Culture of Imagination

connecting spirituality to everyday life

Category: Book List with quotes

Thoughts from Kathy Escobar in her books Down We Go and Faith Shift. One of My Favorite Writers on Spirituality in the Twenty-First Century!

images (38)

“You may feel hesitant when Rebuilding because you fear being led back to conformity or blind affiliation.  You buck under anything that might feel like an attempt to control you.  For many, talking about a revived faith can feel like pressure to ‘come back to the Christian system’ instead of a way to find a renewed spirituality…”  Faith Shift

“Sadly, a lot of work Christ-followers have done throughout history to care for the poor and marginalized around the world often hasn’t translated into the overall perception of Christians.  We can blame all kinds of people and circumstances for our bad press, but I don’t think we can escape that Christians have gained a bad reputation.  We tend to be known for our politics instead of our love, mercy and compassion.  Why?  Because many have become entangled in contemporary culture that tends to focus on the self, independence, survival of the fittest, and ‘let’s not get our hands too dirty’ attitude.”  Down We Go

“I strongly believe that our faith is revealed when we put our butts on the line in real, active, scary, tangible relationship with God and other people in small ways…”  Down We Go

“An important part of this step of discovering what remains is to remember that it’s okay to still believe a lot of the things that others have released.  And, at the same time, it’s also okay to let go of the things others still believe passionately.  If we start creating rules like ‘After Unraveling, we should be left with A, B, and C… or else,’ we are doing the same thing we are adamantly against.  Each person’s journey is unique…  While some people may have five or more things they still firmly believe, others may have only one.”  Faith Shift

“As part of the Shifting process, we need a time of rest and disconnection from serving and giving.  Yet, at some point, we have to face our fears and come out of hibernation.  We have to try again even though it’s scary.  This time, though, we can pace ourselves and listen more intently to our souls and bodies along the way.”  Faith Shift

“The alluring alternatives to interdependence, which include independence and codependence, are far easier to embrace.  But they don’t produce life.  We need healthy relationship to survive.”  Down We Go

“We will mess things up.  We will make mistakes.  We will feel afraid.  But in the end, the best we can offer is modeling our own authentic faith.”  Faith Shift

“The path for spiritual refugees like us rarely leads us back where we were.  Usually it takes us around the next corner, and the next, further and further into the unknown, into diversity, mystery, and freedom.”  Faith Shift

“Humility creates the space for God and our friends to speak into our lives.  It requires admitting our weaknesses instead of pretending we have it all together, embracing the doubts of soft and open hearts, and letting go of being know-it-alls.  It requires remembering we are no better than the person next to us, acknowledging our human tendency to control and aspire for power, and respecting and honoring our spiritual poverty and need for God.  These characteristics are necessary for downward living but will also be counter-intuitive for many of us who don’t like feeling needy.”  Down We Go

Have you read any of Kathy Escobar’s stuff?

4 Books I love on Community


1. Down We Go: Living into the Wild Ways of Jesus by Kathy Escobar 

“If we can’t accept the paradoxes in ourselves, it is impossible to accept them in others.  This means we won’t be able to live in free and generous ‘with’ relationships because we will constantly be consciously or unconsciously working to squeeze the paradox out, instead of learning to live in its tension.”

Mercy and compassion are essential components of love…  The essence of downward living is embodied in a life of extending love, mercy and compassion to others.”

“Like pain, we need to accept doubt as part of our experience instead of resisting it.  This can be extremely difficult for those experiencing a deconstruction-reconstruction process when it comes to faith…” 

“A Life of descent invites us to give away power as much as possible… Genuine power diffusion means giving it away to people who aren’t typically influential.  The least.  The last.  The marginalized.  The oppressed.  The not quite as pretty, talented, educated, or socially accepted individuals.”

“Making room for equality sometimes means we have to let go of our tendency toward perfectionism…”

“…a central part of our role in relationship with each other is to become dignity-restorers.  We do this by helping people draw out and express their natural creativity.  To create, is to directly connect with the image of God within…  The creativity that is in each person is a natural reflection of God’s creative image inside of us…”

“Community gives us a different set of eyes…”


2. Community and Growth by Jean Vanier 

“To live in community is to discover and love the secret of what is unique in ourselves.  This is how we become free.  Then we no longer live according to the desires of others, or by an image of ourselves; we become free, free to love others as they are and not as we would like them to be.”

“Some people flee from commitment because they are frightened that if they put down roots in one soil they will curtail their freedom and never be able to look elsewhere…  But freedom doesn’t grow in the abstract; it grows in a particular soil with particular people.  Inner growth is only possible when we commit ourselves with and to others.  We all have to pass through a certain death and time of grief when we make choices and become rooted.  We mourn what we have left behind.”

“No community grows without times of trial and difficulty; times of poverty, persecution, tensions, and internal and external struggles; times which destroy its balance and reveal its weakness; times of difficulty which are inevitable when a new step has to be taken.”

“A community must be a sign of the resurrection.  But a divided community, in which everyone goes their own way, preoccupied with their own sanctification and personal plans, and without tenderness for the other, is a counter-witness. All the resentment, bitterness, sadness, rivalries, divisions, refusals to hold out a hand to the ‘enemy’ and whispered criticisms, all the division and infidelity to the gift of the community, are profoundly wounding to its true growth in love.”


3. Living into Community: Cultivating Practices That Sustain Us by Christine D. Pohl 

“Gratefulness to God and gratitude for life can strengthen persons for the long journey toward wholeness and justice.”

“A willingness to ‘stay with the process’ or to stay in connection with a community during difficult or uncertain times allows progress to be made in spite of the messiness.  Although giving things ‘time’ does not guarantee that we will move forward or find healing, slowing processes down often provides opportunities for giving attention to relational issues.” 

“Creating a community that lives truthfully necessarily involves individuals committed to the practice…”

“Hospitality was a central practice in the first fifteen hundred years of the church.  During the Late Middle Ages, however, its special features were undermined for a variety of reasons, and hospitality came to be identified with the lavish entertaining of the rich and powerful.  Its practice often served to reinforce power and influence.  The connection with poor people, with equality, and with crossing social and cultural boundaries was nearly lost.”

“Part of the challenge of recovering hospitality involves helping people to notice it and to tell stories about their experiences as guests, hosts, and strangers. Becoming more attentive to hospitality and story-telling allows us to recount the blessings of welcoming strangers and to learn from some of the challenges.”


4. Unexpected Gifts: Discovering the Way of Community by Christopher L. Heuertz

“Grace in community brings us closer together, not in a way that creates unhealthy fusion but in one that validates the human struggle we all face.”

“I use my false center to label everyone around me.  The more differentiated someone is from me, especially based on her or his nationality, religion, or sexuality, the more I use descriptive terms to highlight our differences.”

“Understanding the humanity of Christ has helped me embrace my own humanity.  Seeing Jesus validate needs, behaviors, and passions that don’t seem divine is an invitation for me to grasp the implications of his incarnation. I’ve come to understand that spiritual doesn’t only mean divine but in some ways becomes the hinge between what is human and divine – and sometimes it’s expressed in very material things, including my humanity.”

“We’re learning that gratitude isn’t a throwaway at all.  It does indeed make and break community.”

“…the gifts of contemplative spirituality carry us into the most ordinary and restless parts of our lives.”

“Most of real life consists of living in the ordinary, in-between times, the space and pauses filled with monotony.  Most of real life is undramatic…”

“Although we should know better, many of us are surprised when we encounter boredom in our communities, relationships, and vocations.  We are surprised when we find ourselves living restless, discontented lives.  We want more.  We want meaning.  We want to be part of things that are significant and vocations that make a difference.”

“So now, as we strive toward faithfulness, may we throw ourselves on the mercy of community, allowing our lives to be woven together to create vibrant tapestries of hope.”


What stands out to you through these books and quotes?  Which book would you like to read the most?

3 Peter Rollins Books that You Must Read

51v1d3997AL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ Idolatryofgod 51pe1mK8lNL

1. The Divine Magician: The Disappearance of Religion and the Discovery of Faith

Dogma, doctrine and tradition are questioned as Peter Rollins uses the metaphor of the magic trick to expose the illusion of what he calls the sacred-object.  Religion needs to disappear so we can find, not a fictional satisfaction in God, but an authentic life that reappears as engagement in the world.  What we are looking for in God that will make us whole is not there and never has been.  So what we are left with is a spirituality of confusion, risk, uncertainty and insecurity as this leads us to find what is authentic within the world.

  • To destroy the scapegoat mechanism

“In order to destroy the scapegoat mechanism, a different strategy must be adopted.  Instead of trying to create a community where there is no outsider, the real answer lies in understanding that there is a sense in which we are all outsiders.  In concrete terms, this means that a community faces its own lack, rather than ignoring it and thus creating a scapegoat who must carry it.”

  • A melancholy that creeps into every crevice of our lives

“The desire that is generated by the pursuit of something we believe will make us whole creates a melancholy that creeps into every crevice of our lives, even poisoning our happiness.”

  • A different way of understanding faith

“…there is a different way of understanding faith that operates outside the realm of meaning making.  This is a type of faith against faith.  A faith that involves us.  One that is full of risk and uncertainty.”

  • Those who hide their lack under a fiction of wholeness

“The point then is to help break the false distinction between the idea that there are those who are whole and those who have a lack.  For the true distinction is between those who hide their lack under a fiction of wholeness and those who are able to embrace it.”


2. The Idolatry of God: Breaking Our Addiction to Certainty and Satisfaction

Certainty and satisfaction are exposed as the Idolatry of God.  We are so attached to finding in our perceptions of God certainty and satisfaction that we cannot find an authentic spirituality anymore.  In this book, Peter Rollins says that we have created an Idolatry of God through our addiction to certainty and satisfaction.

  • Freedom from the pursuit of what we believe will satisfy us

“But there is another, more radical form of freedom hinted at in the Gospels – not the freedom to pursue what we believe will satisfy us, but the freedom from the pursuit of what we believe will satisfy us.”

  • You can’t be fulfilled; you can’t be made whole; you can’t find satisfaction

“Here we start to approach what can be called the Good News of Christianity: You can’t be fulfilled; you can’t be made whole; you can’t find satisfaction.”

  • The loving embrace of this world

“In the Gospels we are presented with the image of a man who was at one with life, himself, and his surroundings.  One who spoke out against those who would seek to keep people enslaved in Idolatry and told stories that always subverted the certainties of the day.  It is in the aftermath of the Crucifixion that we are able to understand that the God revealed in Christ is found in the loving embrace of this life and a rejection of all that would turn us away from this.”


3. Insurrection: To Believe is Human To Doubt, Divine

Through using doubt to demonstrate an authentic spirituality, Peter Rollins has written an amazing book here!  We need to embrace our humanity fully.  Living in our fictional certainty without embracing the doubt that opens up our deep questions within us is not wise.  Insurrection leads us on a path to living into our questions, embracing doubt as divine and fully embodying our humanity in the world we live in.

  • Radical doubt, suffering, and the sense of divine forsakenness

“Radical doubt, suffering, and the sense of divine forsakenness are central aspects of Christ’s experience and thus a central part of what it means to participate in Christ’s death.  The moment we feel the loss of all that once gave us meaning is not a time in which we are set free from Christ, nor is it a moment where we fall short of Christ: It is the time when we stand side by side with Christ.”

  • To fully and unreservedly embrace our humanity

“The Incarnation tells us that if we want to be like God, then we must be courageous enough to fully and unreservedly embrace our humanity.”

  • Help create a world where the poor do not exist

“But what if our real job is not to give to those who are poor but to help create a world where the poor do not exist?”

  • Theological materialism

“Christianity can be described as a theological materialism: It is that which transforms our material existence.  If our faith does not throw us into the arms of the world, if it does not lead to our experience of responsibility, love, celebration, and our commitment to transformation, then, whatever we call it, we have nothing but an empty shell.”


Have you read any of these wonderful books?

3 Wonderful Books on Authentic Spirituality

1. Pilgrim Principles: Journeying with Intention in Everyday Life by Lacy Clark Ellman

This is a great book about living with intention in everyday life.  Lacy Clark Ellman talks about 7 pilgrim principles: finding God in the ordinary, practicing somatic spirituality, becoming a good steward of resources, immersion in culture, creating daily rhythms, cultivating curiosity and knowing your Inner Witness.  A beautiful piece of writing from a wise spiritual director!

“The soul serves as the pilgrims compass.  It is the place where questions become quests – where intuition is birthed and longings explored.  The pilgrim who has lost her soul has lost her way.  In order to not lose her soul, the pilgrim must meticulously care for the very tool that helps her navigate.  And to care for the soul is, in effect, to care for the self.”

“Many of us have forgotten how to be curious and have consequently stopped growing, for growth and transformation are fueled by curiosity…”  

“…we can begin seeking to know our own Inner Witness by fully accepting ourselves as we are, struggles and all.  For if we truly believe that the Inner Witness is the place where the Divine and the true self meet, then at our essence we are already whole; our journey is to simply return to that essence.  This journey begins with acceptance.”


2. Lessons in Belonging: From a Church-Going Commitment Phobe by Erin S. Lane

Erin S. Lane takes a look at why belonging is so hard to find in our culture.  She struggles with her disillusionment, but encourages others not to give up on the church.  A quest for healthy community, authenticity and belonging is central to the book.  This is a must read for everyone looking for authentic community in the twenty-first century!

“To ‘get’ to be ourselves means that belonging is both a gift we receive and a pilgrimage we make.  To be our authentic selves requires some getting to, some working out, some traveling toward as we discern the ‘me’ we get to be.  Learning to belong is lifetime work.”

“I’ve always thought that in healthy community one becomes more themselves not less – more aware of their gifts, not less; more true to the image of God, not less…”

“Questions of belonging – how it’s fostered and how it’s discerned – are questions that will only grow in importance as we rethink old realities and risk living into ones yet seen.”


3. The Long Loneliness by Dorothy Day

The Long Loneliness is the wonderful autobiography of the co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, Dorothy Day.  She was a brilliant social activist who cared for the poor during the Great Depression back in the 1930’s.  This is the story of a courageous woman who took on the challenge of practicing hospitality, living in community and working on behalf of social justice.  This book is Dorothy Day’s story of the early years of her life where she learned to care for the poor and have an imagination to see Christ in the marginalized.

“The only answer in this life, to the loneliness we are all bound to feel, is community…”

“We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.”


Which book are you going to read this year?  

2 Books I Really Love by Martin Luther King, Jr.


1. The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. edited by Clayborne Carson.

This is a great book as Martin Luther King, Jr. recounts his journey through what was happening through the civil rights movement.  We get to see his personal struggles, his fear, his courage and his passion throughout the book.  Highly recommended reading to understand Martin Luther King, Jr.’s stance on nonviolence, racism, love, community and justice in the world.


“…capitalism is always in danger of inspiring men to be more concerned about making a living than making a life.  We are prone to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobiles, rather than by the quality of our service and relationship to humanity…”

“The Kingdom of God is neither the thesis of individual enterprise nor the antithesis of collective enterprise, but a synthesis which reconciles the truths of both.”

“Gandhi was probably the first person in history to lift the love ethic of Jesus above mere interaction between individuals to a powerful and effective social force on a large scale.  Love for Gandhi was a potent instrument for social and collective transformation.  It was in this Gandhian emphasis on love and nonviolence that I discovered the method for social reform that I had been seeking…”

“…growth comes through struggle.”

“We, the disinherited of this land, we who have been oppressed so long, are tired of going through the long night of captivity.  And now we are reaching out for the daybreak of freedom and justice and equality.  May I say to you, my friends, as I come to a close… that we must keep … God in the forefront.  Let us be Christian in all our actions.  But I want to tell you this evening that it is not enough for us to talk about love.  Love is one of the pivotal points of the Christian faith.  There is another side called justice.”

“You must not harbor anger…  You must be willing to suffer the anger of the opponent, and yet not return anger.  You must not become bitter.  No matter how emotional your opponents are, you must be calm.”

“Lord, I’m down here trying to do what’s right.  I think I’m right.  I am here taking a stand for what I believe is right.  But Lord, I must confess that I’m weak now, I’m faltering.  I’m losing my courage.  Now, I’m afraid.  And I can’t let the people see me like this because if they see me weak and losing courage, they will begin to get weak.  The people are looking to me for leadership, and if I stand before them without strength and courage, they too will falter.  I am at the end of my powers.  I have nothing left.  I’ve come to the point where I can’t face it alone.”

“My great prayer is always for God to save me from the paralysis of crippling fear, because I think when a person lives with the fears of the consequences for his personal life he can never do anything in terms of lifting the whole of humanity and solving many of the social problems which we confront in every age and every generation.”

“Often the path to freedom will carry you through prison.”

“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed…”

“But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label.  Was not Jesus an extremist for love…  So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be.  Will we be extremists for hate or for love?  Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?…”

2. Strength to Love.

It is clear in this book that Martin Luther King, Jr. believes that the greatest force in the world is love.  Strength to Love has themes of becoming transformed nonconformists, being a good neighbor, dealing with shattered dreams, antidotes to fear, a pilgrimage to nonviolence, loving our enemies and addressing the American status quo lifestyle.  This is a great book to help us to understand Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and passion.


“Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking.  There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions.  Nothing pains some people more than having to think.”

“Many people fear nothing more terribly than to take a position which stands out sharply and clearly form the prevailing opinion…”

“The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists, who are dedicated to justice, peace, and brotherhood…”

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy…”

“We talk eloquently about our commitment to the principles of Christianity, yet our lives are saturated with the practices of paganism…”

“The degree to which we are able to forgive determines the degree which we are able to love our enemies.”

“By its very nature, hate destroys and tears down; by its very nature, love creates and builds up.  Love transforms with redemptive power.”

“Love is the most durable power in the world…”

“In a real sense, all life is interrelated.  All men are caught up in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.  Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.  I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.  This is the interrelated structure of reality.”

“Hatred and bitterness can never cure the disease of fear; only love can do that.  Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it.  Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it.  Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.”

“We must learn that to expect God to do everything while we do nothing is not faith, but superstition.”

“I have discovered that the highest good is love…  It is the great unifying force of life.  God is love.  He who loves has discovered the clue to the meaning of ultimate reality; he who hates stands in immediate candidacy for nonbeing.”

What do you like most about Martin Luther King, Jr.?

5 Books on a Practice Based Spirituality


1. Listening Below the Noise: A Meditation on the Practice of Silence by Anne D. LeClaire.

If you want to learn about the practice of silence, this books is for you.  Silence opens us to the awareness of the sacredness of all of life.  LeClaire takes on a journey to be intentional about periods of silence in our lives that foster embracing life more fully.

“How often do we race along at a speed too fast to attend to life around us?  How frequently are we caught in the windstorm of noise and activity and thus unable to hear faint whispers that hold the power to stir our souls?”


2. Touching Peace: Practicing the Art of Mindful Living by Thich Nhat Hanh.

Mindfulness is calling out to us in the ordinary moments of our lives.  Thich Nhat Hanh shares in this book the art of a peaceful, mindful way of life in the midst of all the distraction and noise.  This writing is beautiful, powerful, relevant and enlightening.

“Meditation is not to avoid problems or run away from difficulties.  We do not practice to escape.  We practice to have enough strength to confront problems effectively.  To do this, we must be calm, fresh, and solid.  That is why we need to practice the art of stopping.  When we learn to stop, we become more calm, and our mind becomes clearer, like clean water after the particles of mud have settled.  Sitting quietly, just breathing in and out, we develop strength, concentration, and clarity…”


3. Thoughts in Solitude by Thomas Merton.

Written by one of the greatest writers on spirituality in the twentieth century, Thomas Merton shares his ideas about the theme of solitude.  The reflective life of solitude is essential for us to live into our true self.  Highly recommended reading for embodying a contemplative life in the midst of the twenty-first century world.

“Life reveals itself to us only in so far as we live it.”


4. Waiting for God by Simone Weil.

Simone Weil writes to a priest about her reluctance to enter the church because she wants to identify with the outsider. Simone Weil was a controversial twentieth century mystic who died in her early thirties in an act of solidarity with poor labor workers.  Definitely a must read book in our time!

“From my earliest childhood I always had also the Christian idea of love for one’s neighbor, to which I gave the name of justice – a name it bears in many passages of the Gospel and which is so beautiful…”


5. The Active Life: A Spirituality of Work, Creativity, and Caring by Parker J. Palmer.

The Active Life is a fascinating book by Parker J. Palmer about the paradox of action and contemplation.  He goes on to talk about work, care, creativity, abundance and community.  Excellent book to explore what an authentic spirituality can look like.

“The quality of our active lives depends heavily on whether we assume a world of scarcity or a world of abundance.  Do we inhabit a universe where the basic things that people need – from food and shelter to a sense of competence and of being loved – are ample in nature?  Or is this a universe where such goods are in short supply, available only to those who have the power to beat everyone else to the store?  The nature of our action will be heavily conditioned by the way we answer those bedrock questions.  In a universe of scarcity, only people who know the arts of competing, even making war, will be able to survive.  But in a universe of abundance, acts of generosity and community become not only possible but fruitful as well.”


Have you become awakened to a practice based spirituality?

8 Must Read Books

images (30)

1. Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life by Phileena Heuertz.

I love this book!  One of my favorites of all time.  Phileena takes us on a journey to become contemplative activists as she draws from her experience of serving the world’s poor and walking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage.

“The spiritual journey is an invitation to know God and to be known by God, which necessitates that one finds and knows oneself.  Intimacy is something that either saturates our life or leaves us craving more.  Awakening to deeper intimacy with God fuels the growth of intimacy with others, vice-versa.  When we pursue intimacy and our awareness is heightened to our limitations in intimacy, we are en route toward growth and transformation.”

2. Friendship at the Margins: Discovering Mutuality in Service and Mission by Christopher L. Heuertz and Christine D. Pohl.

Friendship has seemed to be a lost way of life and is extremely countercultural in our time.  This book brings together a sense of justice, hospitality and friendship within the context of service.  Mutuality, solidarity and compassion toward those who are on the margins of society is the central theme.

“This is challenging terrain.  But we can ask ourselves as we seek to change our orientation: Could I invite my friends who are poor into my home and lifestyle and have a good time with them?  Would I be ashamed of my comforts or expenditures?  Is the embarrassment I feel an expression of my conflicted commitments and divided loyalties?”

3. Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition by Christine D. Pohl.

Making Room is all about recovering hospitality in our culture.  Hospitality is one of the most subversive practices in regards to spirituality and is very uncommon today.  Christina D. Pohl focuses on how this needs to become a recovered practice in our way of life together.

“Although we often think of hospitality as a tame and pleasant practice, Christian hospitality has always had a subversive, countercultural dimension…  Especially when the larger society disregards or dishonors certain persons, small acts of respect and welcome are potent far beyond themselves.  They point to a different system of value and an alternate model of relationships.”

4. Simple Spirituality: Learning to See God in a Broken World by Christopher L. Heuertz.

Simple Spirituality is a book that helps us to understand if we do not know the poor, oppressed and marginalized there are aspects of God we will never know.  Christopher says that we learn to see God through: humility, community, simplicity, submission and brokenness.  This is an excellent book that will open your eyes to God in a world of pain, suffering and poverty.

“It’s humility that opens our eyes to the discovery of God…”

5. Living into Community: Cultivating Practices that Sustain Us by Christine D. Pohl.

Living into Community presents us with practices that will help us to sustain our connection to one another: gratitude, making and keeping promises, living truthfully and hospitality.  This is a very practical book with much wisdom.  These practices are simple and accessible to all of us to create a better way of life in the world.

“Dissatisfaction as a way of life is encouraged by a consumeristic culture that feeds notions of entitlement…”

6. Unexpected Gifts: Discovering the Way of Community by Christopher L. Heuertz.

Christopher L. Heuertz’s book focuses on the practice of community in everyday life together with others.  He takes us through several stages of community: failure, doubt, insulation, isolation, transition, the unknown self, betrayal, incompatibility, ingratitude, grief and restlessness.  Ultimately, this book is about practicing something that has unexpected gifts within it – life together with others.

“Community is an incubator in which faith and doubt can coexist.  In tension and in safety, community is a place where we are free to ask tough questions.  And when we don’t have good answers or the doubts start to take us to dark places, community is there to remind us of God’s faithfulness.”

7. Strangers at my Door: A True Story of Finding Jesus in Unexpected Guests by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.

Strangers at my Door is all about hospitality to the stranger.  This book shares the stories of how Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and his family and friends have practiced hospitality for over a decade at the Rutba House in Durham, North Carolina.  It is all about learning to see Jesus in the poor, oppressed and marginalized as they are welcomed and embraced with love.

“…there is a risk in welcoming people…”

8. The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical by Shane Claiborne.

Shane Claiborne’s book is such a good one!  He takes us on a path of advocating for the poor, oppressed and marginalized.  Embodying a life of interdependence, community, hospitality and social justice are all a big part of this wonderful book.

“I read a study comparing the health of a society with its economics, one of the things it revealed is that wealthy countries like ours have the highest rates of depression, suicide, and loneliness.  We are the richest and most miserable people in the world.  I feel sorry that so many of us have settled for a lonely world of independence and riches when we could all experience the fullness of life in community and interdependence…”

Which books look like ones you might want to read this year?

Top 10 books from 2014

images (29)

1. Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart by Kathy Escobar

Faith Shift helps those who have been disillusioned with the church.  Kathy Escobar goes through stages of a Faith Shift: Fusing, Shifting, Returning, Unraveling, Severing and Rebuilding.  She shares about her own Faith Shift journey giving helpful insight on how to rebuild something more authentic for those who can never return to old paradigms.

“As you find what works, be gentle with yourself (and maybe with God too).  Be careful of feeling shame when you don’t feel connected in the way you want to.  And don’t let yourself be shamed by others who say, ‘You are doing what?!’  Try not to conclude that there’s something wrong with you, and instead trust that healing some of your faith allergies may take a long time.  Many avenues of communing with God exist and are worth searching for as you find what works in Rebuilding.”

2. Presence and Encounter: The Sacramental Possibilities of Everyday Life by David G. Benner

Presence and Encounter reveals to us the importance of presence in everyday life.  Presence is reimagined as a sacramental possibility where we can learn to see the sacredness of all of life.  This is the encounter where we stop objectifying others and learn to live with an embodiment of love and compassion.

“Presence starts with being present.  If I am not present myself, other people and things may be present to me, but I will not notice them.  So presence must start with me.  I must be present if I am to know presence of any sort…”

3. How To Be A Christian Without Going To Church: The Unofficial Guide To Alternative Forms of Christian Community by Kelly Bean

How to be a Christian Without Going to Church opens up the reality of a big shift that is happening where others are no longer content going to church and want to be the church in some kind of way in community.  We explore the options of alternative forms of Christian community and are encouraged to experiment with what can connect us to one another in more authentic ways.  The book talks about new expressions and new structures that can make this happen.

“When we move out into the world willing to learn and meet others where they are, we change, and others may too.  Offering… hospitality opens the door to view a way of life that is defined by sharing our true selves, opening our homes freely, beholding others, seeding goodness, and being willing to give our time to notice, listen, and learn…  Relational expressions of community can be healing and life-giving to us and to others…”

4. Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi by Richard Rohr

Eager to Love is a fascinating book about the alterative possibilities of living in the way of Francis of Assisi today in our context.  Contemplation, mysticism, inner authority through suffering, addressing dualistic thinking, the integration of the feminine and masculine, justice and simplicity are a few of the themes that come out.  We are taught a way of love through the life of Francis of Assisi who left everything to follow in the simple way of Christ.

“Separateness is unfortunately the chosen stance of the small self, which then has a hard time thinking paradoxically or living in unity – but always takes one side or the other in order to feel secure.  It frames everything in a binary way: for me or against me, totally right or totally wrong, my group’s opinion or another’s group – all dualistic formulations.  That is the best the small egotistical self can do, and it is not anywhere close to adequate for God’s full purposes…”

5. A Beautiful Disaster: Finding Hope in the Midst of Brokenness by Marlena Graves

A Beautiful Disaster draws on the wilderness life of difficulty, darkness and gift.  We are drawn into the dark night of the soul where our lives face suffering, waiting, pain, loneliness, loss and grief.  Marlena Graves helps us to find hope in the midst of it all.

“In this womb, this wilderness experience, we are being, and also becoming who we are…”

6. The Franciscan Heart of Thomas Merton: A New Look at the Spiritual Inspiration of His Life, Thought, and Writing by Daniel P. Horan

The Franciscan Heart of Thomas Merton highlights how Francis of Assisi influenced Merton, who was the most widely read writer on spiritualty in the twentieth century.  We learn about the life of Thomas Merton in all its many facets from the true self, to his Christology, to interreligious dialogue, to peace activism, to creation spirituality, to his prophetic vocation.  This is a comprehensive look at the life of a man who gained a lot of wisdom throughout his lifetime.

“So much of life, particularly in our modern, hyper-busy, and technologically saturated world, tends to pull us away from the path toward discovering our true self, from the journey into God.  We are told in big and little ways every day that we must construct our identities, supplement ourselves with products and services, look a certain way, speak a certain way, and be a certain way.  What results from following that path is what Merton will call the ‘false self,’ what he sometimes refers to as our ‘masks’”

7. The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings by John Phillip Newell

The Rebirthing of God presents us with a new movement of Christianity in the twenty-first century.  It is about reconnecting with the earth, with compassion, with the light within us, with other traditions, with spiritual practice, with nonviolence, with the unconscious and with love.  This is a more authentic imagination to live by in our world today.

“A primary feature of the rebirthing of God in our lives, individually and collectively, is to come back into relationship with the true heart of one another and all things.  Rebirthing involves a reconnecting with compassion.”

8. Reflections on the Unknowable by Thomas Keating

Reflections on the Unknowable is a book based on the wisdom of over seventy years of contemplative practice.  Thomas Keating shares his thoughts on the divine life within us as we learn to practice a contemplative spirituality.  This book is packed with authentic mysteries, depth, insight, wonder and enlightenment.

“God proposes to effect our complete transformation into interior freedom by sharing the divine life with us.”

9. The Sacred Gaze: Contemplation and the Healing of the Self by Susan R. Pitchford

The Scared Gaze brings awareness to the discovery of our true self.  We heal the self from our false illusions when we learn who we are as beloved, created in the image of God.  This is the redemption we long for as we live into who God created us to be.

“…true freedom and joy come from learning to trust that God has called you ‘Beloved,’…”

10. Life Together in Christ: Experiencing Transformation in Community by Ruth Haley Barton

Life Together in Christ helps us to understand what it takes to cultivate community among us that is transformational for all.  We are drawn into the tension between the now and not yet, listening, welcoming the stranger, discernment, equality among genders, our ongoing call to conversion, suffering and shared desire.  Community is the most underdeveloped practice of the church and its lack of it has disillusioned many in our culture.

“Have you ever thought about the fact that your desire – for deeper union with God, for love, for belonging, for transformation – is the truest thing about you?”


Which books did you read this year that you liked?

Some Books that I Really Like

images (24)

1. Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart by Kathy Escobar.

I really love this honest and thoughtful book by Kathy Escobar.  Faith Shift draws us through various stages of development in our spirituality when things are no longer working for us.  How do we find what is authentic and life-giving in the midst of being disillusioned with everything?  This book presents Kathy Escobar’s own unique journey of embracing her own pain, letting herself ask honest questions and accepting the loss that comes with a Faith Shift.  This is one of the best books you will ever read!

“I am an expert at minimizing.  I know how to gloss over pain and take the blame, to do almost anything not to feel hard feelings.  My pull-myself-up-by-my-bootstraps skills usually come back to bite me. One of the hardest parts of my spiritual journey has been acknowledging how much I have truly lost over the years through this stripping process.  It’s easy to look at my life now and see how much I’ve gained.  It’s true, I am freer and healthier than I’ve ever been. But I still lost much of what held me together for so long.  People, places, and beliefs that buoyed me are now completely gone.” 

2. God of Love: A Guide to the Heart of Judaism, Christianity and Islam by Mirabai Starr.

I appreciated this book because of its ecumenical stance in looking at the good we can find in the three traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  Mirabai Starr focuses on love as the unifying theme of these traditions.  This is a fascinating book that helps us to look at our spirituality with deeper understanding.  She draws out themes of radical wonderment, welcoming the stranger, compassionate action, the feminine face of the divine, contemplative life, the path of suffering and gratitude.

“How do we strike a balance between tending to our own welfare and serving the endless needs of humanity and the earth, between pouring ourselves out into the world and seeking to refill our own cup?  How do we ensure that we are not rolling down a path of convenience, showing up to serve when it suits our comfort and boosts our prestige, withholding our gifts when we are feeling impoverished and underappreciated?  

3. Radical Optimism: Practical Spirituality in an Uncertain World by Beatrice Bruteau.

This is a wonderful book that is very contemplative.  Beatrice Bruteau shares how there is a radical optimism of possibility through the difficulties of life.  In a world of violence and pessimism how do we find an authentic spirituality in our world today?  This is the question she gets at through various themes such as leisure, stillness, meditation, the heart of Jesus, listening, mysticism, compassion and love.

“The most important thing in initiating a contemplative attitude toward life is being still and open.  I see it as involving various levels of relaxation and silence, the kinds of not-doing that are so essential to the contemplative life.” 

4. A Beautiful Disaster: Finding Hope in the Midst of Brokenness by Marlena Graves. 

Marlena Graves takes us on a journey through the wilderness experiences of darkness where difficult seasons of life become our reality.  In these dark nights of the soul what do you do?  How do you survive in a peaceful way? This is a book about the deep pain we all experience as humans beings in this life.  Marlena Graves is a guide that will help us to cultivate silence, survive the death of our dreams, find our identity beyond illusions and become human beings that are fully alive even though we suffer some harsh realities in life.

“In the wilderness, we remember that God did not bring us out here in the desert to die…  God ever and always has our flourishing in mind.  It is we who must learn to receive.”

Which book looks most interesting to you?

6 Books That I Highly Recommend!

images (23)

1. Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart by Kathy Escobar.  Faith Shift is a wonderful guide to help those who are shifting, unraveling and rebuilding in the twenty-first century. This book has deep wisdom as Kathy Escobar takes us through the negative emotions of pain, anger, loneliness, shame and loss that one might feel as they become disillusioned with the whole church system.  She encourages us to leave unhealthy systems that do not foster authentic relational connection and community.

“It is incredibly tricky to live together in community under one big tent called love.  But we are learning how to respect that everyone might not see what we see, but it doesn’t make us right and them wrong – or vice versa.  The art of loving each other well is letting people be where they are and not trying to convince them to be where I am.”

2. How to be a Christian Without Going to Church: The Unofficial Guide to Alternative Forms of Christian Community by Kelly Bean.  This book explores alternatives for those who are disillusioned with traditional forms of Christianity and are wanting to be the church in community.  Kelly Bean presents us with different expressions of faith that don’t fit in the box of what is typically called “church.”  How to be a Christian Without Going to Church is one of the best books I have read in a long time!

“…we were not made to go it alone, and the body of Christ cannot be the body of Christ if we give up on each other.  But what happens when the structures, institutions, and forms that exist now – even innovative new forms – are no longer working for a growing number of people?  New questions become important…”

3. The Unkingdom of God: Embracing the Subversive Power of Repentance by Mark Van Steenwyk.  Repenting of our ways of Christianity in the imperial West is a prominent theme that comes across clear in The Unkingdom of God.  This book will awaken us to a subversive spirit in our troubling times.  Mark Van Steenwyk calls us to look at the plastic Jesus we have created and the gospel according to the empire.

“If we are to challenge imperialism, we must not only try to disarm the deadly idea that the supremacy of Christ legitimizes the supremacy of Christians.  We must also, I believe, disarm the idea of the supremacy of Christ.  And we must learn from those movements and traditions within Christianity that have rejected different forms of domination.”   

4. Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life by Phileena Heuertz.  After working with some of the most marginalized people throughout the world, Phileena took a sabbatical and walked the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage.  She relates her pilgrimage to 7 movements of the soul: awakening, longing, darkness, death, transformation, intimacy and union. Phileena Heuertz’s book shows us how to develop a contemplative spirituality in an active life in the world.  One of my favorite books of all time!

“Contemplation is the development of one’s relationship with Christ to the point of communing beyond words, thoughts, feelings and the multiplication of particular acts; it is a process moving from the simplified activity of waiting on God to the ever-increasing predominance of the gifts of the Spirit in one’s life.  In the broadest sense, I understand contemplation to mean creating sacred space to be still, to rest in God, to attend to the inner life, to simply be with God in solitude, silence and stillness.”

5. New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton.  In this book Merton emphasizes how God’s revelations are all around us.  As we awaken to these seeds of revelation in everyday life, we learn to be receptive to God.  We develop a contemplative spirituality in all of life.  A must read for everyone!

“My false and private self is the one who wants to exist outside the reach of God’s will and God’s love – outside of reality and outside of life.  And such a self cannot help be an illusion.”

6. Imagination in Place by Wendell Berry.  These collection of essays are filled with a concern for what is local in our culture.  Wendell Berry’s book reflects on prominent writers who have influenced him over the years: Wallace Stegner, Earnst Gaines, Donald Hall and Gary Snyder.  This book is a great one!

“The problem is that there can be no general or official or sectional or national imagination.  The chief instrument of economic and political power now is a commodified speech, wholly compatible with the old cliches, that can distinguish neither general from particular nor false from true.  Local life is now a wen’s egg brooded by an eagle or a buzzard…  Every place must anticipate the approach of the bulldozer.  No place is free of the threat implied in such phrases such as ‘economic growth,’ ‘job creation,’ ‘natural resources,’ ‘human capital,’ ‘bringing in industry,’ even ‘bringing in culture’ – as if every place is adequately identified as ‘the environment’ and its people as readily replaceable parts of a machine.  Devotion to any particular place now carries always the implication of heartbreak.” 

What book looks most interesting to you?