Culture of Imagination

connecting spirituality to everyday life

Month: June, 2015

Foreword from Kathy Escobar on my new upcoming book – The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life

65extremely-creative-photoI have been working on my new book The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life for the last year or so.  It is almost reaching the point of being finished and published. This is exciting for me as it is my second book!

I have had the honor of working with Kathy Escobar as I asked her to do the foreword for the book. She is one of my favorite writers on spirituality in the twenty-first century.  I was thrilled to have her write this foreword!  It is so good!

So here it is.

When I think of the words “mystical” and “imagination”, I smile because despite their lack of use in much of the language of contemporary Christianity, they are the exact right words to describe the best hope for the Body of Christ’s future. The “kingdom of God” that Jesus talks about throughout the gospels is filled with mysticism and imagination.  With radical trust that comes from a deeper knowing that is beyond knowledge and certainty.  With creativity in ways that people experience transformation and deeper connection with God.  With relationships that don’t make sense in the world’s eyes but are the truest reflection of God’s heart for people.

The Kingdom of God is so full of imagination! But often, we as followers of Jesus have lost what was originally intended. Our search for knowledge, certainty and a cookie cutter system of church has robbed us of creativity and choked out many aspects of what “faith” really means. 

The future of the church does not depend on more knowledge. What it desperately needs is more imagination!

Some other words for imagination include: creativity, resourcefulness, awareness, inventiveness, vision, imagery, originality.  These words are embedded into this book and are a reflection of what I believe we are called to participate in as followers of Jesus.   

When I think of the words “mystical” and “imagination” I think of Mark Votava.  He is not only a wonderful mix of theologian, spiritual guide, advocate, and friend, but he also has a prophetic voice into the future of Christianity.  He sees what could be.  He experiences Jesus in unlikely places.  He calls people to be open to God in new ways that will stretch not only their hearts and minds but their hands and feet as well.

He is also an ordinary mystic, and I love what he says in this book about them. He offers, “Ordinary mystics are not weird, strange people who have lost 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.”  This material is a wonderful call for us to be ordinary mystics as well, “a collective…as the body of Christ in everyday life who seek God by cultivating the native passion of the soul.”

This kind of soul work is not easy. 

It cannot be spoon fed to us. 

It cannot be imparted through just words.

We will have to participate, experience, and become learners.

The Mystical Imagination helps us learn.  By challenging us to become lifelong learners “as a practice of following Christ”, Mark asks us to reconsider some important rhythms and spiritual practices in our lives.  Contemplative spirituality, hospitality, and incarnational, relationship-centered living are a few of the components that you will be challenged with as you read this book.  

I know I was.

Mark reminded me, yet again, how living into the kingdom of God here and now requires an interesting and creative mix of intention and letting go. Of nurturing and cultivating systems but also releasing control and trusting their organic development. Of developing spiritual practices that quiet our hearts and minds at the same time we are actively engaged with our neighbors through tangible relationship. Of forgetting the status quo and leaning into deep stirrings in our soul no matter the cost. Of engaging deeply in community while also making room for solitude and silence. 

In a world always looking for simple solutions, formulas and easy fixes, Mark is a different kind of voice that calls us to deep transformation and trust in the long story. This isn’t popular in many circles, however, as many of us know people are leaving church in droves right now. Many are “done” with the system but far from done with being a follower of Jesus. Many may be either dissatisfied with church or left all together but still have a burning desire for authentic community. Many sitting in the pews are much less certain about what they believe but even more passionate about justice and mercy and living that out not in words but in action. We need guides for a spiritual journey that will look so much different than it did before.

That’s why this book is important. 

We need confirmation in our souls that our desire for less certainty, conformity, and affiliation and greater freedom, mystery, and diversity in our faith is a good thing. That ultimately we will draw closer to God and God’s dreams for people, not further away. That our desire for a deeper spirituality that is centered on incarnational living is not crazy or heretical but a reflection of Jesus. 

I’m grateful for Mark’s voice, passion, and challenge to dream not just individually but collectively as well.

May we keep cultivating our mystical imagination together. 

We need it.

The “church” needs it.

The world needs it.

Kathy Escobar, is co-pastor of the Refuge, spiritual director, blogger at kathyescobar.com, author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and Down We Go: Living Into the Wild Ways of Jesus.

Here are a couple of posts I have done on her books Faith Shift and Down We Go:

A Desert Without Trees – 8 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – New Seeds of Contemplation

download (9)1. In order to become myself

“In order to become myself I must cease to be what I always thought I wanted to be, and in order to find myself I must go out of myself, and in order to live I must die…”

2. The elimination of everybody but ourselves

“Hatred tries to cure disunion by annihilating those who are not united with us.  It seeks peace by the elimination of everybody else but ourselves.”

3. No one has anything in common with anybody else

“Hell is where no one has anything in common with anybody else except the fact that they all hate one another and cannot get away from one another and from themselves.”

4. A projection of our own aspirations, desires and ideals

“Every one of us forms an idea of Christ that is limited and incomplete.  It is cut according to our own measure.  We tend to create for ourselves a Christ in our own image, a projection of our own aspirations, desires and ideals.  We find in Him what we want to find.  We make Him not only the incarnation of God but also the incarnation of the things we and our society and our part of society happen to live for.”

5. It is a tremendous grace

“It is a tremendous grace, then, and a great privilege when a person living in the world we have to live in suddenly losses his interest in the things that absorb that world, and discovers in his own soul an appetite for poverty and solitude.  And the most precious of all the gifts of nature or grace is the desire to be hidden and to vanish from the sight of men and be accounted as nothing by the world and to disappear from one’s own self-conscious consideration and vanish into nothingness in the immense poverty that is the adoration of God.”

6. The fake interior satisfaction of self-complacency

“When we are led by God into the darkness where contemplation is found, you are not able to rest in the false sweetness of your own will.  The fake interior satisfaction of self-complacency and absolute confidence in your own judgment will never be able to deceive you entirely: it will make you slightly sick and you will be forced by a vague sense of interior nausea to gash yourself open and let the poison out.”

7. The ordinary way to contemplation

“Let us never forget that the ordinary way to contemplation lies through a desert without trees and without beauty and without water.  The spirit enters a wilderness and travels blindly in directions that seem to lead away from vision, away from God, away from all fulfillment and joy.  It may become almost impossible to believe that this road goes anywhere at all except to a desolation full of dry bones – the ruin of all hopes and good intentions.”

8. How to mind your own business

“One of the first things to learn if you want to be a contemplative is how to mind your own business.”

Which quotes do you like the best?

Here are 5 more posts that I have done about Thomas Merton. He is definitely someone you will want to read in order to find a more authentic spirituality. Click on the links and read more. Please share and comment!

To Be An Outlaw – 8 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – Raids on the Unspeakable  

download (10)1. An advance into solitude and the desert

“…the contemplative life, which must not be construed as an escape from time and matter, from social responsibility and from the life of sense, but rather, as an advance into solitude and the desert, a confrontation with poverty and the void, a renunciation of the empirical self, in the presence of death, and nothingness, in order to overcome the ignorance and error that spring from the fear of ‘being nothing.’  The man who dares to be alone can come to see that the ‘emptiness’ and ‘usefulness’ which the collective mind fears and condemns are necessary conditions for the encounter with truth.”

2. A concept of sanity that excludes love

“And so I ask myself: what is the meaning of a concept of sanity that excludes love, considers it irrelevant, and destroys our capacity to love other human beings, to respond to their needs and their sufferings, to recognize them also as persons, to apprehend their pain as one’s own?  Evidently this is not necessary for ‘sanity’ at all…”

3. Our future will be made by love and hope

“We believe that our future will be made by love and hope, not by violence or calculation…”

4. To be an outlaw

“To be a contemplative is therefore to be an outlaw…”

5. There are no deserts

“The problem today is that there are no deserts…”

6. A dialectic of hate

“The love of solitude is sometimes condemned as ‘hatred of our fellow men.’  But is this true?  If we push our analysis of collective thinking a little further we will find that the dialectic of power and need, of submission and satisfaction, ends by being a dialectic of hate.  Collectivity needs not only to absorb everyone it can, but also implicitly to hate and destroy whoever cannot be absorbed.  Paradoxically, one of the needs of collectivity is to reject certain classes, or races, or groups, in order to strengthen its own self-awareness by hating them instead of absorbing them.”

7. The ultimate temptation

“This of course is the ultimate temptation of Christianity!  To say that Christ has locked all the doors, has given one answer, settled everything and departed, leaving all life enclosed in the frightful consistency of a system outside of which there is seriousness and damnation, inside of which there is the intolerable flippancy of the saved – while nowhere is there any place left for the mystery of the freedom of divine mercy which alone is truly serious, and worthy of being taken seriously.”

8. The worst insanity

“I am beginning to realize that ‘sanity’ is no longer a value or an end in itself.  The ‘sanity’ of modern man as about as useful to him as the huge bulk and muscles of the dinosaur.  If he were a little less sane, a little more doubtful, a little more aware of his absurdities and contradictions, perhaps there might be a possibility of his survival.  But if he is sane, too sane… perhaps we must say that in a society like ours the worst insanity is to be totally without anxiety, totally ‘sane.’”

What is your favorite quote?

No Exclusiveness – 9 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – The Sign of Jonas  

41sdg2pPluL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. The functions of a contemplative

“Perhaps one of the functions of a contemplative is to help other people, by word or merely by example, to become aware of how much they are capable of loving God…”

2. Poverty and hardship

“…the life of a Christian has meaning and value only to the extent that it conforms to the life of Jesus.  But Jesus lived in poverty and hardship and died on the Cross…”

3. And love is enough

“To love God is everything.  And love is enough.  Nothing else is of any value except insofar as it is transformed and elevated by the charity of Christ.  But the smallest thing, touched by charity, is immediately transfigured and becomes sublime.”

4. The supreme graces of solitude and of society coincide and become one

“The greatest gift that can come to anyone is to share in the infinite act by which God’s love is poured out upon all men.  In this sense the supreme graces of solitude and of society coincide and become one…”

5. The holiness of created things

“But this sadness generates within me an unspeakable reverence for the holiness of created things, for they are pure and perfect and they belong to God and they are mirrors of His beauty.  He is mirrored in all things like sunlight in clean water: but if I try to drink the light that is in the water I only shatter the reflection.”

6. To start over again

“The thing to do when you have made a mistake is not to give up doing what you were doing and start something altogether new, but to start over again with the thing you began badly and try, for the love of God, to do it well.”

7. No exclusiveness

“To belong to God I have to belong to myself.  I have to be alone – at least interiorly alone.  This means the constant renewal of a decision.  I cannot belong to people.  None of me belongs to anybody but God.  Absolute loneliness of the imagination, the memory, the will.  My love for everybody is equal, neutral and clean.  No exclusiveness.  Simple and free as the sky because I love everybody and am possessed by nobody, not held, not bound.  In order to be not remembered or even wanted I have to be a person that nobody knows.  They can have Thomas Merton.  He’s dead…  For my part my name is the sky, those fence-posts, and those cedar trees…”

8. To find solitude

“It is clear to me that solitude is my vocation, not as a flight from the world but as my place in the world, because for me to find solitude is only to separate myself from all the forces that destroy me and destroy history…”

9. Free of words: their master rather than their servant

“For the first time in my life I am finding you, O solitude.  I can count on the fingers of one hand the few short moments of purity, of neutrality, in which I have found you.  Now I know I am coming to the day in which I will be free of words: their master rather than their servant, able to live without them if need be…”

What do you like about all these quotes?

Desire and Awareness – 10 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – The Inner Experience: Notes on Contemplation

81MA-v3wVDL1. Contemplation is the work of love

“Contemplation is the work of love, and the contemplative proves his love by leaving all things, even the most spiritual things, for God in nothingness, detachment, and ‘night.’  But the deciding factor in contemplation is the free and unpredictable action of God…”

2. Constant tension and conflict

“The life of a contemplative is apt to be one constant tension and conflict between what he feels to be the interior movements of grace and the objective, exterior claims made upon him by the society to whose laws he is subject…”

3. Our true self

“Hence we must become detached from the unreality that is in us in order to be united to the reality that lies deeper within and is our true self – our inmost self-in-God.”

4. The path of humility, obscurity, and emptiness

“The grace of contemplation leads always in the path of humility, obscurity, and emptiness.”

5. Contemplation should not be exaggerated

“Contemplation should not be exaggerated, distorted, and made to seem great.  It is essentially simple and humble.  No one can enter into it except by the path of obscurity…  It implies also much discipline… It implies justice to other people, truthfulness, hard work… Contemplation is not a kind of magic and easy shortcut to happiness and perfection…  There may be much desolation and suffering in the spirit of the contemplative, but there is always more joy than sorrow…”

6. Spiritual discipline

“Whenever one seeks the light of contemplation, he commits himself by that very fact to a certain spiritual discipline…”

7. A unity beyond division

“The contemplative life is primarily a life of unity.  A contemplative is one who has transcended divisions to reach a unity beyond division…”

8. Without the silence and recollection of the interior life

“To praise the contemplative life is not to reject every other form of life, but to seek a solid foundation for every other human striving.  Without the silence and recollection of the interior life, man loses contact with his real sources of energy, clarity, and peace.  When he tries to be his own god and insists on keeping his hands on everything, he drives himself to ruin…”

9. Desire and awareness

“…in the beginning of contemplation as well as in times of great trial, the desire and awareness of God are something so deep, so mute, and so tenuous that it is hard to realize their presence at all.  However, a glance is sufficient to tell you that they are there.  In fact, the true contemplative suffers from the fact that he thinks he is without desire of God, and that very suffering bears witness to his desire.  This suffering itself is often the work of infused love…”

10. Becoming aware of our innermost self

“The sacred attitude is, then, one of reverence, awe, and silence before the mystery that begins to take place within us when we become aware of our innermost self…”

Which quote most stands out to you?

Awakened Consciousness – 6 quotes from Cynthia Bourgeault’s book – Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening

41K4qxzIdbL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. A deeper and vastly more authentic Self

“Like most the great spiritual masters of our universe, Jesus taught from the conviction that we human beings are victims of a tragic case of mistaken identity.  The person I normally take myself to be – that busy, anxious little ‘I’ so preoccupied with its goals, fears, desires, and issues – is never even remotely the whole of who I am, and to seek the fulfillment of my life at this level means is to miss out on the bigger life.  This is why, according to his teaching, the one who tries to keep his ‘life’ (i.e., the small one) will lose it, and the one who is willing to lose it will find the real thing.  Beneath the surface there is a deeper and vastly more authentic Self, but its presence is usually veiled by the clamor of the smaller ‘I’ with its insatiable needs and demands.”   

2. A mini-rehearsal for the hour of our own death

“When we enter meditation, it is like a ‘mini-death,’ at least from the perspective of the ego (which is why it can initially feel so scary).  We let go of our self-talk, our interior dialogue, our fears, wants, needs, preferences, daydreams, and fantasies.  These all become just ‘thoughts,’ and we learn to let them go.  We simply entrust ourselves to a deeper aliveness, gently pulling the plug on that tendency of the mind to want to check in with itself all the time.  In this sense, meditation is a mini-rehearsal for the hour of our own death, in which the same thing will happen.  There comes a moment when the ego is no longer able to hold us together, and our identity is cast to the mercy of Being itself.  This is the existential experience of ‘losing one’s life.’”

3. Resting in God beyond thoughts, words, and feelings

“What really happens when one enters the cloud of unknowing, resting in God beyond thoughts, words, and feelings, is a profound healing of the emotional wounds of a lifetime…”

4. Would never have existed apart from struggle

“True self comes into being as a kind of sacred alchemy, through the conscious acceptance and integration of our shadow side.  It is not so much the curing of a pathology as the birthing of something that would never have existed apart from struggle…”

5. Beyond the capacity of the anxious, fear-ridden ego

“The gospel requires a radical openness and compassion that are beyond the capacity of the anxious, fear-ridden ego.”

6. Awakened consciousness

“Inner awakening is basically about breaking this cycle, opening to a new infusion of self-restraint or awakened consciousness that knocks you loose from the downed electric wire of that crazy, volatile, emotional energy.  It’s about being able to make a separation, stepping back into a more spacious inner place so that the whole pattern doesn’t just keep playing itself out mindlessly, stealing your vital life energy that can really be used for far better purposes.”

Which quote do you like the best?

Tremendous Courage – 8 quotes from Cynthia Bourgeault’s book – Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening

41K4qxzIdbL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. Intentional silence is a non-negotiable

“Virtually every spiritual tradition that holds a vision of human transformation at its heart also claims that a practice of intentional silence is a non-negotiable…”

2. Jesus was a contemplative

“It seems safe to assume that Jesus was a contemplative, by which I mean that the intentional alteration between contemplation and action is one of the… rhythms of his being.  At all the great junctures of his life – in the first temptations in the wilderness, in his withdrawal to the far shores of Lake Galilee immediately preceding the miracle of the loaves and fishes, at his transfiguration on Mt. Tabor and at the final anguish in the garden of Gethsemane – his pattern is to withdraw into solitude to listen more deeply…  and unite his being to the divine Will…”

3. The history of Western Christendom

“And of course, this is the history of Western Christendom in a nutshell.  As the age of scholasticism advanced and the Church gradually lost the capacity to read its own mystical roadmaps, both its theology and institutional life grew more dogmatic and contentious…”

4. Seeing from the perspective of oneness

“Contemplation, understood in the light of a hologram universe, is not a special gift.  It is simply seeing from the perspective of oneness…  It can indeed be practiced, and over time, with sincerity and persistence, it becomes an abiding state of consciousness.  At times this unitive seeing may sweep you up into rapt adoration; at other times it simply deposits you powerfully and nakedly in the present moment.  Either form is an expression of the same underlying consciousness.  It is this consciousness itself that is the attained state of contemplation, and it is neither infused or acquired, because it was never absent – only unrecognized.”

5. Requires tremendous courage

“It is the false self that we bring to the spiritual journey; our ‘true self’ lies buried beneath the accretions and defenses.  In all of us there is a huge amount of healing that has to take place before our deep and authentic quest for union with God – which requires tremendous courage and inner presence to sustain – escapes the gravitational pull of our psychological woundedness and self-justification.  This, in essence, constitutes the spiritual journey.”

6. Totally and predictably mechanical

“…human beings in the grip of their false self programs are totally and predictably mechanical…”

7. A false self system

“A false self system is a system working at a low level of being, which is why it remains so mechanical and viciously self-reinforcing.  With its vital energy largely locked up in its defenses and neurotic programming, there is little left over to reach escape velocity into real awakened consciousness, which both requires and produces a higher level of spiritual vibrancy than we are used to.”

8. We are the ones who are absent

“The reality is that God is always present, and we are the ones who are absent!  We hide in the cataphatic: in our noise, our stories, our self-talk, our busyness.  Silence is useful in that it takes away the evasions; it forces us to befriend our own consciousness and stop running from our own shadows.  Once that willingness has been found – the willingness simply to endure ourselves in the present moment – then the external conditions of silence become much less important…  On the other hand, without that consent to fully inhabit ourselves, even silence itself will soon get piled high with rules, self-definitions, rigidity, and piety; it becomes itself a form of evasion.”

Which quotes do you like the best?

The Attitude of Listening – 9 quotes from Thomas Keating’s book – Reflections on the Unknowable

41-YNDn2WOL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. To be powerless

“To be powerless is to accept and welcome all the consequences of being powerless.  It is to feel oneself to be weakness itself, unable to practice even the smallest virtue, and to be always failing in one’s good intentions and resolutions.  It is to die at every moment into utter spiritual destitution.  It is to be nailed to the cross in union with Christ.  It is to live in Christ and let Christ live in us…”

2. Not ideas but intuitions

“What maintains normal speed on the spiritual journey are not ideas but intuitions.  Such are the inspirations of the fruits and gifts of the Spirit…”

3. 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 the longing for oneness.”

4. To be, to live, and to act

In oneness, there is not more or less; there is only oneness…  One-ing is to be, to live, and to act…”

5. The capacity for intimacy with God

“The Spirit is the love of everything according to its nature.  The capacity for intimacy with God is in proportion to our consent to be a creature and our willingness to remain so.  The acceptance of powerlessness is the path to becoming everything and to be truly like God, equal to God in every way that is possible for a creature.”

6. The sense of serving every living thing

“If people would put their minds on becoming God – not in the sense of power, but in the sense of serving every living thing as far as they have the strength and talents to do so – then the world would become the Garden of Eden.  In fact, we have to make it the Garden of Eden or we will make it into a kind of hell.  The false self has the tendency to create its own hell and which can start in this life.”

7. The game of life is designed for us to enjoy fun

“There is so much to learn, and one of the great things to learn is that the game of life is designed for us to enjoy fun, not to accomplish something.  As soon as you want to win, you’ve lost the pleasure of playing.  A certain amount of competition is not bad, but the fun is over once you make the game a career.”

8. To forgive, to show compassion, to respect everyone

“The promise is that we are developing our capacity as human beings to do the things that God does with the greatest of ease: to forgive, to show compassion, to respect everyone, and to experience oneness with everyone.”

9. Human consciousness

“Out of that immense chaos ultimately emerges human consciousness, which is the greatest masterpiece of creation.  That is still going on.  If we could collaborate with it, we have no idea what wonderful things the human race might be capable of in the next millennium.”  

Which quote do you like the best?

 

God’s Life Within Us – 6 quotes from Henri J.M. Nouwen’s book – Making All Things New: An Invitation to the Spiritual Life  

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1. The here and now

“The spiritual life is not a life before, after, or beyond our everyday existence.  No, the spiritual life can only be real when it is lived in the midst of the pains and joys of the here and now.  Therefore we need to begin with a careful look at the way we think, speak, feel, and act from hour to hour, day to day, week to week, and year to year, in order to become more fully aware of our hunger for the Spirit…”

2. The life of the Spirit within and among us

“To set our hearts on the kingdom therefore means to make the life of the Spirit within and among us the center of all we think, say, or do.”

3. Deeper into the world

“The spiritual life does not remove us from the world but leads us deeper into it…”

4. The mystery of God’s life within us

“Indeed, living a spiritual life requires a change of heart, a conversion.  Such a conversion may be marked by a sudden inner change, or it can take place through a long, quiet process of transformation.  But it always involves an inner experience of oneness.  We realize that we are in the center, and that from there all that is and all that takes place can be seen and understood as part of the mystery of God’s life within us.  Our conflicts and pains, our tasks and promises, our families and friends, our activities and projects, our hopes and aspirations, no longer appear to us as a fatiguing variety of things which we can barely keep together, but rather as affirmations and revelations of the new life of the Spirit in us.  ‘All these other things,’ which so occupied and preoccupied us, now come as gifts or challenges that strengthen and deepen the new life which we have discovered.  This does not mean that the spiritual life makes things easier or takes our struggles and pains away…  What matters is to listen attentively to the Spirit and to go obediently where we are being led, whether to a joyful or a painful place.”    

5. A spiritual life without discipline is impossible

“Here we touch the question of discipline in the spiritual life.  A spiritual life without discipline is impossible.  Discipline is the other side of discipleship.  The practice of a spiritual discipline makes us more sensitive to the small, gentle voice of God…  Through the practice of a spiritual discipline we become more attentive to that small voice and willing to respond when we hear it.”

6. The pains and struggles we encounter

“In solitude, we come to know the Spirit who has already been given to us.  The pains and struggles we encounter in our solitude thus become the way to hope, because our hope is not based on something that will happen after our sufferings are over, but on the real presence of God’s healing Spirit in the midst of these sufferings.  The discipline of solitude allows us gradually to come in touch with this hopeful presence of God in our lives…”   

Which quotes do you like the best?

Paradox and Mystery – 8 quotes from Richard Rohr’s new book – What the Mystics Know: Seven Pathways to Your Deeper Self

5103cbIkI3L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

1. One of the surest ways to avoid

“And I’d like to reiterate that religion is one of the surest ways to avoid faith and to avoid God…”

2. A quality of paradox and mystery

“Untested faith tends to produce a very mechanistic and impersonal spirituality.  Mature faith, however, almost always has a quality of paradox and mystery about it – as if to leave room for the freedom of God.”

3. Liberates us from our own control towers

“True participation in paradox liberates us from our own control towers…  Here, the paradoxes – life and death, success and failure, loyalty to what is and risk for what needs to be – do not fight with one another, but lie in an endless embrace…”

4. The language of “descent”

“God is light, yet this light seems to dwell in darkness.  We must go into this darkness to see the light.  Our age, however, resists the language of ‘descent.’  We belong to an age and culture that have been able to manufacture a kind of ‘ascent’ unlike that of our ancestors…”

5. The world is afraid of reconciliation

“The world is afraid of reconciliation.  We prefer to live in a world of black and white where we create and maintain enemies, because that keeps our own group together…”

6. Seeing everything through the eyes of God

“Faith is the opposite of resentment, cynicism, and negativity.  Faith is always, finally, a self-filling prophecy.  Faith actually begins to create what it desires.  Faith always recreates the good world.  Without faith, you sink into the bad world that you most feared…  As has been so often said, faith is a matter of having new eyes, seeing everything through and even with the eyes of God.”

7. Each of us is a story

“Each of us is a story.  We were created by God as a story waiting to be told, and each of us has to find a way to tell our story.  In the telling of it we come to recognize and own ourselves.  People without a place to tell their story and a person to listen to it never come into possession of themselves…  For many people, ‘myth’ means something that isn’t true.  Please put aside that understanding.  Myth is, in fact, something that is so true that it can be adequately expressed only in story, symbol, and ritual.  It can’t be abstracted and objectified.  Its meaning and mystery are so deep and broad that they can be presented only in story form.  When you step into a story, you find it is without limits and you can walk around with it and inside it.  It is natural to sing, dance, and reenact a story.  It is too big and too deep to be merely ‘understood’ or taught.”

8. A different way of knowing and touching the moment

“Humans tend to think that because they agree or disagree with the idea of a thing, they have realistically encountered the thing itself.  Not at all true, says the contemplative.  It is necessary to encounter the thing in itself.  ‘Presence’ is my word for encounter, a different way of knowing and touching the moment.  It is much more vulnerable and leaves us without a sense of control.  Such panoramic and deeper seeing requires a lot of practice, but the rewards are superb and, I believe, necessary for both joy and truth in this world.” 

Which quote resonates with you the most?