived and practiced among us at all times.

  • Becoming a local culture together

There are no dualisms here of separating our lives into categories.  Our entire being is integrated into a way of life where we cultivate the parish imagination together in everyday life.  We become a local culture together.  We become a culture of peace and justice.  We become a culture of holistic on-the-ground practice.

  • Becoming a culture of compassion and grace

We become a culture of togetherness.  We become a culture of hope.  We become a culture of compassion and grace.  We become a culture of love.

  • Becoming a culture of reconciliation

We become a culture of simplicity.  We become a culture of proximity to others.  We become a culture of equality.  We become a culture of reconciliation.

  • Becoming a culture of friendship

We become a culture of friendship.  We become a culture of relational connection.  When we create a local culture, we create a livable environment for all in the parish.

  • Facilitating a transformation within us

A local culture helps guide us into the common good of the parish.  A local culture facilitates a transformation within us in the process of inhabiting a place.  A local culture shapes us as we integrate relationally and create practices that are appropriate in our context of everyday life together.

  • Having a particular way of surviving and flourishing

John McKnight and Peter Block state, “Culture means that here in this place, we do things in a particular way… We have a particular way in which we survive and flourish…”  Our sustainability is very particular to our context in the place we live.

  • Enabling a new human beginning to be made

We need to create a sustainable local culture with a livable environment through the parish imagination.  Walter Brueggemann writes, “The formation of an alternative community with an alternative consciousness is so that the dominant community may be criticized and finally dismantled.  But more than dismantling, the purpose of the alternative community is to enable a new human beginning to be made…”

How can we be the body of Christ lived and practiced as a way of life?

Freeing Ourselves From Objectifying Others

images (6)

My North American culture has taught to be a master of individualism.  I have learned to think in black or white, in or out, good or bad, sacred or secular paradigms most of my life. But this is dualistic thinking that has caused me to objectify others and lose sight of honoring people with dignity and respect.

  •  It is a crime to our humanity to treat others as objects

To treat our neighbors as objects to be used by us is way out of line.  This is a perversity and crime to our humanity to be treated this way.  A lot of Christianity seems to treat others this way.  It is devaluing and sad to misrepresent Christ in this way.

  • An alternative to objectifying others

But the parish imagination presents an alternative to this perversion.  The parish imagination values, learns from, doesn’t think it has all the answers and listens to others in everyday relational contexts.  E.F. Schumacher says, “To treat a person as if he or she were a mere object is a perversity, not to say a crime…”

  • Bringing dignity to our neighbors

How many people have seemed to reject God because they’ve been treated with disrespect over and over again?  We need to reverse this situation and bring the dignity back to our neighbors.  We can restore the damage by listening more, learning from the lives of our neighbors and seeing the beautiful image of God in others.

  • Everyone is created in the image of God

Everyone is created in the image of God.  Everyone!  There are no exceptions.  Everyone was born into the world at some point and created as a human being.

  • Acknowledging the humanity of others

We need to start acknowledging the humanity of others and stop seeing others as “outsiders” or “sinners.”  Our neighbors have much to teach us of life, ourselves and God.  We remain foolish not to allow their influence and wisdom to shape us.  Our neighbors have so much to contribute to our lives, but it usually won’t be in ways we expect or can control.

  • Imagining all people as if they were Christ himself

The parish imagination is teaching us to imagine all people as if they were Christ himself regardless of what we might think with our rational minds.  What if we treated all people as we would treat Christ?  We would not try to constantly convert others all the time.  Christ does not need to be converted to our way of thinking.

  • We are the one who need healing from our blindness

Christ needs to be honored, loved, valued, listened to, understood and shown hospitality.  What if we acknowledged our blindness and imagined Christ to be our neighbors who we are in relationship with?  We need our neighbors because they represent Christ to us in the parish.  When we imagine our neighbors to be Christ, we are the ones who need healing from our blindness.

Why do we have such a difficult time treating others as if they were Christ?

Learning to Listen Through Silence and Solitude

images (5)

Most of my life I have faced the temptation to evade any sense of silence and solitude.  This practice has haunted and terrified me for many years.  I have not wanted to face the reality of listening to my life, God or others.  Because of this I have been blinded to the mystery and beauty in life.

  • Christ learned to listen through the silence and solitude of the desert

“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert…” (Matthew 4:1).  Christ was led into the silence and solitude of the desert in order to learn to listen to the mystery and beauty in life. Jesus had a listening spirit because of the silence and solitude he practiced.  He practiced this for the common good of his local community and the world.

  • Listening to life in all things

He needed to practice this in order to listen to life in all things.  The desert was not easy for Jesus, but it was essential to his longing to listen.  What did Jesus do in the desert for 40 days?  If you break it down 40 days is just under 6 weeks.

  • Finding many different ways to listen

I believe he found many different ways to listen.  Most of it was probably practiced in silence.  It was a cultivation of groaning, longing, dreaming, reflecting, walking and sleeping.  He probably was bored, lonely, tired and hungry at times.

  • The process of disciplining ourselves

But he kept going because he knew this was the process of disciplining himself to listen.  This was essential to the whole life of his passion.  Can we imagine what 6 weeks of silence and solitude a year would do for our capacity to listen as the body of Christ in the place we live?  Have we had the courage to experiment with this kind of practice?

  • Becoming seasoned practitioners of listening

We would be a much more holistic church if we experimented with this practice of silence and solitude.  We need to become seasoned practitioners of listening to all of life in the parish.  We need a holistic approach to listening to mystery.  We need a holistic approach to listening to beauty.

  • Finding the mystery and beauty all around us

We need to take this listening seriously through our practice of silence and solitude.  Mystery and beauty are all around us as the body of Christ in everyday life.  We need eyes that long for this mystery and beauty to be seen, understood and experienced in our locality.  It is there, we just have trouble seeing it because we do not always live a life of listening.

  • Keeping silence and solitude so we can listen

Tony Jones says, “Ultimately, we keep silence and solitude so we can listen better – so we can hear what God is saying to us and to our world.”

How can we practice silence and solitude in our lives?

Responding to a Longing Within

images (4)

Growing up as a Catholic, I always thought that Christianity was about being a good moral person.  I had a hard time with embracing an embodiment of communing with God as a lifestyle in everyday life as a part of the body of Christ in the place I lived.  I didn’t understand longing for God.  I didn’t understand the purpose of the body of Christ.  If I could be good on my own, why did I need the church?

  • Being a nice boy

I was the model moral kid if ever there was one most of the time in my life.  I did not drink or smoke or swear.  I treated others with kindness and respect.  I was very quiet and shy, but I was a nice boy.

  • Not responding to life out of my longing for God

One time someone at a movie theatre that I worked at asked me if I was a Christian.  I told them that I was, but I really only thought being a Christian meant being a moral person where you didn’t harm anyone and were kind to others.  Now this is important in life, but I was not responding to life out of my longing for God.  It was only out of the way I chose to live because it made sense to me for some reason in a rational kind of way.

  • Being a good moral individualist

I wasn’t much interested in the body of Christ or reflection and rest.  I was an individualist, but a good moral individualist.  I didn’t see anything wrong with this.  I called the moral shots in my life and that’s how it was.

  • Letting life respond to a longing within   

I would try to read scripture out of a moral obligation to God, not out of my longing for God.  There was very little longing for God within me, just a rational morality that seemed to make sense.  After experiencing some depression and a loss of identity on the things I was building my life on, I came to realize that Christianity is not about a morality that I could construct.  It is about cultivating a longing for my Creator and letting my life respond to that.

  • For the common good of our neighbors

Morality can become a box we become trapped in if the priority is on being good over longing for God through reflection and rest.  All of our life should be a response to our reflection and rest as the body of Christ in the parish.  Our lack of reflection and rest will affect not just us personally, but will ultimately affect the world around us.  Our reflection and rest is not to be pursued as an individual self help technique, but is for the common good of our neighbors who we live with in our locality.

How can we live out of our longing for God?