Culture of Imagination

connecting spirituality to everyday life

Month: June, 2014

What Keeps Us From Listening to the Mysteries of Life?

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It has been so difficult to find myself apart from the dominant narratives of the entertainment culture and consumerism of North America.  I have been learning to live with more simplicity and hope.  I am learning to see Jesus in the poor and marginalized around me.  Sometimes this is too much for me and I do not have an openness to the mysteries of life.

Listening is becoming sacred to me as I practice slowing down to consciously breathe in and out through each day.  Centering myself on discovery, wisdom, love, grace, humility and kindness has become a path of life for me.  Allowing my desires to shape what I love is leading me to be my true self in many ways.  I am learning to love and not fear the difficulties of life.

Whatever God may be to me today, I hope I can have the strength to listen and not be afraid of the revelations that will push me to have courage in the midst of a culture of fear.  My sense of awareness is forming in me a deeper way of love for the world.  My compassion is something that I hold onto in everyday life.

  •  Cluttered with fragmentation, distractions and disembodied practice

We need the mystical imagination to see with a sense of clarity.  Our seeing is sometimes so cluttered with fragmentation, distractions, disembodied practice and default ways of knowing.  We have often times become focused on things that don’t matter and our seeing has turned to blindness.  Most of the time we don’t even know what is happening and this goes on unconsciously within us.

  •  Becoming more mindful and aware

The mystical imagination calls to us from the hills to wake up and run toward something more holistic and life-giving.  The mystical imagination teaches us to see with the eyes of a mystic.  We become more mindful and aware.  We become more loving and full of grace.

  •  Putting us into a posture of listening

We develop more of a longing for the God of mystery.  We become filled with wonder.  We become passionate about the parish.  Seeing with a sense of clarity puts us into a posture of listening.

  •  Living with an openness to revelation and discovery

Seeing with a sense of clarity gives us imagination for the body of Christ in everyday life.  As we practice more and more, God slowly reveals more to us of the mysterious nature of life.  But these revelations do not come so fast, they come very slow.  We cannot force them, but we must live with an openness in a way that we can listen when we discover something of their nature.

  •  Longing to discover relational revelations within us and around us

This is the purpose of the body of Christ in the parish.  We should always be longing to discover the relational revelations within us and around us all of the time.  There is nothing like an intuitive discovery of relational wisdom in the place we care about and inhabit.

How can we live with an openness to revelation and discovery in everyday life?

Where is the Body of Christ in Everyday Life?


So many years have gone by where I haven’t experienced the body of Christ in everyday life.  I have almost given up on my spirituality.  I have often wondered, Where is a sense of community in everyday life?  What is the body of Christ doing together besides just gathering in a meeting or a building?  Why do we define church apart from an everyday expression in the place we live?

I don’t understand these things most of the time.  They are confusing to me and do not support my own growth, development and formation in the world.  I have always wanted to be a part of a radical movement that subverts the status quo, but what I have found is my Christianity being reduced to going to church.  This has bored me and has not supported my faith.

Why is it that this dualistic way of church is hindering us from experiencing life?  The church should not keep us from following what is authentic, but I am afraid many times it does.  This must frustrate God.  Why is this not more of a frustration to us too?

God is probably sad over the colonial, individualistic spirituality in North America that we have created through our lack of faithful presence.  As I have found that my spirituality is experienced as an embodied practice in the place I live in everyday life together with others.  It all comes down to listening, love, grace and humility.

I want to love the church and hope for its life in the world.  I want to be a part of a community in the parish in everyday life that can give inspiration to others.  So I am facing the temptation to stop loving the world, but God is calling me to love the place I live, to be a neighbor, to be a friend.

  •  Being cocreators of the future

We are to be cocreators of the future of the place we inhabit together.  It is our local responsibility, our local investment and local ownership that will develop the parish imagination among us.  Tom Sine says, “Incredibly, God invites us to be cocreators in giving imaginative expression to God’s new creation in the here and now…”

  •  Creating the parish imagination in everyday life

We are called to be “imaginative expressions” of the body of Christ in everyday life together in the parish.  There is no franchise approach to this.  When we cocreate with God through the parish imagination; our expressions will be organic, grassroots, creative, contextual, relational and based on our gifts together.  All our assets will come together to create the parish imagination in everyday life.

  •  The cocreation of beauty in our world

This is the cocreation of beauty in our world together in everyday life.  Our expressions of local responsibility could subvert the empire.  Our expressions of local investment could subvert the status quo.  Our expressions of local ownership could subvert the systems that are creating fragmentation, loneliness and isolation.

How can we be cocreators of the future of our world together?

What Keeps Us From Seeing the Beauty in Others?


As I have lived as a part of the Tacoma Catholic Worker now for four years I am beginning to have a different imagination for community, relationships, social justice, neighborliness, hospitality and compassion.  It is hard to see Christ in others in the midst of a pretty violent culture where individualism, competition, consumerism and independence is praised.  God is teaching me not to complain so much about the world I live in and learn to love it instead.  As Dorothy Day likes to say love is a harsh and dreadful thing.

I have spent many years complaining and being angry, but things are changing in me as I am learning to forgive and love.  The world is not bothering me so much as I have experienced God revealing to me beauty, mystery, goodness in all kinds of ordinary ways in everyday life.  The ordinary has become sacred to me.  The small things have been revelations of God’s love and compassion.

Learning to walk in the dark where confusion, pain, insecurity and even depression at times have guided me to a more abundant life of seeing Christ in others.  This imagination to see Christ in others is what I have been called to.  People are beautiful in spite of their brokenness.  The world is beautiful in spite of all the injustice that goes on around us.

So complaining about all the stuff I do not like will not be helpful.  Over time it will really hinder my flourishing as a human being in this world.  I want to be free to dance and live a life of peace.  I want to find joy in the dark seasons of life where it is hard to make sense of what I am experiencing.

Finding the love within myself to see Christ in others is such a powerful practice for me.  This is the journey of being the change I want to see in the world.  There is nothing more difficult and beautiful than this.

  •  Having the imagination to see Christ in others

Loving others by seeing the value and mystery in and through them is about having the imagination to see Christ in others.  This is a radical thought!  Does Christ really live in each and every one of us even if we have not “accepted Christ” into our lives?  I think he does in some mysterious way that we cannot always understand.

  •  We are created in Christ’s image

I believe there are dimensions of Christ that live in all of us.  How could they not?  We are created in his image.  Not some people but all people.

  • To see the best in everyone

Dorothy Day encourages us “To love with understanding and without understanding.  To love blindly, and to folly.  To see only what is lovable.  To think only on these things.  To see the best in everyone around, their virtues rather than their faults.  To see Christ in them …”  This is what the body of Christ is called to in the parish.

What keeps us from having the imagination to see Christ in others?

Why Do We Get Caught Up Trying to Change the World?


Today I want to be faithfully present to what is right in front of me.  I am done with trying to change the world.  Losing myself to a way of relational love, doing the small things that are simple, letting go of control, this is where I am being shaped within.  These things have been difficult because sometimes I am left misunderstood, unacknowledged and frustrated.

But I am coming to understand that there is power in community, there is power in small acts of love, there is power in humility, there is power in vulnerability.  I am afraid to give my life to these things sometimes.  After many years of struggling to be myself, I am learning to have serenity, compassion, grace and gratitude.  I am learning to be my true self.

As I breathe today the common air we all share, I want to live face-to-face with real life people in real life contexts in the place I live.  This neighborhood where I have rooted my life this past decade has become a place of practice of love, grace and humility.  I have the opportunity to love someone today who I may see tomorrow, next week, a month from now.  My compassion to listen will keep me from harming the world I live in.

These are the things I want to focus on today as I have a good 24 hours to live into who I am in the present moment.  These 168 hours that have been given to me this week will be hours of learning to love.  I am drawn out of my pride and into vulnerability.  I am drawn out of my confusion and into compassion.

This world will not discourage me, even though I cannot change it.  I will let it be and just love it.  I will love others and find some power in that.

  •  Stop trying to change or fix others

We need to stop trying to change or fix others.  This is the call of being present to others out of love for them.  Presence has an attentiveness to it.  We need to be present to one another as friends who care deeply and love.  We will have to let go of some control.

  •  Getting down to what is right in front of us

We will have to let go of the cliché that we can “change the world.”  This vision is too big, too abstract.  Let’s get down to what is right in front of us: real people in real life contexts who live in our neighborhood.  These are the people we are called to love and become faithfully present to relationally.

  •  Faithful presence is slow, organic, face-to-face

Faithful presence takes time.  It is slow.  It is organic.  It is not a project or program.  It is real face-to-face relationship in the context of everyday life together.  This is such a challenge and this relational presence will test our faith as the body of Christ.

How can we stop trying to change the world and become faithfully present to what is right in front of us?

Longing for Community in Everyday Life


In the year 2000, I had a profound experience of extreme loneliness after I had finished college.  I was uprooted from my relational network around the college I went to in order to take a job in the field of my study somewhere else in a new place.  This was hard for me because I moved to a place where I didn’t know anyone.  I had so much anxiety that it was hard for me to be at peace as I became depressed and lost a lot of energy to live.

I spent a whole year or so struggling with a longing for relational connection, peace, interdependence, and community.  My faith in God seemed to be gone.  I was becoming angry, disillusioned, and disheartened.  I was wondering was there anyone in the place I lived that I could connect to and become friends with in the state I was in?

It seemed I was abandoned by God and lost.  I was experiencing a dark night of the soul where I spent a lot of time crying in my brokenness and pain.  God was leading me to see a need for some sense of interdependence and community in my life.  Up to this point, I had not really experienced or seen what that could look like in everyday life.

  •  Individualism, fragmentation, loneliness

How can we be the body of Christ together in the day-to-day of life despite the individualism, fragmentation, and loneliness we all experience at times?  I have experienced many years of trying to be connected to people of faith who have no commitment to one another, or to the  place where they live.  It  has been frustrating.

  •  A slow turning towards a Culture of Imagination

Many times I have wanted to give up because it seems that all of our spirituality is lived out of a Western individualistic paradigm.  But I want to encourage others not to give up. There is another path to a way of interdependence within the body of Christ in everyday life.  And it seems that there is a slow turning towards a Culture of Imagination that God intended from the beginning of creation.

  •  Discovering interdependence

I have often asked myself the question, “What is life about?”  I don’t know a lot of the time, but I am discovering that I need an interdependence with others to even open up the question.  This cannot be discovered in isolation from others.

  •  Living into my context with more authenticity

The context of my relationships in the place that I live is the medium that helps me to discern what life is and who I am.  I must resist the temptation to run away when the relational revelations come at me too strongly and I lack the courage to face them.  These situations have the power to break down my arrogance and help me rely on God in order to live into my context with more authenticity and imagination.

How can we live interdependently with others in everyday life in the place we live?

The Trap of Security

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I have grown up into an environment that taught me to reach for security through my country, my family, my schooling and the dominant narratives of the entertainment media.  But I am beginning to question this whole notion of security.  I have been growing in my longing for freedom instead.

Can my freedom and the notion of security co-exist?  I don’t think so anymore.  Losing my idolatry to security has been so good for me.  I am learning to be free from anxiety and coming to rest in a peaceful way of life where losing security is not so guarded, defended and stressed over within me.

I am learning to embrace joy even though there is so much suffering, poverty and injustice in the world.  So many years have passed where I have lost my joy, my true self, because of the things around me that are pushing me to depression, sadness or loss as I focus on what is missing in life.  But I am coming to understand the necessity to live in the paradox of freedom in the midst of pain, sadness, loss.

  • Security is bought at the cost of freedom

Jacques Ellul says, “What people want when they talk about freedom is not being subject to others, being able to have their own dreams or go where they want to go.  Hardly more.  They definitely do not want to have to take charge of their own lives and be responsible for what they do.  This means that they do not really want freedom…  In effect freedom can give us everything except security by demanding that we be.  Security is always inevitably bought at the cost of freedom…”

  • Freedom and security do not mix well

Freedom and security do not mix well.  Security is slavery to the empire around us.  Security is most often too comfortable and status quo.  We need to long for freedom, liberation from this kind of security that makes us numb and machine-like.

  • A freedom related to love, humility, communion, connection, integration into place  

Freedom promotes the shattering into pieces all status quo obstacles in our pursuit of creating a holistic counterculture as the body of Christ in the parish.  Do we really want this kind of freedom?  Freedom in our country is often times related to bloodshed and war, but what I want to propose is a freedom related to love, humility, communion, connection, integration into place.

  • When we have security we do not have freedom

This kind of freedom lives within the mystical imagination.  Freedom represents a responsibility to place.  When we have security we do not have freedom, we do not live by faith.

  • We cannot sacrifice our freedom any longer in order to be secure

Security is what makes us abusive, exploitive and unloving often times.  We cannot sacrifice our freedom any longer in order to be secure.  The body of Christ needs to live in freedom, we need to live by faith, we need to live in our bodies in everyday life in the place we inhabit together.

How can we experience freedom from security in our everyday lives together?

New and Better Ways to Escape Reality


I am beginning to think more about the many things that take my attention away from faithful presence to the place I live and the people around me in my life.  I am called to love.  I am called to humility.  I am called to grace.  This needs to be an embodied practice within me.

Sometimes I have found myself too preoccupied with things that do not help my relational connection with others.  I am tempted to escape into the internet with countless sites of social media and websites.  The virtual world of the web takes me away from the face-to-face of everyday life.  My head hurts from too much time spent in this virtual world.

I have been tempted to spend countless hours in front of my computer screen watching Netflix TV shows and movies.  Recently I had to cancel my Netflix account because it was becoming too much for me to handle as there are so many things to watch that take up a lot of my time.  I am tired and exhausted from all of this.

I have had to look at my social life also.  It is fun to go to social events and parties.  But sometimes all it turns into is small talk with many acquaintances where I could be more intentional by spending my time deepening a few relationship in a more authentic way.  Sometimes the discernment to say no to some things is hard so I can say yes more profoundly to what I really care about.

There are so many things that distract me from a way of love, authenticity and community.  These are the things I want to base my life on, but often times I am on the path of addiction to screens and the approval of others.  I cry out to God for the freedom of authenticity and life to flourish within me.

  •  Engrossing and addictive distractions

Gus Gordon writes, “The genius of our culture is to provide all the necessary fillers, new and better ways to escape reality.  It convinces us that life would be incredibly dull without distractions and cravings of every kind.  We are seduced to live our lives in terms of engrossing and addictive distractions.”

  • Distractions are the North American way

For some reason we think that there is life in our distractions.  Distractions are the North American way.  Distractions are the norm.  Distractions are predictable.  Distractions are controlled by our own agenda.

  •  Escaping our lives and responsibilities to one another

We love to escape our lives and responsibilities to one another for the thrill of distractions sometimes.  Distractions, we think, are the ultimate path to our “happiness.”  But the truth is that distractions always lie to us.  Distractions take away our imaginations for something countercultural.

  •  A technique to escape reality in the place we live

Distractions scare the mystical imagination with images of the “real world” promoted by the empire.  Distractions are a technique to escape reality in the place we live.  Distractions are addictive and irrelevant to true life.  When will we be tired of being seduced by our distractions as the body of Christ in the parish?

Why are we so distracted to what is truly meaningful and authentic in everyday life?

Perseverance in Difficult Times


Sometimes life is hard, things don’t make sense to us anymore, our perceptions and expectations are shattered and we are walking wounded in life.  I have experienced these times often.  But I am learning to walk in the dark where I cannot fully understand the pain and struggle in the present moment.  Clarity seems like it will never be found, but if I persevere I trust there is beauty, deep wisdom, enlightenment and discovery that will be revealed in everyday life in the world I live in.

  •  Inhabiting a place over a long period of time can be difficult at times

Living by the mystical imagination, living by faith and inhabiting a place over a long period of time can be difficult at times.  We will feel the blow of the empire at times, but the mystical imagination will help us to persevere in our difficulties.  Living by faith can lead us to some dark places where we question our faithfulness, want to give up and do not see how our life has any meaning whatsoever.  And we will struggle to find some freedom at times.

  •  Part of God’s process of teaching us what we cannot always understand

But this is a part of God’s process of teaching us what we cannot always understand presently.  These times teach us to live by faith.  We begin to understand more what this means.  Thomas Merton says, “But when the time comes to enter the darkness in which we are naked and helpless and alone; in which we see the insufficiency of our greatest strength and the hollowness of our strongest virtues; in which we have nothing of our own to rely on, and nothing in our nature to support us, and nothing in the world to guide us or give us light – then we find out whether or not we live by faith.”

  •  Will we show love and humility through our pain?

Will we abandon God when we feel the darkness of being alone, rejected, misunderstood and powerless?  Will we live by faith in these times?  Will we run away and hide from others and God?  Or will we show love and humility through our pain?

  •  Waiting for a better season of recognized beauty

Will we allow ourselves to be insecure and afraid for awhile waiting for a better season of recognized beauty?  When we are cold and it is raining, when we are wet and shivering, will we turn away from living by faith?  Will our imagination die in these times?  The mystical imagination is not so phased by these times.

  • Having the imagination to persevere

The mystical imagination sees these times as a different season in which we will experience God in ways that are less familiar to us in the parish.  The body of Christ will struggle at times to be a holistic counterculture in the process of sharing life and learning to love.  This is no easy task and goes against almost all of the structures of our culture.  Our freedom will sometimes lead us to these times, but we have the imagination to persevere.

How can we live by faith and recognize the beauty of what God is doing in difficult seasons of life?

Losing Sight of the Mystery


The question I have constantly pondered through life is, What does it mean to have Christ living in me?  It seems to me this is the question we are to play with our whole lives.  After decades of seeking God in some form, I have realized that all of my spirituality is to be embodied through love.  Without love, Christ is not being allowed to live within my body.

In order to love and live, I must live as an ordinary mystic of sorts.  One who allows life to come from within as I listen deeply and love authentically.  This make it harder to create God in my image by allowing the image of God within me to shape who I become.

  •  Losing sight of the mystery of our spirituality

Our spirituality has become too rationalistic, too embedded into the modernity of our culture in the past decades.  In the midst of all this, we have lost sight of the mystery of the gospel, the mystery of the body of Christ, the mystery of God’s ordinary miracles among us and the mystery of the human being.  Our Christianity has a mystical nature rooted in our bodies.

  •  A mystical nature in everyday life

When you take away the mystical nature of Christianity, you have a distorted spirituality that is void of all substance and life.  You have a skeleton instead of a body.  The mystical nature of Christianity could bring a lot of life back to the body of Christ in the parish.  Our spirituality was meant to have a mystical nature in everyday life.

  •  Our very life and strength

This is how we commune with God together.  The mystical nature of Christianity is our very life and strength.  It comes to us in all kinds of ordinary ways through the relational context of place.  The mystical imagination lives by the mystery of Christ living in us.

  •  Seeing an alternative to the North American status quo culture

Jacques Ellul says, “The mystic experience frightens us…”  We are uncomfortable with the mystical nature of Christianity because it pushes us to live in our bodies.  It pushes us to become selfless and lose our ego identities.  It opens up the imagination to see alternatives to the North American status quo culture.

  •  The mystical imagination is shunned by the ego

We might become frightened because Christ will disturb and haunt our every agenda with unpredictability.  The mystical imagination is shunned by the ego.  The ego does not like the mystical imagination that seeks to destroy all our illusions that we have created.

  •  Losing our lives to the mystical nature of Christianity

There is no escaping the mystical nature of Christianity.  It is a way forward in how we can follow Christ in this postmodern age.  The mystical nature of Christianity should frighten us in a way because we will truly lose our lives to it.

How can we embody the mystical nature of Christianity as Christ lives in us?

The Shared Experience of Life


Recently I have been thinking a lot about my life.  As another year passes and I find myself in a regular routine in everyday life where I live, I am struck by how ordinary my spirituality is.  God is present to me in very ordinary ways although sometimes I do not understand this very much.  I like to look for God in mountain top experiences, but it seems God is found through my neighbors in community.

How have I missed this for so long?  I am understanding more that the God in me is connecting with the God in the other who I connect with in everyday life.  This is leading me to a more interdependent way of life where community and relationships have more meaning to me now.  As I have lived in my neighborhood of Downtown Tacoma for over ten years, I am discovering a new imagination within myself for this interdependent life.

I have cultivated a searching spirit within me that has questioned almost everything around me, but one thing I have discovered is that God is always manifesting wisdom to me through my everyday encounters with life.  My imagination is always grasping for relational connection in community with others.  This longing is so deep that many times I struggle with being disillusioned as I live in a culture that has been programmed for individualism over interdependence.

  •  Suffering from my own programming toward individualism

In a culture that values the individualistic over the interdependent, we become disconnected from one another.  I have suffered from my own programming toward individualism and have longed to be set free to live into something different.  I’m haunted by these words of Christ: “For whoever wants to save his live will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:35).

  •  Can we lose our individualistic dreams?

I want to understand what this means and how to embody Christ’s words.  Can we lose our individualistic dreams and ambitions that take priority over everything and everyone else?  Can we stop the pain that is caused by our self-centered pursuits where the imagination necessary for relational life is forgotten?

  • Developing an imagination for interdependence and loving mutuality

It’s one thing to disconnect ourselves from the cultural comfort of the modern paradigm of success, but the authentic life should not be lived alone.  Our imaginations are coming to the point of starvation and death.  We must develop an imagination for interdependence and loving mutuality, if we are to flourish together.

  •  Our imaginations need the shared experience of life, goodness, and beauty

All the systems of our culture are ripping us away from one another, and few of us have awakened to what is happening.  Our imaginations need the shared experience of life, goodness, and beauty.  We cannot know for sure what will happen in us and through us together, but I think it will be something beautiful as we let go of all our controlling individualistic ways of life.

How can we live into a more interdependent way of life together?