Culture of Imagination

connecting spirituality to everyday life

Month: April, 2015

Questioning a Life of Consumerism


I have always been drawn to simplicity.  Having what I needed and not much more is how I have lived all of my life.  I have never had large amounts of money.  I have learned how to be content in every circumstance and to trust in God as the sustainer of my life.

  •  Possessions and economic status

This has helped me to learn how to devote myself to my parish.  In my local context, I have learned to live with what I need: the basic necessities of food, shelter, clothes and relational connection.  My relationships are more important to me than my possessions, my economic status or anything else I may have.

  •  The cost to simplicity

Sometimes practicing simplicity is painful and there is a cost to it, but I am learning that even this plays a role in the shaping of our lives together.  Our imaginations become freer.  We have space to be faithfully present in our local context to love, listen, learn, and show empathy.  I am learning that simplicity needs to be the priority in our lives if we are to be in genuine relationship with one another.

  •  Questioning life

As I grew up, I really started to question life and how it works.  I began to ask myself, “Why am I doing what I am doing?”  I began to think about my motives and priorities.  Questioning the pursuit of money and affluence was on my mind a lot.

  •  How God fits into this

Thinking about how God fits into all of this was hard for me.  Sometimes I remember feeling convicted over selfish acts that disregarded God and others. I began to ask, “Why aren’t my motives in life and my priorities becoming more focused on others instead of myself?”

  •  The importance of putting others first

I wondered what would happen if I embodied this more.  I saw that the gospels had many stories and teachings on the importance of putting others first.

  •  Reevaluating how I used my time

Reevaluating how I used my time became a common practice.  Why was I watching so much TV?  Why do I need so much stuff?  Why am I so obsessed with fashion and being cool?

  •  Why?

Why was everything so fast-paced?  Why was I investing so much time in a social life with people who are like me and make me feel good?  Why was I so into sports, movies and the internet?  Why am I so focused on myself to the point of disregarding others?

  •  Gave away things, changed priorities, and shifted focus

This didn’t seem right to me, and so I started to center my life more on relational simplicity.  I gave away things, changed priorities, and shifted focus. I became liberated from the imagination of the empire and started to move more toward the communal imagination.

  •  Left my job as a teacher

When I first moved to Downtown Tacoma, I left my job as a teacher and took several jobs in the neighborhood where I made less money.  This was a move that not many of my friends or family really understood.  So I just did it without a lot of support from others.

  •  Took jobs within walking distance to where I was living

At first, I took a job as a dishwasher at a local restaurant.  I also worked at a bar as a janitor and then as a parking lot attendant.  All these jobs were within walking distance to where I was living in the neighborhood.

  •  Focusing on the relational context I was in

These jobs helped me to become more faithfully present and integrated in the parish.  I developed lots of relationships when I really didn’t know the neighborhood that well.  This shaped me tremendously by helping me not to place such a high priority on the narratives of consumerism.  Now I could focus on the relational context that I was in.

Do you have a story of simplicity to share?

12 Paths of the Ordinary Mystic


I love the term ordinary mystic.  An ordinary mystic is someone who longs to live in the ordinariness of relational life in community, to listen deeply, to show compassion toward others, who desires silence, solitude and rest.  This is what spirituality is to me.  It is open-ended and embraced in paradox.

The ordinary mystic does not practice dualities, but lives their way into new ways of thinking.  Dualistic thinking does not live in the ordinary mystic.  The ordinary mystic has a deep desire to experience the sacredness of all of life.  They long for this more than money, possessions or sex.

My deepest longing has been to allow the life of Christ to live in me.  I don’t know what that means all of the time, but I hope I am growing in wisdom.  The patience that it requires to participate in the mystery of God is difficult sometimes.  Most of the time I am lost in the crowd and confused about how God lives in the world.

I am slowly coming to understand that paradox, mystery and uncertainty are essential to live a life of humility.  As I am experimenting with ways to follow in the path of an ordinary mystic, I often need to embrace a spirituality of imperfection to understand what I can at the time.  I am understanding more that my own brokenness, wounds and doubts are bringing out the aspiration of vulnerability that teaches me to be human.

Here are 12 paths of the ordinary mystic.

1. Longing for reconciled relationships

Ordinary mystics are not weird, strange people who have no contact with reality.  On the contrary, they are people who live with awareness, mindfulness, love and humility toward others, God and the place they inhabit.  We are called to be a collective of ordinary mystics as the body of Christ in everyday life who seek God by cultivating the native passion of the soul.  Our native passion within our bodies is a longing for God, for the beautiful, for reconciled relationships.

2. The embodiment of wonder

We are called to be a church of ordinary mystics who embody the gospel in mystery and wonder within the parish.  Without the mystical nature of Christianity none of this is possible.  We will be doing Christianity without following Christ.  And the results will be sad and tragic for the culture around us.

3. Letting go of concepts, propositions and agendas   

God cannot be figured out.  God cannot be boxed into a concept, proposition or agenda.  God is mysterious and calls for our participation in all of life as the body of Christ in the neighborhood.  God is the destroyer of all our illusions and the creator of the mystical imagination.

4. A mystery to participate in

Irish philosopher Peter Rollins states in his book The Fidelity of Betrayal, “God is not a problem to be solved but rather a mystery to participate in…”  

5. Collaboration

God speaks to us through participation, collaboration and embodiment.  If we are not listening ordinary mystics who live into God’s mysteries, we will never know true wisdom within us.  God’s nature is mystery and cannot be reduced to anything else.

6. Embracing unpredictability

We cannot control the mystical nature of Christianity.  God will not allow it.  The mysteries are too real, quiet and unpredictable.  It takes a whole lifetime to begin to understand God’s mysteries within us.

7. Experiencing life as conversion

We need to have a conversion to mystery that we dedicate our entire lives to as the body of Christ in the parish.  This conversion to mystery could change everything about the way we experience life.

This conversion to mystery would certainly manifest a lot of beauty in the world as we know it.  This conversion to mystery would help us get along in life better.  The mystical imagination longs for this conversion to mystery. 

8. Turning outward to the “other”

Thomas Merton writes, “Hence the folly of a mysticism which does not turn outward to the ‘other,’ but remains enclosed within itself.  Such mysticism is simply an escape from reality: it barricades itself from the real and feeds upon itself.”

9. Living into paradox

The mystical imagination is both inward and outward.  We experience life within that becomes our very identity, but this life within is manifested relationally in our lives together to figure out how to love, how to show humility, how to show grace and compassion for others in our world.  Mysticism is always inward and outward.  There is a deep mystery to this paradox.

10. Creating a holistic counterculture

We focus inward by focusing outward.  We focus outward by focusing inward.  The mystical imagination works in all kinds of paradoxes of mystery.  That is why it is important to have a conversion to mystery because without this we will not be able to create a holistic counterculture as the body of Christ in the parish.

11. The deep desire of love

Susan Rakoczy writes, “Mysticism flows from the deep desire of the human person to surrender to the Mystery of total Love.  Only Love explains mysticism…  True mysticism is never self-seeking, never exhibitionist and self-centered, for one loses one’s life in order to gain real Life.”

12. Seeking beauty

Only God can teach us what it means to seek life within ourselves.  Only God knows what we need in order to seek beauty together as the body of Christ in the parish.  We need to be okay with these mysteries and not get so freaked out by them, becoming more aware and mindful of the realities within and around us all of the time.  God is kind, good, beautiful, present, but very mysterious.

What specific path of the ordinary mystic have you been exploring?

Top 10 Manifestations of Simplicity


In a society that is so addicted to consumerism is there any way to practice a simplicity in everyday life that will bring peace to our world?  These are some of the questions that I have wrestled with over time.  Simplicity could shape our lives in tremendous ways that we will not always understand.

But I am discovering that sometimes I fear simplicity.  Maybe simplicity will create too much havoc in my family.  Maybe I am afraid that I will discover a lack of identity around things that do not have to do with consumerism.  Maybe I will have a mental breakdown without all the stuff I think I need.

This fear runs so deep in me that I would rather live in my lies than face the reality of my addiction to consumerism.  Sometimes I do not want to face my false self that I have constructed over many years of hard work.  Letting go of this feels like a death to everything that I think I am.  But I am finding that simplicity creates new paradigms of clarity, truth and hope within me.

This is what I long for as I struggle with the courage to face my own fears around simplicity.  Simplicity moves me into a greater integration with my true self.  The false self is exposed as a fake, an illusion, something that is not healthy and life-giving to me.  I want to embrace the Jesus of simplicity, peace, love, compassion and humility.

Here are 10 manifestation of simplicity that I think are important in life.

1. Courage

It takes courage to simplify our lives.  It takes courage to search for and enter into a lifelong process of discovery about what really matters in everyday life.

2. Embodiment

This process of discovery is relational.  It is embodied in the place that we live. Without simplicity, we will not be able to connect very well either to God or to one another.

3. New Values

Richard J. Foster notes, “As we strive for simplicity we take energy away from the direction the world is heading and refocus it on a new, life-giving vision for living together.  Simplicity engenders new values which bring about new decisions which brings about a new society.”

4. Risk

What will people think if we live a life of simplicity?  We might stand out too much and become something other than the status quo.  But it is worth the risk.

5. Integration

When we embrace simplicity, it will shape us in ways we cannot understand. Simplicity redefines everyday life and all our relationships.  It helps us to become integrated into the communal imagination.

6. A commitment to place

Our place and our everyday relationships in that place are what really matter in life.  This is so integral to our spirituality.  Without a theology of place, we cannot live into the courage of simplicity and embrace a holistic counterculture. Simplicity is not necessarily an act of ethics or morality, but rather an act of courage.

7. Creativity

Courage is everything to our spirituality.  It takes courage to be in relationship with others.  It takes courage to forsake the status quo and be creative with our everyday lives.  It takes courage to see life through the eyes of beauty and simplicity.

8. Synergy

It takes courage to become rooted in a place.  When we intentionally practice simplicity, we draw energy away from the individualistic, consumeristic thrust of society and create a new synergy.  Simplicity empowers us to imagine a life that is not bound to the North American status quo lifestyle.

“To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me”  (Colossians 1:29).

9. Rediscovering beauty

This energy of simplicity is about finding value in what truly matters so that society can still remain beautiful.  What hope is there for society if there is no return to simplicity?  What hope is there for us without beauty in the world?

10. Hope

What hope is there if everyday life should lose all its value?  Simplicity could save our civilization.  Maybe we could be the ones who preserve some value and beauty in life.

Does simplicity make you afraid in certain ways?

What Will Draw Us Together?

Hand Reaching Out BW

I find that humility is one of the most uncommon traits to live by in the twenty-first century.  There is so much talk these days of theology, but where is the humility in it all.  Humility is the embodiment of love and life.  Humility is a manifestation of our true self.

In my own experience, I am coming to see how important humility is to community.  Without community, there is really no need for humility.  And maybe that is why humility is so rare in our time because community is hard to find in a world of individualism.  Our individualism masks over our brokenness leaving us dishonest, distracted and arrogant a lot of the time.

Did the life of Jesus demonstrate brokenness and humility or did it represent power and wealth?  I think a lot of us would like to think that Jesus represented power and wealth, but this is not true.  Jesus came to us representing compassion, vulnerability, humility, brokenness and a nonjudgmental spirituality.  Jesus lived in a particular place in community with others as this shaped him throughout his entire life.

A life of individualism forsakes the embodiment of community, humility, love and the deep bonds that draw us together in everyday life.  The humility of Jesus is what I am being called to as I struggle with my own woundedness, brokenness and pride.  I find myself asking the question, “Where is the humility of love within me?”  It is always present within me, but is sometimes hard to find because I bury it with my individualistic pride which narrows my scope on life to blindness and arrogance.

  •  Christ’s whole life was a demonstration of humility

The birth, life and death of Jesus all demonstrate his brokenness in multiple ways.  He was poor, unrecognizable, rejected, persecuted, suffered pain, came from the most unlikely of places.  Christ’s whole life was a demonstration of humility and brokenness.

  •  Our perceived perceptions

Most of us probably would not have recognized Jesus in his day if we saw him.  He was too common and too broken to be recognized.  Our preconceived perceptions sometimes want Christ to be something he is not.

  •  Unfamiliar to our Western forms of spirituality

He most likely would not fit our picture of a good American.  He was too weak for that.  His brokenness and humility are unfamiliar to our Western forms of spirituality.

  •  Discovering life through our brokenness together

As we embrace humility and authenticity toward one another, we begin to grasp the communal imagination.  Our imaginations become stirred with new ways to live out the gospel in our relationships with one another in the parish. We begin to discover life through our brokenness together.

  •  Taking on a humility that connects us relationally

We start helping others through the pain of living.  We take on a humility that connects us relationally.

  •  We are all wounded

June Ellis, who embraced a Quaker spirituality of authenticity says: “We are all wounded; we all feel inadequate and ashamed; we all struggle.  But this is part of the human condition; it draws us together, helps us to find our connectedness.”

Do you think that our woundedness and struggles throughout life draw us together or apart?

A Mystery to Participate In


Does Jesus really want us to believe in him if we do not practice what he taught about love, community, humility, grace, compassion, kindness and authenticity?  It seems that Jesus is not really an idea to believe in but more of a mystery to participate in.  I want to participate in the mystery of the body of Christ here in the place that I live.  Christ is drawing me into community where I find the many faces of God through my neighbors as I practice my spirituality in the twenty-first century.

  •  The rain came down, the stream rose, and the winds blew

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the stream rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash”  (Matthew 7:24-27).

  •  A practice-based approach to life

It seems that Christ is emphasizing a practice-based approach to life.  He must want his body to practice his words and teachings.  It is within the context of shared life, proximity, living into the ordinary, seeing the sacredness of life and a commitment to a particular place where the body of Christ can practice their faith as a way of life together.

  •  Christ’s teachings are practiced together in everyday life

This is very foreign to the dominant paradigms of the day, but Christ’s teachings are always based on practical life situations.  They are best practiced together in everyday life. The apostle Paul passed this on as well.

“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice …”  (Philippians 4:9).

Or, to the church in Corinth,

“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ  (1 Corinthians 11:1).

They must have grown to know Paul deeply and have been encouraged in what they had seen in his relational life among them.  He is encouraging them to live with a grounded practice-based theology within their local context just as he did.

  •  On-the-ground practice based-theology

We should develop our theology not just from an intellectual or theoretical perspective, but from what I call an “on-the-ground practice-based theology.” All theology should be practiced, tested, and even discovered in the context of real-life experience.  It should not dismiss everyday life, but instead integrate it with the intellectual stimulation that comes through learning new information. Learning is both intellectual and environmental within the context of the locality we live in.

  •  The integration of both/and

It is not either/or but an integration of both/and.  Just as the church cannot be separated from locality, so the academic and intellectual cannot be separated from the environmental and local contexts of life.  We desperately need the paradox of combining the environmental learner in local relational contexts with the intellectual academic learner of the classroom.  A Christianity that doesn’t hold to this paradigm is likely to be empty and irrelevant to life.

  •  The body of Christ in everyday contexts of life

Why do many people question the existence of God today?  I think it might have something to do with the reality that many people have never seen the body of Christ in the everyday contexts of life.  All they have seen is what we box up inside of a building or cram into a ministry one day a week.

  •  Others have not experienced grace and love from us

It doesn’t seem holistic to a lot of people—me included.  They have not felt from us God’s love. They have not experienced from us God’s grace.  We have not fascinated them with God’s beauty.

  •  Creating a culture of imagination

I think it is important to have an awakening around this on-the-ground practice-based theology.  Let’s take the theology of the intellectual in the classroom and integrate it with the on-the-ground practice-based theology of the neighborhood.  There need not be any dualities between the two.  Let them become one and we will see a culture of imagination rise from the dead.

In what ways do you take a practice based approach to your spirituality?

Book Review – Starting Something New: Spiritual Direction For Your God-Given Dream by Beth A. Booram


Living our dreams is so important for us to be fully human.  When a dream dies, part of us dies in the process.  It is so important to cultivate a dream through intentional rhythms that will help us to nurture and cultivate it throughout life.  Bringing something new to life within us can be challenging and messy work.

When a lot of society just lives into the status quo, this makes it hard to discover what is within us.  What is within us may be a dream that others can’t quite see or experience.  So we need to have the courage to let this dream take its shape and create a life in the world.

Beth A. Booram’s book is a guide in the process of discovering a dream within us and finding a way to bring it to life.  She offers guidance to us through discerning, shaping and birthing a God-given dream within us.  The book goes through 14 aspects of spiritual direction: conceiving, brooding, welcoming, discerning, naming, shaping, sorting, changing, waiting, dying, resurrecting, birthing, living and sustaining.  There are also interviews that go along with each chapter to demonstrate a story of how a particular person is living this out in their own life.

She makes it clear that birthing a dream is messy work that takes intentionality on our part.  Booram encourages us to see our dream as significant even if it seems to be small.  It is our unique expression of life so it does not have to drastically move the world in some way.  We will be okay just to bring it to life in small, simple ways that make us more human in the process.

One of the things that really stood out to me was the wisdom provided when everything seems to be falling apart and dying.  She encourages us to take heart in these seasons of life because they call us to pause and rest.  And this is so essential in the formation process.  While it is happening it feels like the death of our dream, but we are not to give up.

Giving up would be the worst thing to do.  So this death causes us to persevere, to wait patiently.  Our dream is taking shape in some mysterious way we cannot know.

I love this book!  I highly recommend reading it because we need more of our dreams being lived out in the world in which we find ourselves.  A dream usually inspires our imagination to new creativity, authenticity and embodiment.  And we discover our true selves in the formation of our dreams within us.

  • God-given dreams are significant

“So God-given dreams are ones that have significance.  But don’t mistake that to mean that they have to have dramatic impact on the entire world to be important to pay attention to.  They may not affect huge numbers of people or solve the world’s most looming problems.  What makes a Spirit-inspired dream so important is that it is deposited in you!  You are the unique receptacle, and you are the only person who can give birth to it – it’s your baby!…”

  • Hard and messy work

“If you have been involved in any creative process… you know that it’s hard and messy work.  You start with the raw materials and your own creative instincts, and then together things just start happening.  And sometimes the outcome takes on a life of its own.  That’s fairly descriptive of what it’s like to make initial sense of a dream.”

  • Only when we are real people

“…only when we are real people do we have something to offer the world.”

  • Beauty is everywhere

“…beauty is everywhere if you have eyes to see it!”

  • A vast assortment of inspirations and imaginings

“Most creative processes are messy and by nature generate a vast assortment of inspirations and imaginings…”

  • We may zigzag back and forth, again and again

“So, as we are involved in the creative work of realizing a dream, we will need to change some of our ideas; we may zigzag back and forth, again and again…”

  • Begin to wonder if death is imminent

“For some, there are times during the gestation of a dream when you begin to wonder if death is imminent.  Your plans are on hold.  You’ve come to an impasse.  The resources you need do not exist.  All your energy’s been spent.  You realize that there is nothing you can do, nothing at all, to move things along or make happen what needs to happen to keep your vision alive…”

  • In order for new potential to be released

“…what of our dream must die in order for new potential to be released?  When our dream goes through a period of dormancy or an actual dying process, it’s possible that there are things about it that need to falter, to change and be sloughed off…”

  • A chance to pause, to rest

“Death, as hard as it is, is a chance to pause, to rest, to put activity on hold and pay attention to the inner work of God…  So, rather than see death as an end or a failure, something to work feverishly to avoid, it can be a time of sloughing off what isn’t you in order for the Christ in you to emerge.”

  • Don’t give up

“If you have been moving through the gestational process of bringing a dream to life, and that dream has appeared to die or at least be in ‘sleep savor’ mode, it can be hard to keep hope alive.  I believe that many who have given birth to a dream would like to say to you, in unison, ‘Don’t give up!’  Just because at this moment in time your dream appears to be lifeless, don’t assume that what you have desired and pursued will not, at some future moment, be revived.  Keep your eyes open for the unfolding evidence of resurrection.”

  • It can be a slow dawning, one that feels tenuous and shaky

“For those of us whose dreams appear to have died, there will be signs of life that signal and convince us of resurrection – but it can be a slow dawning, one that feels tenuous and shaky.  It’s important to be attentive to the signs of life…”

  • Being stretched toward your growing edge

“So as you live into your dream it will be important for you to pay attention to the ways you’re being stretched by your new normal – stretched toward your growing edge…”

  • Developing intentional rhythms

“…it’s important early on to begin to define some important rhythms that protect us from burning out or overextending, from allowing this dream to consume the whole plate of our lives to the point that there’s no space left on the plate for anything else.  Or the portions we give to other important relationships and needs have become much too small.  It’s certain that embracing a God-given dream will affect the whole of our lives: spiritual, relational, vocational, physical and recreational.  And so, from time to time, we need to review and realign ourselves with the priorities that enable us to live a sustainable life as a dream builder.  Developing intentional rhythms and a rule of life is one practice that will help us do that.”  

Do you have a dream that you are wanting to live out?  What is it?

Loving Our Ideals of Community Will Destroy Us


Several years ago, I had the opportunity to spend some time with Shane Claiborne down in Alabama at a Lent retreat.  Typically, Shane speaks in front of at least five hundred people when he shares, but this weekend was different because there was a tornado warning on the day he arrived and only about twenty people showed up because of it.  I had never been to Alabama before, so to experience tornado sirens go off on the first evening of the retreat was interesting to say the least.  But because there were so few of us, I got to spend some good one-on-one time with him.

I ate breakfast, lunch and dinner next to him at the same table for several days.  Previously, I had read some of Shane’s books like The Irresistible Revolution which had had a dramatic influence on me.  So I really appreciated all the conversation that I got a chance to have with him that weekend.

I was really excited.  I had a hundred questions for him.  Back home, I am known for asking many questions and sometimes wearing others out if they are not in the mood for it.

After many hours of conversation with Shane, I remember asking him what he thought was the most challenging thing he had learned about living in community in his neighborhood of Kensington, Philadelphia at The Simple Way for the past fifteen years or so.  I will never forget what he told me that day.  He said the most important thing he had learned was that learning to love his community unconditionally is so much more important than getting caught up in the ideals of what he thinks the community should be.

I thought this was such profound wisdom and I’m thankful for having the chance to spend some time with him that weekend.  I have been inspired by Shane for many years through his books, so having the chance to hear him in person say these words to me was very powerful.  This conversation has had a profound influence on me to this day.  His words have always stayed with me and I think about them often.

  •  God’s grace shatters our dreams

Dietrich Bonhoeffer says in his insightful book Life Together, “Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it had sprung from a wish dream.  The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it.  But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams …”

  •  Loving our dream of community more than the community itself

Bonhoeffer goes on to say, “By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world.  He does not abandon us to those rapturous experiences and lofty moods that come over us like a dream…  Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it.  The sooner this shock of disillusionment comes to an individual and to a community the better for both.  A community which cannot bear and cannot survive such a crisis, which insists upon keeping its illusion when it should be shattered, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community.  Sooner or later it will collapse.  Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive.  He who loves his dream of community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.”

  •  Facing a great tension

We always face a great tension between the ideal of what we want life to be like and the reality of life as it is.  The communal imagination is not built on a “wish dream” or an illusion, but on reality.  We will struggle sometimes to figure things out relationally in the parish.  It is not always easy and we might often fail.

  •  Learning to live with grace towards one another

But we need to keep trying to learn to live with grace towards one another.  Without grace, we will build our lives on a lofty illusion of how things ought to be with little contact with reality.  What we are building will not last very long without grace.  When we love our ideals of community more than the reality of the community, we will become disillusioned and bring an oppressive agenda into it that will quickly poison everything around us.

Do you get caught up in loving the ideals of community more than the reality of it?

Love and Judgment Do Not Go Together  


What I think of most when I hear the word Christianity is judgment.  It seems I have seen more judgmental expressions of Christianity than anything else.  Words like love, humility, vulnerability, compassion, honesty, simplicity and unity are often times far removed from what I have seen of Christianity in North America.  This leaves Christians to become far removed from experiencing the church as a community of love and not judgment.

Judgment, marginalization, oppression and colonialism are often times what Christianity has produced in our coveted wealth, greed and power.  We have tried to cultivate a Christianity that wants almost nothing to do with those who live in poverty.  We condemn the poor and many others who we think are not like us in our “righteousness.”  But we have missed the vulnerable Jesus in the process.

We worship a God of our own making who is full of judgment, wrath and condemnation.  We like this God because it represents who we are as judgmental, wrathful and condemning toward others.  This is far from the love that God has called us to embody as we live our lives following the way of compassion, kindness and grace.

  •  Show proper respect

“Show proper respect to everyone …”  (1 Peter 2:17).

  •  Discriminating against ourselves

We all have the tendency to judge others.  But to judge others is to deny them proper respect.  When we judge one another we discriminate against ourselves and lose our hold on love.  Judging others hinders us from loving others.

  •  Love each other deeply

“Above all, love each other deeply …”  (1 Peter 4:8).

  •  We need to love, not judge

We need to love as the body of Christ, not judge.  Judging others tends to be the religious thing to do nowadays.  We don’t want to get caught up in all this religious stuff.  Instead, we want to love others in a contextual way within the particulars of everyday life in the parish.

  •  Judging others does more damage than we sometimes realize

Judging others does more damage than we sometimes realize.  The communal imagination doesn’t judge others but loves them compassionately.

  •  Do not judge

“Do not judge, or you too will judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye”  (Matthew 7:1-5).

  •  Christ does not want us going around judging everyone

It is very clear that Christ does not want the members of his body going around judging everyone.

  •  A nonjudgmental spirituality

Bruxy Cavey states, “Jesus promoted a nonjudgmental spirituality… Those who follow Jesus are called to represent God’s love to others, but not his judgment …”  

  •  The common human experience

This “nonjudgmental spirituality” communicates love relationally.  Christ calls us to love, not to judge.  We all would rather be loved than judged.   This is a common human experience.

  •  Judging others keeps us from listening and being present

Judging others keeps us from listening and being present in relationship. Judging others keeps us from practicing compassion.  And compassion is at the heart of spirituality.  Christ’s love is what we want to express with our lives, not a judgmental attitude that robs us of anything authentic.

  •  Embodying love toward others

It is so easy to judge and much harder to embody love toward others.  If we are to learn to love we have to let go of our need to judge others.  Judging others is violent and cruel.  It is devaluing and not liberating.

  •  Judging demands nothing of us

It gives us control over those we judge.  It is safe and predictable.  It demands nothing of us.

  •  Love is more powerful than judgment

It is boring and uncreative.  But love is more powerful than judgment.  It overcomes its power to devalue and control, and helps us to become alive and free.

  •  Walking in the Spirit and practicing compassion

When we love we become nonjudgmental.  How freeing it is not to judge others and to demonstrate our love in our local context.  Christ is leading us to take on this nonjudgmental attitude and learn to love in the place we inhabit together.  It has a lot to do with walking in the Spirit and practicing compassion.

  •  We are chained to our ego when we judge

We are chained to our ego when we judge.  There is real liberation when we love together as the body of Christ in the parish.  It can liberate our imaginations and free us to be more communal.

Do you think judging others promotes love, peace and compassion?

The Fruit of the Nonviolent Communication


Nonviolent communication is something that I have been learning in the past several years as I live in my local community of Downtown Tacoma.  It has been one of the most life transforming practices for me as I have struggled with the way I communicate with others.  I wish that I would have been aware of this practice many years ago, but life is a journey of serenity as I learn and unlearn so many things that support my own interior growth.

  • Connecting with others out of vulnerability

The fruit of nonviolent communication is in the way it teaches us to connect with others in a vulnerable way without judgment, blame and aggressive demands.  It teaches us to make observations without judgement, take responsibility for our feelings, become aware of our needs and make a request of someone else without demanding anything.

  • Essential for authentic connection with others

This is absolutely essential for authentic connection with others.  So many of our problems in community come from our lack of healthy communication in everyday life.  We are not aware of our feelings and needs so we resort to judgment and blame while demanding our way.

  • Taking responsibility for our feelings

Taking responsibility for our feelings is a life changing practice.  Nonviolent communication teaches that no one makes us feel anything and we must identify how we are feeling without blaming our feelings on someone else.  I can’t say you made me feel this way.  That is not taking responsibility for my feelings.

  • Becoming aware of my feelings and needs

When I take responsibility of my feelings this helps me to communicate out of what I am needing without demanding something from others.  I simply become aware of my feelings and needs without shame, guilt or judgment.  It is so good for us to know what we are feeling and needing in any given situation we find ourselves in.

  • Nonviolent communication is a peaceful way to live

It is not selfish to know your needs and communicate them in a respectful way to others.  When our needs do not get met, we eventually become angry and resentful which leads us to violent acts of gossip, slander and bitterness.  Nonviolent communication is a much more peaceful way to live.  I believe it represents the way of Jesus in the twenty-first century.

  • Jesus was a nonviolent person

Maybe this is how Jesus communicated so long ago.  I do not think that Jesus judged anyone, blamed anyone or demanded anything of anyone.  He just communicated his feelings and needs to others while making concrete requests.  Jesus was a nonviolent person and I think we are called to follow in this way of peaceful serenity.

  •  Finding solidarity with one another

If we practiced nonviolent communication there would be no war, violence and murder.  Our world could listen more deeply.  We could find solidarity with one another.  The hated and systems of oppression would stop.  People could learn that their true self is compassion and love, not violence and hatred.

  • Bearing the fruit of love

Nonviolent communication could bear the fruit of love among us.  We could live more peaceful, sustainable lives in our local community.  Reconciliation could characterize our relationships with one another.  Nonviolent communication could lead us to a happier life where we are not so disconnected and alienated from one another.

What do you think of nonviolent communication?

Do You Think That Love is Small and Insignificant?


May we be the embodiment of love.  Let love live within our bodies.  Love is the most valuable thing in the entire world.  We desire to know what is it like to love with our entire lives.

Help us to long to be an expression of love in the place we live.  May we understand that love is the foundation of community among us.  Love is the greatest thing we can do in our lives.

Consume us with love.  May love motivate everything we do.  Without love, we cannot be our true selves.  Without love, we struggle to be compassionate and empathetic toward others.  We need love more than anything else in life.

Love is who you are.  Love will lead us to authenticity.  May our dreams be shaped by love for the world.  We refuse to live in a world without love.  Love will make us human again.

  •  Love is not “spiritual” enough for us

Loving others is all about what the world perceives as too small and too ordinary for it to possibly be of God.  Love is not “spiritual” enough for us. Love is not considered “religious” enough for us.  Love does not fit into our programs and services.

  •  Love cannot be boxed up

Love cannot be controlled because it is everywhere.  Love cannot be boxed up into propositional statements.  Love cannot be figured out.  Love is relational.

  •  Love is mysterious, subversive, countercultural and relational

Love is mysterious.  Love is subversive.  Love is countercultural.  Love is miraculous.

  •  The small hard-to-see things of life

We are to pay attention to the small, hard-to-see things of life in the parish.

  •  God is love

“God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him…”  (I John 4:16).

  •  Having eyes for the small

The communal imagination needs eyes for the small.  It is through the small that we live our lives.  Christ always manifests himself to us through the small.

  •  Take one step at a time

Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, says in her book Loaves and Fishes, “Young people say, What good can one person do?  What is the sense of our small effort?  They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time; we can be responsible only for the one action of the present moment. But we can beg for an increase of love in our hearts that will vitalize and transform all our individual actions, and know that God will take them and multiply them, as Jesus did the loaves and fishes.

  •  Our love could be multiplied again and again

Our love could be multiplied again and again as we do the small things that build relational care in the parish.  Are we on a path that will give our lives to explore the small things of love?  Jesus is waiting for us in the small particulars of life.  He is wanting some collaboration and partnership around the small things where he lives and dwells.

  •  Love comes from God

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love…”  (1 John 4:7).

  •  Embodying the communal imagination

The body of Christ needs to love through the small things that confuse those who all the time want what is bigger and better.  We need to embody this communal imagination together in the parish through doing what is small.

  •  Small, insignificant things

Dwight J. Friesen, Associate Professor of Practical Theology at The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology, points out, “One of the most striking aspects of the good news is the way God seems to delight in using small, insignificant things … to bring about fantastic transformation …”

Do you live like God is love?