Culture of Imagination

connecting spirituality to everyday life

Category: Mystical Imagination

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:

Always Remaining Open

IMG_0578_crSometimes my life is closed off to openness.  I want to be locked into who I think God is to me as I have experienced God in the past.  Thinking I understand God has not served me well.  God cannot be captured in what I can say to describe what I think God is.

But I am learning that silence and solitude leads me to deeper mysteries that I cannot always explain in myself.  I am becoming the change I want to see in the world.  I am taking responsibility for my feelings.  I am starting to sense life in me.

This week I have had to just slow down and reflect on my own happiness.  I had to spend some time in silence and solitude while saying to myself within, “I am okay, I am content, just rest in that reality, breathe slowly and feel your feelings.”

When I get in touch with myself in this way it always makes my life a little better.  I am more at peace.  Compassion and love come more naturally.  I start to understand the life of Jesus more.

Solidarity with others seems to make sense.  Forgiveness is always easier.  I seem to be lighter in my mood.  I become more empathetic and sleep better at night.

  •  Christ practiced silence and solitude

Christ practiced silence and solitude because he needed to embody a relational reality to those in his local context.

  •  A mountainside

Scripture says, “…he went up on a mountainside by himself…” (Matthew 14:23). 

  •  An integration with the real

Christ often practiced silence and solitude to embrace reality within the human context he lived in.  Christ lived within the real in his humanity.  On mountainsides, in gardens, in the desert, on long walks, in lonely places, and in homes; Christ practiced silence and solitude to find an integration with the real.  Reality was constantly being revealed through his embodiment of truthfulness in the way he treated others.

  •  Embodying the kingdom of God

Christ was embodying the kingdom of God in his locality through his love for his neighbors.  This was how he lived.  This is how he died.  This is how he grew up.

  •  Expressing love and compassion

His humanity would not be separated from embodying the essence of the kingdom of God in his local context.  All he had was his local context to experience reality.  All he had were the people around him to express his love and compassion.

  •  Following Christ in our local context

Christ’s silence and solitude opened him up to this reality.  He was one with the real in his humanity and we are called to follow him in our local context.  We are called to be his hands and feet in everyday life in the parish.  The mystical imagination is constantly revealing reality to us in the place we inhabit together.

  •  God is always more than our present concept of God

Mary Jo Meadow writes, “God is always more than our present concept of God.  We must always remain open to receive God’s further self.”

How can we practice silence and solitude?

http://www.amazon.com/Communal-Imagination-Finding-Share-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1432902984&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination

Becoming Fully Alive and Deeply Human

15Is our humanity really evil, bad, sinful?  I think there is some reality to sin in the world and in ourselves, but is there anything wonderful, beautiful, compassionate and loving too?  I am tired of seeing myself and the world as bad or “sinful.”  There is so much potential and beauty missing when I do this.

This seems to be the major paradigm that is taught by the church.  We are “sinners” and there is no capacity for beauty, goodness, community, authenticity, truthfulness, relational connection or exploring a deep contemplative life where we embody our true selves in the place we live.  Being fully alive and deeply human is a different experience than just being locked into the box of “I am just a sinner.”

Why all this hyper-focus on sin?  I think it is a play on manipulation by the church.  If the church can scare people into fear by talking a lot about punishment, guilt, shame this is to their advantage because it stimulates control.  People become locked into an unhealthy system we call “church” because they do not want to be punished in some way.

But what about love and community?  Has the church forgotten about the teachings of Jesus on love, humility, compassion, honesty, vulnerability, peace, gentleness, goodness, beauty and kindness?  Maybe the church doesn’t relate to Jesus anymore and has just become a system of subtle control and violence using religious language to scare people into submission.

Who wants to be a part of this?  I certainly don’t.  If you want to be a part of this than maybe you don’t want to be deeply human.  God is calling us to a new way of life where the church is embodied in community through love, humility, and compassion.

Maybe we need courage to shut the whole system of “church” down to start over and find something more authentic in the twenty-first century.  There is a way to live deeply human and fully alive, but it will not come through the systems of what we know as “church” in North America.  We need to move away from being Pharisees so that we can embrace a life of love and compassion.

  •  Becoming fully human through our love

Our spirituality cannot be holistic without becoming fully human through our love.  Our spirituality needs to be lived through reflection and rest.  Our spirituality needs to be embodied in our humanity.

  •  A lived, holistic spirituality

David G. Benner writes, “For only a lived, holistic spirituality can be transformational, integrative, and capable of helping us become fully alive and deeply human.”   

  •  Without our humanity

Without our humanity, we cannot be the body of Christ together in everyday life.  Without our humanity, there is no possibility of life.  Without our humanity, there is no humility or compassion.

  •  No relational connection in our local community

Without our humanity, there is no relational connection in our local community.  Without our humanity, there is no faithful presence.

  •  Shells of individualistic illusions

Without our humanity, we have pretty much nothing.  We are shells of individualistic illusions.  We bring colonialism and destruction to the land.

  •  Practicing reflection and rest

We need our humanity more than we realize.  We need to practice reflection and rest to become human as we cultivate the mystical imagination in the parish.

  •  Experiencing an everyday conversion

In reflection and rest, we experience the mystery of the gospel within ourselves.  We experience an everyday conversion where we are constantly being shaped as we change the world through allowing this change to happen in us.

  •  Constantly convert ourselves to a relational way of life

The gospel is for us more than it is for others as we live it out without words to define it.  We need to experience the good news in us, in our local community, to become human.  We need to constantly convert ourselves to a relational way of life in the place we inhabit together.

  •  Every aspect of existence and human experience

My friend Tony Kriz says, “…the gospel has something to say about every aspect of existence and particularly every part of the human experience…”

What keeps us from living fully alive and deeply human?

http://www.amazon.com/Communal-Imagination-Finding-Share-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1432736209&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination

Being Still and Doing Nothing

images (42)My world is so busy sometimes that I cannot listen to my context.  Everything is loud and noisy.  Unless I am intentional about practicing silence, rest and stillness – I become lost in the game of accomplishment.  This makes me blind to the beauty of life.

Sometimes just stopping to care for myself is the hardest thing to do.  I am told that this is of no value.  I need to be constantly doing for the sake of looking busy and making money so I can be somebody in the world.  But how much money do I actually need in the world?

I find myself constantly thinking about the word simplicity.  I like this word because it seems to be freeing me to focus on my being, on who I am in my true self, on my interior growth, on being human.  This is what I long for in life.

  •  Be still

“Be still and know that I am God…”  (Psalm 46:10). 

  •  An active world of accomplishment

It is so hard to be still within ourselves and do nothing.  This is so difficult that most of us give up after awhile in an active world of accomplishment.  Most of us do not value stillness within ourselves.

  •  Our being shapes us

We think being is not enough.  But it is.  Our being shapes us as the body of Christ in the parish.

  •  Our reflection and rest

Our reflection and rest moves us to stillness within.  Our reflection and rest moves us to being.  We are doing something profound when we do nothing and rest in our stillness within ourselves.

  •  Becoming a holistic counterculture in our local community

Our stillness could shape the body of Christ to become a holistic counterculture in our local community.  Our reflection and rest needs this stillness within ourselves.  The mystical imagination needs this stillness within ourselves to help us to reimagine life.

  •  God is in the stillness, silence and rest

God is in the stillness.  God is in the silence.  God is in the rest.  God lives within our being.

  •  To do nothing

To be is to allow God to live within us freely and subversively.  To be is to allow God’s wisdom to come alive in our embodiment of love.  To do nothing is to do everything within us that cultivates life.

  •  Holding the mystical imagination within ourselves freely and openly

To do nothing is to hold the mystical imagination within ourselves freely and openly.  We allow ourselves to be shaped by God through our relational context in the parish.

  •  To be still and do nothing

Beatrice Bruteau states, “We can’t bear simply to be still and do nothing…”

  •  Doing nothing leaves us with being

We do not know what to do when we do nothing.  Doing nothing leaves us with being.

  •  Colonialism, domination and activity

Being is uncomfortable in a noisy world of colonialism, domination and activity.  Being is discovered through refection and rest.  Being is the core of the mystical imagination.  Being is subversive.

  •  Being listens deeply to our lives together

Being is where we taste life within us as the body of Christ in the place we live.  Being listens deeply to our lives together.  Being reimagines.  Being embraces countercultural ways of life.

Do you practice being still and doing nothing sometimes?

http://www.amazon.com/Communal-Imagination-Finding-Share-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1432658215&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination

The Rhythm of Silence and Solitude

10323779-zombie-horror-Stock-Vector-grunge-zombie-graffitiI love silence and solitude.  This practice is so good for me.  My world is so noisy sometimes that it makes me crazy.

Silence and solitude is so mysterious because it brings me into an awareness of my interior life.  The interior life is real, but unseen.  It defines who I am and reveals my true self to me constantly.

Sometimes I do not know who I am.  What I have, what I do and what people say about me often times create an identity in me that is of the false self.  This is not who I am.  There is something more to me than this.

My practice of seeking God through silence and solitude helps me to grow in the wisdom and truth about who I am.  I come to see my body as a reservoir of wisdom, compassion and love.  The duality of the sacred and secular is broken apart and I start to learn that all of life is sacred.  This sacredness of life paradigm shapes everything I do.

I become more alive than ever before.  I become a lot more free to be myself.  I embrace the serenity of life to accept the things I cannot change, change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

  •  Jesus went to a mountainside

“Jesus went out to a mountainside… and spent the night…”  (Luke 6:12). 

  •  Silence and solitude was normal for Christ

Christ spent the night on a mountainside.  A night probably consists of at least six to eight hours.  This kind of silence and solitude was normal for Christ.  He saw it as essential for his context.

  •  Part of Christ’s rhythm in life

This was a part of his rhythm in life.  He found the depth of his humanity more as he practiced this kind of silence and solitude.  Have we ever given God our complete attention in silence and solitude like this?

  •  The wonder that the authentic life contains

Marcia Ford says, “Silence inspires awe when it diverts my attention away from the chatter in my head and toward the wonder that the rest of life – the authentic life – contains.”

  •  Developing a practice of seeking God

This is the call of the mystical imagination in the place we live.  We need to develop a practice of seeking God in silence and solitude.

  •  Taking time to be silent

Mother Teresa writes, “We all must take the time to be silent…” 

  •  Saving us from dysfunction in everyday day life

We will never experience the depth of our humanity if we do not give this kind of attention to our communion with God.  We might think this is asking too much, but I would say that this is the radical nature of following Christ in our local community.  Our practice of silence and solitude will save us from dysfunction in everyday life.  Christ is calling us into the depth of our humanity through silence and solitude.

What is your experience with silence and solitude?

http://www.amazon.com/Communal-Imagination-Finding-Share-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1432489577&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination

To Live Among People

a916ea338de65c5e29197778866b5117_large

I remember one time running and walking in the neighborhood to discover the freedom of the sky, the freedom of the sun, the freedom of the wind and the freedom of the sidewalks.  I sensed God using this creation to speak to me about the livability of this place I was standing on.  God was reminding me of the many days the sun has shown on this land.

For countless years, this place has had the sun.  The wind has blown here.  The sky has watched over it with faithfulness.

So many people decade after decade have walked these sidewalks.  People of different races, socio-economic status, genders, lifestyles and opinions have lived here.  The rich and the poor alike have lived here.

God was reminding me to listen to the stories of the many beautiful Japanese people in the neighborhood who were forced into prison camps in the 1940’s.  God was reminding me of the pictures I had seen on the walls in a local coffee shop of what Downtown Tacoma looked like in the year 1910.  I think to myself, “What a beautiful place this is.”

It was very integrated before the mall was built in the 1970’s.  Now Downtown Tacoma struggles with its local economy.  It has been exploited and abused at times, but it still contains a lot of mystery and beauty.

As I was running another mile through the streets of Downtown Tacoma on a Saturday morning, God was teaching my soul to listen to everything around me.  God was teaching me to listen to everything within me.

I am reminded of the beauty and mystery in my struggles to embody love in this place with others.  Our listening becomes better and more seasoned with each day we practice silence and solitude in some form.  Whether it is alone in a room, running or walking in the neighborhood, doing an artistic expression or just thinking and learning of some kind; our listening is showing us a lot of beauty and mystery that is hard to see otherwise.

Henri J.M. Nouwen says, “It seems more important than ever to stress that solitude is one of the human capacities that can exist, be maintained and developed in the center of a big city, in the middle of a large crowd and in the context of a very active and productive life.  A man or woman who has developed this solitude of heart is no longer pulled apart by the most divergent stimuli of the surrounding world but is able to perceive and understand this world from a quiet inner center.”

Silence and solitude can exist anywhere.  This posture can be practiced within our relational context as the body of Christ in the parish.  Everyday life is filled with moments where listening is required and demanded of us to see the mystery and beauty all around us.  We need to live into this through the mystical imagination.

No context should separate us from silence and solitude.  It is a way of life in all things.  All our relational encounters are to be practiced in silence and solitude with a deep listening intentionality.

Jesus is our example of this way of life.  We should not be slow to have some receptivity to listening to mystery and receiving beauty in the place we inhabit together.

I love this expression by Karen Wilk of her longing for God to move her to embody a compassionate listening where she lives, “Give me your eyes to see this community and its people as you do.  Give me your ears to listen to their hearts as you hear them.  Give me an open and attentive spirit to recognize where you are already at work.  Fill me with courage that I might ask the right questions, accept the true answers, and follow your leading.  Equip and empower me to engage in this place, to live among people just as you did…”

How can we live among people and care?

http://www.amazon.com/Communal-Imagination-Finding-Share-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1432336187&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination

Embracing a Contemplative Attitude in All of Life

3d-abstract_other_the-mystery_61883

I love contemplative spirituality!  It is sad to me that the church does not teach this way of life to others.  It is one of the foundational embodied practices that is neglected because it takes vulnerability, simplicity, openness, unknowing, curiosity, wonder and living in the present moment.  Without contemplative spirituality there is no future for the church in the twenty-first century.

It will become a destructive system that promotes judgment, division, exclusion, competition, colonialism, consumerism, individualism, wealth and mobility.  But there is a way to bring reformation to the church again if we reimagine a contemplative spirituality that is embodied in community.  Community and contemplative spirituality are the pieces that are missing in the church today and if you do not have these you do not have much of anything.

  •  A lot of patience, awareness and mindfulness

Contemplation is never instant.  It takes a lot of patience, awareness and mindfulness to understand how God works within us.  God always seems to work in us through our imaginations in ordinary ways.

Sometimes it is in a conversation with friends, sometimes on a walk in the neighborhood, sometimes when we are cooking a meal, sometimes in solitude, sometimes at work, sometimes in silence, sometimes in listening, sometimes in learning, sometimes in exercising, sometimes in watching a movie, sometimes in reflecting, sometimes in buying something locally, sometimes in gardening and sometimes in the making of art.

  •  Taking a contemplative attitude in all of life

There are numerous ways God communicates to us in the ordinary moments of our days within our imaginations.  God can communicate in many so called “secular” ways that we would not expect.  So we need to take a contemplative attitude in all of life to grow in wisdom as the body of Christ in our local community.

  •  Nothing flashy about contemplation

Michael Casey states, “There is certainly nothing flashy about contemplation: there is nothing in it that can be translated into marketable commodities and subsequently traded for some temporal advantage.  Contemplation is entirely gratuitous, pure grace.  On God’s part total gift, on ours total receptivity…”

  •  Too ordinary to be spiritual

Contemplation is so ordinary.  A lot of people think it is too ordinary to be spiritual.  Most of the time, our contemplation does not accompany deep feelings of closeness to God.   But it is a spiritual practice that is vital to our survival as the body of Christ in parish.

  •  Becoming listening contemplatives in everyday life

This practice is God’s gift to us and we need to have the receptivity to become listening contemplatives in everyday life.  Our practice of contemplation is to be pursued through grace.

  •  Cultivated, sustained, embodied and exists through grace

It is cultivated in grace.  It is sustained in grace.  It is embodied through grace. Contemplation exists through grace.

  •  Expectations are premeditated resentments

It exists through gift.  It is worked out through the place we inhabit.  There needs to be an openness and receptivity to this grace in our lives together without expectations or control.

We need to see the danger in holding any expectations toward God.  Expectations are always premeditated resentments, as one of my friends always says.  A lot of our expectations will never come about.

  •  Contemplative spirituality cannot live well through resentment and anger

When this happens we will become resentful and angry.  Our contemplative spirituality cannot live well through resentment and anger.  When we live in these, we tend to hurt a lot of people in our relational context.

  •  A readiness to discover new experiences and acquire brand-new tastes

Jesuit Anthony De Mello says, “Do not approach… contemplation with any preconceived notions at all.  Approach it with a readiness to discover new experiences (that initially may not even seem like ‘experience’ at all) and to acquire brand-new tastes.”

  •  Getting caught up less in our expectations

We need to do away with expectations and embrace an attitude of receptive discovery instead.  We also need to embrace new hungers, longings or tastes in our lives together rather than try to control everything.  This will put us in a much better posture toward God, others and our neighborhood.  When the posture of our lives becomes much more about “a readiness to discover new experiences” and “acquiring brand-new tastes,” we become more holistic in our practice getting caught up less in our expectations.

  •  All expectations and control are shattered

All expectations and control are shattered through this paradigm.  This paradigm will liberate our communion with God to a level without expectations and control, which we desperately need as the body of Christ in the parish.

  •  Living life on our own terms

Ruth Burrows writes, “Instinctively we want to live life on our own terms, in our world, not God’s.  Even when we think we want God, it is as often as not with our own conditions, our own expectations…”

How have we developed expectations toward God that are premeditated?

http://www.amazon.com/Communal-Imagination-Finding-Share-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1432044798&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination

Living Life Through the Lived Body

on-the-edge-lesley-oldaker

I have always been taught by the church tradition that I grew up with that the body is bad.  Maybe they didn’t say this directly, but I have heard so much talk about original sin that it doesn’t seem like there is any goodness within me.  Is my body really sinful?  If I answer yes to this question – How can I live my life without hating who I am?

I really don’t know.  But I am learning to care for myself, to honor my body and see this as a good thing.  I am seeing that I need to embrace my body and not reject it as something that is bad.  Living in my body is full of wonder, peace and love.

Sometimes I get small epiphanies of how much I am loved by God for just being me.  I am created in the image of God, this is the image of love.  My body is who I am.  It is good, beautiful, full of wonder, love, compassion, kindness and peace.

If you have been on the end of abuse in life it is so hard to value who you are sometimes.  To constantly receive messages from religious people that your body is bad is really difficult to take and makes life much harder to live.  I am coming to see that my life is beautiful, my body is wonderful and I am created to be an expression of love through this life I have been given by God through the lived body.  How can we express love if not through the body?

So I am coming to care for my body, to get enough sleep, food and exercise to function properly in everyday life.  I am creating rhythms and habits that help my body to live to its fullest potential in the here and now.  The future is before me in the present moment through my lived body that is engaging the world with beauty.

  •  The wisdom the lived body

The wisdom of the lived body is needed to be in relationship with others, God and our place.  When we dismiss the body, we dismiss our spirituality.  We dismiss all wisdom in life.  We dismiss our very humanity.

  •  Dismissing what is beautiful, good and convivial

We dismiss all of our potential.  We dismiss all that is beautiful and good within us.  We dismiss the conviviality among us.

  •  A new understanding of the body

To come to a place of new understanding of the body is crucial for a change deep within us as the body of Christ in everyday life in the parish.  To create a sustainable shared life together we will have to recover the lived body.  To live in our bodies, to love in our bodies, to be silent in our bodies, to be passionate in our bodies for the good and beauty of the place we inhabit is what the mystical imagination longs for.

  •  Pay more attention

Lauren F. Winner writes, “What I want is to pay more attention – and more explicitly theological attention – to my body and the things it does every day and the connections between the work of my body and the daily service of God…”

How can we be more mindful of the goodness of our bodies?

http://www.amazon.com/Communal-Imagination-Finding-Share-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1431883489&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination

Stuck On Being “Right” Over Being Kind

Blue-Winter-Threes-Forrest

I have been stuck on being right over being kind and loving so many times.  It is freeing for me to admit that most of my perceptions are probably wrong.  I don’t have the answers in life as much as I want to pretend that I do.

I’m sorry for all the people I have hurt as I try to be “right” over being kind.  I am coming to understand that living by what I think faith is will never be static.  It is about living in the present moment.  I cannot stay stuck in my perceptions of yesterday, last week, or two year ago.

It is all so uncertain.  And that is good.  My certainty can destroy me because a lot of the time it is an illusion of control that I fabricate to feel more secure.

Living more by my deep intuitions is more important to me than being locked into clearly defined theological concepts that I pretend to understand.  Maybe we should all approach life as Christian atheists who are not basing our spirituality in the past moments (days, weeks and years), but on the present moment today which is always fleeing and changing constantly.  This is exciting to me because no past structures of church or moments in the past will define who God is to me today.

I am free to be me in the present moment of this day, this month, this year.

I love the scene in the movie Garden State where Sam encourages her new friend Andrew to do something in this moment that no one in the history of the world has ever done.  Every time I see that movie this scene always stands out to me.  I want to see the unfolding of my present moments in life to mean that much to me as they did for Sam in the movie.

May we all embrace the uncertainty of each present moment that is constantly forming the shape of our lives as we become our true selves as our days unfold more authentically in the twenty-first century.

  •  Practiced with diligence and perseverance

Living by faith is uncertain.  We do not always known exactly how God is leading us all of the time.  The mystical imagination is very intuitive.  Living by faith is a way of life that needs to be practiced with diligence and perseverance.

  •  Our freedom and liberation

This is our freedom and liberation.  Sometimes we will not understand God’s leading and guidance, but that is what living by faith is about.  We have to do the best we can even when we do not understand.  The mystical imagination within will help us.

  •  Teachable, open to correction, ready to admit “I’m wrong”

Influential writer Brian D. McLaren says, “In a real way, faith is about constructing a model of reality…  This is why faith must always be growing, and why the disciple must always be teachable, open to correction, ready to admit ‘I’m wrong,’ and ready to think again… This is because none of us is so naïve as to believe that he or she has the whole cosmic theological equation figured out.  Nobody’s model is perfect.  We are constantly in the process of critiquing our model, adjusting it, recalibrating it…”

  •  Our spiritual formation

The mystical imagination is always about our spiritual formation as we listen to the context of life in the parish.  The mystical imagination helps us to seek God together in this way.  The mystical imagination helps us to live into a beautiful reality full of potential.

  •  God is hidden, but always revealed

We need to be open, ready and teachable in everyday life as we live by faith.  God is hidden, but always revealed through the particulars of the place we live.

How can we live in the present moment with uncertainty, openness and wonder?

http://www.amazon.com/Communal-Imagination-Finding-Share-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1431799777&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination

Pretending Theology – Disregarding Pain

Abstract_Lines_by_storiofmylife

I have experienced a lot of pain in my life.  It seems that the church is not too hospitable toward pain.  There seems to be a lot of pretending in our culture.  But to me, seeking the truth means seeking to live my life in honesty, authenticity and openness.  It seems there is not a lot of room for us to be honest about our brokenness and wounds that we live with.

I have had to work really hard to put off my attachment to my idealism and perfectionism.  The desire to be perfect is a denial of our humanity.  It is an illusion.  So I must become okay with my weaknesses and limitations.

Sometimes life is too much for me and I break down through the pain of it all.  It seems that our theology is a lie a lot of the times because it disregards the struggles in life, the pain we endure and the brokenness we must face.  What good is it to have “correct theology” but fail to be honest about who we are: the pleasant and not so pleasant things about our story.  Truth is always honest, authentic and promotes love.

If there is no love there is no truth.  After doing my best to seek God for the last two decades of my life, I am coming to see how hard it is.  This pursuit in my life has cost me everything and sometimes I feel like I can’t take it anymore.  The worst part about it is that there is a constant fight with the church when we authentically seek God.

The church wants to judge us if we feel depressed or tired or want to give up.  But I want to say that life is hard and full of pain sometimes.  If there is no risk to our lives than we probably aren’t seeking anything authentic in everyday life.  My practice of silence and solitude has helped me to cope with the pain that I feel.

I am starting to get honest about what I feel, even if it is negative emotions.  I know that our culture does not like negative emotions such as confusion, anger, depression, sadness, anxiety, fear and irritation.  We are supposed to be all together, but I am done with that.  I long for the truth that allows me to be honest, free and live in lamentation.

Let’s face the reality that we are not always okay in life.  Sometimes we need to be allowed to cry, even if you are a male, with no shame.  I am tired of pretending to be what the church wants me to be.  I want to be who God made me to be.

I don’t want to pretend and feel like I have to smile all of the time.  Maybe sometimes I don’t want to smile.  I am finding that this is okay.  Sometimes I feel depressed in the truth of my state.

I find it strange that our theology makes us the most dishonest people sometimes.  We can’t feel what we feel.  We have to smile all of the time.  But I am moving away from all of this even if others call me a heretic.

Maybe we need more heretics in the world who will stop pretending.

  •  Being honest with God

We have to be honest with God in silence and solitude.  We have to trust that the darkness, desert and distress will not destroy us.  We must hold onto God through our pain and brokenness.  Everyone experiences pain in life.

  •  Processing our pain within

It is different for each one of us, but it is real so we must not pretend it doesn’t exist.  We must live through it with grace, courage and gentleness.  God’s grace will sustain us through the desert experiences in the parish.  Our silence and solitude will cultivate the mystical imagination as we process our pain within.

  •  So many unanswered questions

Mother Teresa after caring for the dying in India for many years faced her own darkness and said, “The darkness is so dark – and I am alone. – Unwanted, forsaken. – The loneliness of the heart that wants love is unbearable. – Where is my faith? – Even deep down, right in, there is nothing but emptiness & darkness. – My God – how painful is this unknown pain.  It pains without ceasing. – I have no faith. – I dare not utter the words & thoughts that crowd in my heart – & make me suffer untold agony.  So many unanswered questions live with me – I am afraid to uncover them – because of the blasphemy. – If there be God, please forgive me…  Love – the word – it brings nothing. – I am told God loves me – and the reality of darkness & coldness & emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul…”

Have you hidden yourself from others in the name of truth?

http://www.amazon.com/Communal-Imagination-Finding-Share-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1431729835&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination