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

by Mark Votava

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: