Culture of Imagination

connecting spirituality to everyday life

Month: December, 2014

Why Do We De-Personalize the Poor?

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I used to think the poor where so different from me, but I am coming to see that we are the same.  Back when I was younger, I remember seeing a man inside of a dumpster where I worked at a car wash.  This was one of my first encounters with someone who had no place to live.  I remember feeling sad as many questions ran through my head.

I was raised in the suburbs so poverty, diversity and so much of real life was something I was sheltered from.  My parents never really talked about poverty as we were a struggling family who was on the path of the American dream.  I guess the poor were looked down on as I heard a lot of friends use the phrase “that’s ghetto” if something did not measure up to the status quo we were all taught.

Living at a Catholic Worker community has taught me that the poor are Christ.  How we treat them is how we show our love for Christ.  I am learning to live with others who have very little money and might be struggling with their health, both mentally and physically.  Sometimes the pain is too great for my friends and I want to fix it all, but I am realizing all that I can do is be present because it is beyond me to fix anything.

I am learning to stop talking about the gospel and start living it.  This has been a great practice for me as I am understanding that embodying a way of love, presence, vulnerability, humility and compassion is much more powerful than anything I will ever say.  I am leaning to listen and learn from the poor who are becoming some of my best friends in everyday life.  This has been so freeing for me as I am discovering my true self in the process.

  •  Hospitality is an act of love

Hospitality is not a gift for a selected few, but a practice to be followed by the body of Christ in everyday life.  Hospitality is a holistic practice in the parish.  We cannot create a holistic counterculture without practicing hospitality among us in the place we live.  Hospitality is an act of love.

  •  Becoming much more like Christ

Hospitality will shape us as we practice it.  We will become much more like Christ as we practice an inclusive hospitality with our neighbors in poverty.  As we practice this, the poor will be seen, heard, valued, loved and brought back into restorative friendships that will help them with the loneliness that haunts them each day.

  • The way of reconciliation and peace

This is the way of the cross.  This is the way of life.  This is the way of reconciliation and peace.

  •  To be of the poor

Gus Gordon writes, “…Christian communities are called not only to be for the poor, or working on behalf of the poor.  At the most profound level they are invited to be also of the poor.  This entails an exodus, a going out of one’s place of perhaps privilege and entering into the world of the poor and accepting it as one’s own.  Praxis as a service to the poor transforms into a praxis in the midst of the poor because the world of the poor has become one’s place of residence, not merely one’s work.  In this solidarity with the poor one begins to share in their lives, sorrows, joys, hopes, and fears.  And in many instances this solidarity goes deeper and begins to take up the cross of Jesus…” 

  •  Sharing life with the poor

The body of Christ is to be of the poor in the place we inhabit.  We need to live in the midst of the poor in everyday life together in the parish.  Our presence is to be a presence to the poor, oppressed and marginalized.  Hospitality and solidarity with the poor are intertwined.  We need to share life with the poor.

  •  Created in the image of God

We need not to fear this way of life anymore.  The poor are just like anyone else in that they are human and have dreams, desires, needs, pain, loneliness, joy, fear, confusion and value.  They are created in the image of God.

  •  The poor are often times forgotten

They have a body and need food, sleep, a place to live, showers, work to do, friendships and meaning in their lives.  The poor live and die just like everyone else, but are often times forgotten.  Sometimes there is no funeral to remember them or celebrate their lives when they die.  This is so sad.

  •  A people who are not afraid to live with the poor

Christians should be a people of the poor, a people of great risk, a people who are not afraid to live with the poor.  But this is not how most of society lives towards the poor, oppressed and marginalized.  We are called to be a holistic counterculture that doesn’t allow the values of empire to define our reality.

  •  Love and hospitality should shape us more than American values

The love and hospitality of Christ should shape us more than the American values of capitalism, consumerism, individualism and comfort.  The poor are tired of hearing propositional statements about the gospel and want to experience a hospitable love from Christians in the parish.

  •  We have closed our doors to hospitality

Where has our love for the poor gone?  The poor are everywhere, but we have closed are eyes to friendship and reconciliation.  We have closed our doors to hospitality.

  •  The greatest heresy in our times

This is the greatest heresy of the church in our times.  The early church was a church of radical hospitality to the poor, oppressed and marginalized.  We are called to the same as followers of Christ in the parish.

  •  De-personalizing the poor

Shane Claiborne says, “It is much more comfortable to de-personalize the poor so that we do not feel responsible for the catastrophic human failure that someone is on the street while people have spare bedrooms in their homes…” 

  •  Our comfortable way of life in America

We cannot de-personalize the poor as a way to keep them out of our homes, out of our lives and out of our minds any longer.  De-personalization fosters to our comfortable way of life in America.  It fosters to our seeing nothing wrong with our lack of responsibility for the poor.

  •  Apathy and individualism

If we de-personalize the poor, we do not feel so bad about the whole situation we are in.  De-personalization fosters apathy and individualism.  De-personalization is not from Christ at all.  Christ has come to give value to all human beings.

Why do we de-personalize the poor and close our doors to them?

http://www.amazon.com/Communal-Imagination-Finding-Share-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1420057362&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination

Book Review – Rare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and Love by Anna Whiston-Donaldson

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Rare Bird is the name that was given to Anna Whiston-Donaldson’s son Jack who died at the age of twelve when he got caught in a creak and drowned.  This book is a memoir of deep pain and loss as Anna Whiston-Donaldson shares her process of grief after her son died.  I was so drawn into this story of raw honesty, despair and sadness.

This book is about moving on after unsurmountable tragedy.  In life where we live as though we can control everything, Anna dispels the illusion of this that broke her world apart.  All of us will experience loss of some kind in this life.  I found myself crying for Anna in her pain as this book is hard to put down.

It takes courage to read this kind of memoir because it doesn’t exactly make you feel good at every point.  This memoir is from a woman who knows what it means to suffer and question God in the midst of her pain.  I liked the book because of its honesty about pain, grief, sorrow, loss and all the things we take for granted.

So much of American Christianity ignores the reality of pain.  We think that there should be no pain within us because Jesus has “completed us.”  But I am finding that this is one of the most damaging clichés the church feeds to people.  It is a cover up from facing life with honesty, our confusing questions and authenticity.

It is hard to just be present to others in their pain without trying to fix them.  We aren’t so good and practiced at this at all.  And Anna Whiston-Donaldson’s book calls us to this kind of presence to others who are grieving and suffering in their pain.  It takes humility and compassion to be present to others in their loss.

Life is not so neat and controllable as we might think.  We need more vulnerability in life to discover this.  Facing death definitely brings us a sense of vulnerability.  In a culture that want to ignore the tragedy of death, we don’t know what to do when it happens.  This book is a guide of wisdom to those struggling with loss, death and questions that are hard to face.

  • Honoring the tender spots

“…you’re braver than you think and that survival is possible when life’s storms take us in uncertain, unwanted directions, whether we’re facing the loss of health, relationships, expectations, or even our dreams.  And that with God we can do the impossible, while still honoring the tender spots where the pain is dulled but won’t ever be forgotten.”

  • Neat lines and graphs and deposits

“I wanted to live in a world that made sense to me, with neat lines and graphs and deposits and withdrawals…”

  • Weakness and vulnerability

“I felt weak and scarred and vulnerable…”

  • Going forward despite the pain

“I kept my feelings inside.  I could think of no other option than… going forward despite the pain, trying to live a good life…”

  • Coasting through life, missing opportunities

“Sometimes I feel as though we are coasting through life, missing opportunities to really make a difference…  Couldn’t we do something significant, serve the world, and get off the grid, all without killing one another?”

  • A scary, dangerous amusement-park ride

“I feel like I’ve been forced onto a scary, dangerous amusement-park ride, constructed by a psychopath, not a loving God.  I’m strapped and buckled in, and the ride will move forward despite anything I might do to try to stop it.  It will terrify me, make me sick, and possibly kill me, but there’s no slowing it down once it starts.  There can be no bargaining about taking this ride tomorrow or the next day instead.  And there’s no getting off.”

  • Grief feels a lot like shame

“No one ever told me grief feels a lot like shame.”

  • The confusion of losing what we love

“…if we are going to take brave steps together into the confusion of losing what we love the most, doesn’t it help to hear from the outset that somehow, in some way, it does get easier.”

  • Control is an illusion

“How does one wake up the next day and the next?  How do you force yourself to breathe and to eat when both seem disgusting and ridiculous?  How do you keep from losing your mind?  How do you live knowing the dirty secret… that control is an illusion.”

  • Walking beside someone in deep pain

“It dawns on me that I’ve never walked beside someone in deep pain.  I’ve been more of a drive-by friend, the kind who reaches out once or twice and hopes the situation will be resolved quickly.  I care.  I cry.  I pray.  But I don’t stick around long.  I’m the type of friend you would want around for a broken ankle but not for chronic depression.”

  • The inevitable losses to come

“For I have neither the stamina nor the inclination to proclaim any new revelations.  I am tired.  I am hurting.  I don’t feel like being God’s cheerleader.  And what’s the point of sharing anyway, when this knowledge has come at so high a price?  That living our lives as if we are in control is an illusion?  Won’t every person who lives be able to learn these truths on his own, through the inevitable losses to come?”

  • The pain is so deep

“…the pain is so deep it scares us to approach it fully.  To try to give voice to our feelings, our longings… and our fears for the future seem too primal to put into words.  Instead, our sadness comes out in small irritations and slights.”

  • The work of grief

“Grief is my work right now, and I’m afraid to skirt it or run away from it.  Everything I’ve heard tells me that if I try to stuff it down, deny it, or rush through it, I’m just going to have to deal with it later, and then it will be worse. ‘Worse’ scares the shit out of me.”

  • Leaning toward grief as opposed to leaning away from it

“The closest picture I can imagine is that I want to lean toward my grief as opposed to leaning away from it – contorting myself into painful positions as I make a futile attempt to escape from something hideous that is actually adhered to my body…”

  • Giving and receiving love when nothing can be fixed

“For I see holiness in giving and receiving love when there is absolutely nothing that can be fixed, and when there’s no exit strategy in sight.”

  • Running from people and places

“I don’t want to run away from people and places, from my feelings, and certainly not my grief, but I’m struggling…”

  • Crying out to God in despair

“In my heart I cry out to God in despair.  I want a sign.  I want help.  I want to be known.”

  • Weary and wounded

“I can barely force myself to care.  I’m too weary and wounded…”

  • When the unimportant falls away

“Or could it be that at times like this, when the unimportant falls away like chaff to the ground, we are finally able to recognize what God is doing in the world around us every single day?”

  • Acknowledging pain

“Maybe I was afraid that exposing someone’s pain to the light by acknowledging it would somehow make it worse.  That it would cause them to dwell on it rather than live life…”

  • Live life moving forward

“We must find ways to live life moving forward, but it’s excruciating and complicated…”

  • Life is short and we should make the most of it

“Now we realize that life is short and we should make the most of it…”

  • A weird dance of figuring out our steps

“Refusing to at least try to enjoy life… cuts us off from even the chance of good days ahead.  It squanders the lessons we’ve learned about making the most of life now.  It compounds the wreckage and devastation.  I get that.  I really do.  But it’s all a weird dance, and it’s going to take us a while to figure out our steps.”

  • Great love even in our darkest moments

“Everyone will lose in this world, and signs of comfort remind us that there is great love even in our darkest moments…”

  • Anger and bitterness

“But when I get caught up in trying to make life fair, it threatens to mire me in anger and bitterness.”

  • Asking for the strength to get through this one moment

“…some losses show themselves immediately; others unfold over days and weeks.  Occasionally, I let myself feel the composite impact of all these losses, but then I must pull back again, because it is too much.  Instead, I ask for the strength to get through this one moment and hang on until the next time impossible hope shows up.”

  • Being open and natural around grievers

“Grievers I’ve come across function within society, and most days it appears pretty seamless…  We try to blend in.  We smile.  We look normal.  We need people to feel okay being open and natural around us, so as not to drive us even further apart from the world.  We are not from another planet, but it feels that way, so far removed is our experience from those around us.”

  • Sharing the broken, hurting pieces of our lives

“I’m not sure how sharing the broken, hurting pieces of our lives helps us, but it does…  And in the sharing of our loss, we somehow gain…”

  • New opportunity to show each other grace

“Each day is a new opportunity to show each other grace.”

  • Being honest about feelings and living gently with others

“I understand now there is no way to get an A in grief.  I can just be honest about my feelings, try to live gently with others, and when that’s too hard, give myself a little break and find some distance.  I can commit to plucking out the seeds of bitterness about how unfair life is when they sprout up again and again…”

  • Surviving and perhaps eventually thriving

“I’ve been learning that with God so close to me in my heartache, what I thought was impossible is possible, surviving and perhaps eventually thriving…”

What has been helpful in dealing with loss in your life?

http://www.amazon.com/Rare-Bird-Memoir-Loss-Love/dp/1601425198/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1419985151&sr=8-1&keywords=rare+bird

http://www.amazon.com/Communal-Imagination-Finding-Share-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1419985081&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination

The Lifelong Process of Understanding  

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I have been on a path to understanding myself for the past two decades.  It all started back in the early 90’s.  It has felt confusing, difficult and impossible at times.  I have recognized that my own humanity is very complex and has very deep levels that I do not always fully understand.

I crave food, sleep, sex, comfort, rest, companionship with others, rhythms, integration, mission, learning, thinking, contemplating, silence, meaningful work, healing from pain, freedom from anger, the disappearance of sadness, looking good, cleanliness, exercise, leisure, celebration, touch, affirmation, happiness, money, possessions and fun experiences.

  •  Listening in silence and solitude

In the midst of sorting out what is a healthy expression of my humanity, I have had to cultivate a practice of listening in silence and solitude.  There are boundaries, liberties and limitation to all the things I experience within myself.  My silence and solitude has helped me to discern what is going on inside of me.

  •  Asking the hard questions within myself

I ask the hard questions within myself constantly to try to understand myself.  I have gotten much better at this over the years, but it is a lifelong process of working out my identity in the parish.

  •  Deepening our own self-understanding

Thomas Merton writes in his book Contemplation in a World of Action, “He who attempts to act and do things for others or for the world without deepening his own self-understanding, freedom, integrity and capacity to love will not have anything to give others.  He will communicate to them nothing but the contagion of his own obsessions, his aggressiveness, his ego-centered ambitions, his delusions about ends and means, his doctrinaire prejudices and ideas…”

  •  Understanding ourselves

Understanding ourselves is so important to becoming our true self.  Understanding ourselves is a connection point in our relational context.  The more we understand ourselves, the more ability we will have to live relationally in our local community.  When we are on the path of self-understanding, we will start to experience our spirituality more holistically.

  •  Our awareness becomes alive and free

Our awareness becomes alive and free within the mystical imagination.  Our awareness leads us deeper into ourselves and the place we inhabit together.  Silence and solitude creates this self-understanding, this awareness.

  • Becoming whole and centered

Phileena Heuertz says in her wonderful book Pilgrimage of a Soul, “Self-Awareness is central to becoming whole and connected…” 

  •  Looking inside ourselves

If we are not connected to one another in our local context, it is because we are not seeking to look inside of ourselves.  We are not seeking to understand ourselves.  Our awareness of this could change everything within us in the parish.

  •  Our creation in the true self

Silence and solitude is where our identity will not be split into multiple identities.  If we are to embody compassion in our local community, we cannot have multiple identities at the core of who we are.  Our identity needs to be holistically one with our creation in the true self.

  •  Solitude and identity

Henri J.M. Nouwen writes, “Solitude is the place where we find our identity…” 

  •  Cultivating our identity

In the practice of silence and solitude, we will experience our identity.  This is where we will cultivate our identity.  We will cultivate an understanding of ourselves in this way.

  •  Awareness, understanding, integration

Our identity will be integrated with our humanity.  Our humanity will be integrated with the place we inhabit as the body of Christ together.  We will have a hard time finding our identity outside of our practice of silence and solitude.  Our silence and solitude gives us this awareness and understanding.

  •  Intentionality, seriousness, intensity

Our identity needs the mystical imagination that comes from our silence and solitude.  The mystical imagination has an identity that is one with our humanity in the parish.  Silence and solitude need to be practiced with intentionality, seriousness and intensity.  We will never discover our true self that makes up our identity otherwise.

How can we become more self-aware through silence and solitude?

http://www.amazon.com/Communal-Imagination-Finding-Share-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1419890273&sr=8-1&keywords=mark+votava

Book Review – Inviting Silence: Universal Principles of Meditation by Gunilla Norris

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Gunilla Norris has written a wonderful book in Inviting silence! I highly recommend this book for anyone who longing to live into their true self.  Norris invites us into silence as a countercultural practice in our twenty-first century world.  This is rare but much needed in our hyperactive lives.

I have found that silence is so life balancing for me.  It requires trust, vulnerability, listening, attentiveness, stillness, awareness, presence and mindfulness.  These are the values that hold my life together.  These are the practices that help me to be in relationship with others in community.

This book moved me to embrace the living of my days instead of just enduring them.  Silence opens up the possibilities of this within me.  I am resonating with the common ground of silence where I can listen to the forgotten parts of myself.  The true self is revealed through silence.

Silence used to be terrifying to me, but now it is essential as I have found it to be my true nature.  It is where I like to be.  I am learning that I can practice an attentive silence when I am with others in conversation, dialogue and presence.  The paradox of silence is that there is no dualities with it.  Silence flows through all of life where we learn to see everything as sacred.

Gunilla Norris’s book centers on beginning silence, growing silence and practicing silence throughout our everyday lives.  This book is a challenge to our noise addicted world.  She says that silence is almost something like an endangered species, but so essential for our times.  We can never discover who we are without silence.

Silence has posed the question to me, “What will serve life right here and now?”  This question is shaping me so much.  Living into this question has been a redemptive practice that is leading to deeper levels of compassion and love within me.  It is helping me to know myself better and find ways I can engage the world more authentically.

  • Trusting the life-giving nourishment of silence

“We endure our days rather than embrace the living of them.  To enter the realm of meaning requires attention and dedication.  It requires an interior, reflective life.  It requires the calming of our usual chattering minds.  It requires trusting the life-giving nourishment of silence, that vast field of permission and sustenance in which our lives are held.”

  • Silence is our deepest nature

“Silence is our deepest nature, our home, our common ground, our peace.”

  • Listening to our longing

“When we apply a little pressure of the will to listen to our longing it becomes our friend.  We are in fact yearning for our essence, our true self.  This longing can be trusted if we do not avoid it or dissipate it with increased doing or patterns of distraction and consumption.”

  • Stillness and listening

“Over time the habit of recollection leads us back to the center, to stillness and listening.”

  • Silence is something like an endangered species

“In our present culture silence is something like an endangered species…  We need it badly.”

  • Becoming more aware of what is around us and within us

“When we pause and do it frequently, we begin to be more aware of what is around us and within us.”

  • What will serve life right here and now?

“When we ask, What will serve life right here and now?  we begin to live in a larger picture.”

  • An offering of our awareness, our participation, and our willingness

“We cannot really experience anything without being present to it.  True presence requires that we be attentive to what is happening here and now.  It is an offering of our awareness, our participation, and our willingness…”

  • Being present, moment to moment

“It takes time to rediscover the treasure of silence.  In it we can be found again.  But we learn this only by learning.  By being present, moment to moment, we may discern the richness of silence in ourselves, and in each other.”

  • Trusting that we can and will meet life as it happens

“In our culture we do not trust time.  We try to defy time.  We steal time.  We kill time.  We want to control the flow of events, instead of trusting in a natural progression – instead of trusting that we can and will meet life as it happens.”

  • The natural joy that is already inside us

“By cultivating silence, we can find and release deeper and deeper levels of pain and so discover once again what is beneath the pain: the natural joy that is already inside us, free to rise and flow into expression.”

  • Hearing our forgotten selves

“In silence we can learn to hear our forgotten selves, to feel and to respond to the deeper levels of our identity that are surfacing at last.”

  • Maintaining our illusions of safety

“Our minds do not like paradoxes.  We want things to be clear, so we can maintain our illusions of safety.  Certainty breeds tremendous smugness.”

  • Mindfulness is much like physical training

“Practicing mindfulness is much like physical training.  The long-distance runner must deal with the hills as well as the valleys.  The hills are hard.  And they make one strong.  If we can welcome them, and know that they will be followed by valleys, we will be learning something about steadfastness.”

  • To become ourselves we need others

“To become ourselves we need others.  Only in and through relationship do we truly become persons…”

  • Our essence is revealed and refined in the practice of silence

“Our essence is revealed and refined in the practice of silence.  It is that living, luminous core which in the end is the greatest gift we can give to one another.  It is true inspiration… the breathing of life.”

How have you practiced silence in your life?

http://www.amazon.com/Inviting-Silence-Universal-Principles-Meditation/dp/0974240508/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1419792714&sr=8-1&keywords=gunilla+norris

http://www.amazon.com/Communal-Imagination-Finding-Share-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1419792622&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination

Book Review – Reflections on the Unknowable by Thomas Keating

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After practicing a monastic life for over seventy years, Thomas Keating has written a wonderful book about his wisdom on what it means to seek God.  A strong theme that really stood out to me was that God lives within us through the process of our lives.  The incarnation has always been a mysterious sign of God’s understanding and care within the world.  How can Jesus actually become human at one point in history and now manifest love in humanity through our ordinary lives?

Thomas Keating places this mystery before us as we wrestle with what this paradox means today.  I loved the theme that God is looking for experiencers not theorists.  So much of theology is based on the intellect (ideas about God) and not on experiential knowing.  We are called to be contemplatives who seek God through the evolution of our consciousness, enlightenment and interior growth.

This constitutes a way of life where we value silence, solitude, listening and rest.  Christ lives through us in every moment of our existence through our ordinary daily lives.  As we imitate Christ, we become the other.  We start to incarnate compassion and love.  We open up to a process of deep listening.

Reflections on the Unknowable brings to light that we need to embrace the humility of God where God gives up being God.  We embrace powerlessness in order to find enlightenment toward humility, love and compassion.  As we explore what is means to have divine life within us, we discover our true self over our false self.  This is a revolutionary idea that is not taught very much.

I highly recommend this book if one is wanting to experience and seek God in deeper ways.  From one of the wisest people alive today, Thomas Keating is a prophetic voice in the role of the contemplative life of silence and solitude in the twenty-first century.  This is essential to cultivate as we need to find a balance between contemplation and action in our world today.  It is too easy to just focus on doing and forget our being.

  • One with us in the events and experiences of ordinary daily life

“Jesus Christ in his teaching seems less interested in raising us to enlightened states of consciousness than in becoming one with us in the events and experiences of ordinary daily life.  To relive the sacred mysteries of his earthly life in each of us is his plan and desire; to share every moment of our lives with him is the practical living out of divine union.  His presence in us is our deepest self manifesting in every action, however trivial from our point of view.  We are invited to have no movement of body, mind, and heart except from the Spirit, who wishes to inspire all our thoughts, words, and actions.”

  • To become the other

“To become the other is to imitate Christ…”

  • The attitude of listening

“There remains the attitude of listening: alertness without effort.  This kind of contemplation is completely receptive.  But it is not just passive.  It is an affective kind of receptivity, a peaceful and sometimes delightful being with the silence, presence, or stillness… There are no words, no thoughts, just pure awareness with perhaps the sense of loving or being loved, and longing for oneness.”

  • Our true nature is God manifesting God-self in us

“The false self creates our own personalized hell…  The true self, who we really are, is created in the image and likeness of God.  Our true nature is God manifesting God-self in us.”

  • Resting and listening

“Resting and listening feed into each other.  Resting, means above all, rest from compulsive activity, mixed motives, and emotional excesses.”

  • Silence is the greatest teacher

“Silence is the greatest teacher there is…”

  • The authenticity of our spiritual journey

“Daily life tests the sincerity and authenticity of our spiritual journey…”

  • God’s willingness not to be God

“Each human person manifests God’s infinite humility, God’s willingness not to be God…”

  • Moments of awareness can become every moment

“Moments of awareness of the divine goodness can become every moment.  God is always present: always at rest and always active at the same time.”

  • Evolving into a state of permanent freedom

“We are to become truly free, or rather Freedom itself.  To evolve into that state as permanent is our destiny…”

  • Letting God act through us at every moment

“Unity consciousness is to let God act through us at every moment without resistance.”

  • The human consciousness in each of us

“God is manifesting in each moment as the human consciousness in each of us…”

  • God looks for experiencers more than theorists

“God looks for experiencers more than theorists.  In our culture we tend to want to be the latter and to avoid the former, especially when life is painful.  Thinking is normally a lot easier than being.  It is our predominant cultural conditioning in a time of rapidly developing technological skills and massive scientific information.  The cybernetic age is primarily about information, not experience, understanding, and love.  These spiritual values need to be infused into it.”

  • God incarnating in our humanity with all its circumstances

“For Christ to be ‘us’ – to take over every aspect of our life in space and time and to experience our human existence in this present moment – that’s what the latter days of life are aimed at.  The goal is not just union, or even unity with God, but God incarnating in our humanity with all its circumstances.  Christ renewing the sacred mysteries of his human life in our humanity is one way of describing his incarnation in each of us.”

  • The mother of everyone in the human family

“Compassion is to be, and even feel ourselves to be, the mother of everyone in the human family.”

  • May feel like losing one’s mind

“On the human level, this process of death and resurrection may feel like losing one’s mind…  The dying may be sheer terror, powerlessness, and apparent annihilation of the individual self, without any possible escape or place to hide.  One feels at times ripped apart, squashed, paralyzed, indifferent to living or dying.”

  • The common bond of love

“The Spirit is the common bond of love…”

  • Powerlessness is our greatest treasure

“Powerlessness is our greatest treasure.  Don’t try to get rid of it.  Everything in us wants to get rid of it…”

  • Who we really are

“Enlightenment is the inward realization and consciousness of being identified with who we really are.  We are not our false selves or egos…”

In what ways have you learned to seek God in your life?

http://www.amazon.com/Reflections-Unknowable-Thomas-Keating/dp/1590564375/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1419731854&sr=8-1&keywords=reflections+on+the+unknowable

http://www.amazon.com/Communal-Imagination-Finding-Share-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1419729513&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination

Reimagining God in the Face of Our Neighbors

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I am discovering that Christ is reborn in the face of my neighbors that I encounter in everyday life in the place I live.  This is fascinating, frightening and wonderful.  When I learn to see my neighbor, I learn to become aware of Christ’s presence in the world.

  •  Being present to our neighbors

It is now the work of all of us to be the hands and feet of Jesus to our context of the world.  To love ourselves well is to love our neighbors well too.  When we live a life of reflection and rest, this brings greater capacity to be present to Christ through being present to our neighbors.  In this encounter we experience the reality of God through the face of our neighbors.

  •  Neighbors teach me of the divine

How wonderful it is for me to experience the goodness of God through a kind word, an affirming encounter or meaningful work together with a neighbor who is teaching me of the divine by their very presence.  I also learn of the divine through times when neighbors frustrate me or treat me less than human.  This calls me to greater responsibility of forgiveness, humility and compassion within myself.  And God has called me to be an expression of love for all people in the world with the divine nature of compassion that lives within me.

  •  Compassion lives in all of us

This compassion lives in all of us because we are create in the image of God, who is compassion and love in essence.  Compassion is the greatest value we can express in our world.  Compassion is stronger than violence, fear and hatred.  A lot of the times, compassion is experienced as a give and take through ourselves and our neighbors in everyday life.

  •  Loving God in the place we inhabit

Loving our neighbors in the parish is why we practice refection and rest.  This is how we become human.  This is how we love God in the place we inhabit together.  There is no way around this.

  • God cannot escape us in the form of our neighbors

We are called to be an expression of love.  Our reflection and rest is only authentic if we love our neighbors in everyday life together.  Within our locality, God cannot escape us in the form of our neighbors.  Our neighbors are all around us.  God is working within us and all around us constantly.

  •  This mysterious working in and around us

Our humanity becomes sensitive to this mysterious working in and around us.  Our reflection and rest helps us to reimagine this mystery.  Our reflection and rest embraces God through the diverse faces of our neighbors.  This is the way of Jesus.  This is the path of wisdom.

  • Seeing others as they are

Ken Gire in his book Seeing What is Sacred writes, “To better love God and other people is the goal of the reflective life.  But before we can love them, we must see them.  And we must see them not as we would like to see them or as they would like to be seen.  We must see them as they are.  Otherwise we don’t love the person.  We love the image we perceive the person to be.  If we are to love people as they are, we must see them as they are.  Which means seeing all that lies hidden within them.”

Have you learned to practice seeing in others the image of God?

http://www.amazon.com/Communal-Imagination-Finding-Share-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1419628000&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination

Learning to Love: Crossing a Decade of Rootedness

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This past year marked the tenth year of living in the neighborhood of Downtown Tacoma.  I moved here back in April 2004 with hopes of exploring ideas of community, rootedness, parish and hospitality.  I left my job as a teacher and eventually moved into a Catholic Worker community in the neighborhood.  So after my tenth year, these are some of the things I have highlighted about my life experience in 2014.

  • Published my first book The Communal Imagination 

First of all, 2014 has been a great year where I started writing and published my first book at the beginning of the year called The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together.  I also worked really hard on my second book, which should be out this next year, called The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life!  My friend, Paul Sparks, also published his first book which is exciting called The New Parish: How Neighborhood Churches are Transforming Mission, Discipleship and Community with Tim Soerens and Dwight J. Friesen.  Writing has definitely been a highlight for me as I am discovering that I am good at it, it is life-giving for me and it is fun!

  • Learning from the writings of Thomas Merton

Writing has been so helpful for me as I am discovering this year that in the midst of all of my disillusionment, frustration, anger and unhappiness at the state of the church – writing is helping me to find some hope.  I have learned a lot from the writings of Thomas Merton, who was the most widely read writer on spirituality in the twentieth century.  I have read some eighty plus books by or about him in the past years which is currently helping me understand the ideas of the true self, contemplation, mysticism, ecumenical spirituality and unity.  This has been a great highlight for me as I as currently reading a wonderful book about Merton that came out in 2014 called The Franciscan Heart of Thomas Merton: A New Look at the Spiritual Inspiration of His Life, Thought, and Writing by Daniel P. Horan.  Highly recommended!

  • Started blogging about spirituality and community

I also started blogging about spirituality, community and book reviews 5 times a week in January 2014.  Having been faithful to this task all year, I am currently on my 246th post.  In the next 3 years I am hoping to develop this blog more and continue to learn about it.  Blogging is helping me to really focus on writing while creating a platform online for myself and the things I care about.

  • I want the poor to have voice

At the Tacoma Catholic Worker, where we have 8 houses within a block, I have been exploring how to listen more deeply to the poor, oppressed and marginalized.  I want the poor to have voice, to be empowered and reimagine their humanity with dignity.  Living with the poor has helped me to see Christ in new ways.  I am learning to see beyond the illusions of the American Jesus that is so common and finding a vulnerable Jesus of humility, love and compassion.

  • God is teaching me to love the marginalized

In 2014, God is teaching me to love the marginalized, the outsider.  I am becoming less fearful of living outside of the status quo.  This doesn’t scare me as much as it used to which is helping me to love more freely and compassionately.  Giving up an overly consumeristic life where simplicity is a value I live by is freeing me to understand what it means to become an expression of love in everyday life.

  • The Gravity Center

I became aware of the work of Phileena and Christopher Heuertz at The Gravity Center, a center for contemplative activism, which is relatively new.  They started back in 2012 and have been a great encouragement to me as they talk a lot about silence, solitude and stillness in the midst of an active life.  I have read all of their books Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life by Phileena Heuertz, Simple Spirituality: Learning to See God in a Broken World, Unexpected Gifts: Discovering the Way of Community and Friendship at the Margins: Discovering Mutuality in Service and Mission by Christopher L. Heuertz.  These books are some of my favorites!

  • Faith Shift and The Naked Jesus

Two books that I have read toward the end of the year that were definitely a highlight for me: Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart by Kathy Escobar and The Naked Jesus: A Journey Out of Christianity and Into Christ by John Casimir O’ Keefe.  Both of these books brought me a way to reimagine an authentic spirituality in the twenty-first century.  I strongly recommend reading these books as they will help us to live with more freedom, peace and humility.

What are some of your highlights in 2014?

http://www.amazon.com/Communal-Imagination-Finding-Share-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1419357783&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination

The Struggle with the Consumerism of Christmas

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Christmas is only a few days away this year and I have felt the pressure this season to get into the consumerism of it all.  Shopping is so much a part of this season.  It seems to be so busy that it is hard to focus on the people who are important to me.  The communal spirit of Jesus is lost to so much about Santa, Rudolph and presents.

  • Understanding love at deeper levels

But this year I want to stop all the madness and use this Christmas season to learn how to love.  I want to learn how to be grateful and live a more peaceful life.  Community is becoming a bigger part of my life as I see the need for the small acts of kindness that illuminate beauty in our world.  A Christ consciousness is developing in me more through understanding love at deeper levels.

  • The most wonderful time of the year?

Why can’t I just accept Christmas the way it is?  It is supposed to be fun, joyful and the most wonderful time of the year.  But for some of us it isn’t experienced that way at all.  For some of us it is the most depressing time of the year.

  • Cynicism, depression and grief

Especially for a lot of my friends who do not have a lot of money to buy presents and have been stigmatized because they can barely provide for their basic needs, Christmas has become a hard time where they are reduced to a charity case.  As I am kind of estranged from my own family, this season is not so fun for me.  It brings out a lot of cynicism, depression and grief for me.  Sometimes I get so annoyed by the Christmas songs that I want to scream.

  • Hoping for a Christmas miracle

Why can’t I just be happy and get over it?  Sometimes all I can hope for is the wonderful day of December 26th when it is all over.  But this year I am hoping for a Christmas miracle where I resonate with a peace within myself amidst all the Christmas season hype.  Peace, love and joy is all I want for Christmas this year.

  • Can we lament for the church in North America?

Christmas makes me unhappy a lot of the time.  I seem to be drowning in the sorrow I have for the church that seems to just play along with the Christmas season game.  Christmas causes a deep lamentation with me for the wealthy, powerful church that marginalizes Jesus.  Can we lament for the church in North America during this Christmas season?

  • Can we become more serious and reflective?

Can we question our own happiness?  Can we become more serious and reflective?  Can we stop the madness of pretending to be happy when maybe were not?  Are all the smiles and laughter this Christmas season just a cover up so we don’t have to face ourselves, on own grief, our own pain, our own apathy toward all the injustice in the world?

In what ways do you struggle with Christmas?

http://www.amazon.com/Communal-Imagination-Finding-Share-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1419102221&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination

Book Review – The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings by John Phillip Newell

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The Rebirthing of God is such a wonderful book that brings forth an imagination for the sacredness of all of life.  John Phillip Newell focuses on “a reconnecting to the earth, a reclaiming of compassion, a revisioning of Light, a recommitment to the shared journeys of faith, a rediscovery of spiritual practice, a rededication to nonviolence, a reentering of the unconscious, and a reuniting of love.”  This is an enlightening book for those disillusioned with Christianity as they know it and wanting something more authentic in the twenty-first century.  Highly recommended reading!

The book uses different characters such as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Thomas Berry, Aung San Suu Kyi, Mary Oliver, Bede Griffiths, Thomas Merton, Mahatma Gandhi, George Macleod, Carl Jung and Simone Weil to demonstrate this rebirthing of God.  John Phillip Newell helps us to reimagine a spirituality in which we are aware of our connectedness to one another and the earth.  This is a deeper vision for love and unity as Jesus taught us.

When so much of Christianity is based on division, indifference, violence in the name of God and disconnection to one another this book was a breath of fresh air to me.  It brought together the importance of love, unity, connection and peace in a world that tries to tell us that we are so different from one another.  I do not believe this is true anymore.  This has brought me deep liberation within my soul.

I want to be free to experience this rebirthing of God within me all throughout my lifetime.  The centering of love and our essential connection to one another is good news to me.  I love the title of this book, The Rebirthing of God, because that is what we need as our American Western forms of Christianity have not brought us much life.  There has to be more to our spirituality that is authentic, deep and mystical.

  • The refusal to honor what is deepest in others

“Is this not the root of our falseness, refusing to bow to the sacredness of what comes forth from the earth?  Is this not the pattern in most of our division as nations and as a human species – the refusal to honor what is deepest in others?”

  • Compassion is at the heart of our being

“Compassion is at the heart of our being, waiting to flow again for one another and for those who suffer.  Part of the rebirthing of God in our lives and our world is allowing these depths to flow.”

  • This Light at the heart of our being is for one another and for the world

“…we have a sibling relationship with everything that exists and that the Light that we glimpse in the trees, in the creatures, in the eyes of another, is the Light that is also within us.  Do we know that we are bearers of this unspeakably beautiful Light?  Do we know that this Light at the heart of our being is for one another and for the world?”

  • The imprisonments that keep us in exile from the true heart of one another

“For it is now that we need to do the work of dying to the way in which our ego claims to be the center, rather than serving the Center.  It is now, both individually and collectively, that we need to be freed from the imprisonments that keep us in exile from the true heart of one another.”

  • Our true Center is at the heat of one another

“…we are most free when we do not lift ourselves up over one another but when we remember that our true Center is at the heart of one another.”

  • Hatred of others

“Hatred of others can never lead to true liberation…”

  • Our whole being moves as one with the other

“The unconscious invites us to discover the bliss of oneness.  It does not diminish our uniqueness and individuality.  Rather, it is a conjoining that delights in our differences and honors them…  Our whole being moves as one with the other in an enfolding and intermingling that goes deeper than our differences.  It does not smother it…”

  • Love has the power to bring us together

“The only force that has the power to truly bring together the apparent opposites in our lives and our world is love.”

In what ways have you experienced the rebirthing of God in your life?

http://www.amazon.com/Rebirthing-God-Christianitys-Struggle-Beginnings/dp/1594735425/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1418912301&sr=8-1&keywords=the+rebirthing+of+god

http://www.amazon.com/Communal-Imagination-Finding-Share-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1418912792&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination

Lead Us on the Path of Love

Still Life with Ferns, 2000

We long for something more authentic than this North American box we’ve been put into.  Help us to dance the dance of freedom.  May we be kind, gentle, compassionate and honest.  We are wounded, lonely and afraid.

We dream of you all throughout our days.  You are like the wind on our face on a hot summer day.  You bring us life, peace and a sense of meaning.  Allow us to understand our interconnectedness.

Be to us our life.  Show us the way of love, humility, vulnerability and grace.  We are disillusioned with the church that is supposed to represent you.  This breaks our hearts.  This makes us cry.

Why is everything so messed up.  We lament the violence done in your name.  We lament the colonialism that Christianity has brought into the world.  We repent of what we have done in the name of God that is not representative of love.

Love is all that matters, but we have loved money way too much in our individualistic culture.  Progress has caused us to live the cut throat life of competition.  We are sad and want to resist this in whatever way we can.  Help us to live a sense of sanity in the midst of our violence.

May we learn to be more aware, attentive and responsive toward love.  May we be compassionate and truthful.  May we allow Christ to live within us.  The ego has drowned us into propositional statements of doctrine, creeds, formulas and ideas based on you.

God save us from God.  We have boxed you up into our intellectual minds and have not allowed the body to experience you.  We have forsaken love and compassion turning toward our individualistic ways of subtle violence.  This all seems so normal and acceptable where we have lost a consciousness to anything beyond the status quo.

We are content in our boxes of fear, anger and violence.  We have separated ourselves from our neighbors.  We lament over our hatred, bitterness and prejudice.  We have lost our path to love.

We care more about our houses, cars, family and money than recreating our identity in a compassionate way of love.  We want to be free from what is of the false self.  We want to be our true self and learn to see the sacredness of all of life.  We are made for community, compassion, grace, humility and love.

Our consumerism has choked us to death.  Our individualistic ways have buried our imaginations within us.  Authenticity has become foreign to us.  The church has made us sick in its unhealthy ways of power and wealth.

We have abandoned the poor, oppressed and marginalized among us.  We have rejected you as we ignore the poor.  Help us to understand that what we do to them is what we do to you.  We lament over the disrespect we show others.

Our souls have not been valuable to us.  We struggle to care for our own growth.  Serenity has been trampled under our feet.  We have destroyed our expression of love and have given in to making money as our first priority.

Lead us on the path of love.  Love is what will heal our world.  Love is what is of the true self.  Love will help us to overcome our individualistic violence.

What resonates with you?

http://www.amazon.com/Communal-Imagination-Finding-Share-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1418495981&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination