Endorsements for The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life (2015):

“Any good journey outward requires a good and arduous journey inward. In The Mystical Imagination, Mark Votava carefully guides us on an inner journey of formation marked by an honest account of our truest need and our greatest contribution in the world. It awakens us to the possibility that God can in fact be expressed and experienced in our heart of hearts, pouring over into meaningful acts of love and service. This book is a true gift.” Christiana Rice, co-author of Altered, Leadership Coach and Community Cohort Facilitator with Thresholds, neighborhood practitioner

“The Mystical Imagination is a wise and gentle plea for us all to come to attention and examine the true shape of our lives together. Mark Votava urges us to find the space to rest and reflect on how we might collectively embody in our daily lives what we say we believe about the gospel of Jesus. Drawing on the work of philosophers (Willard, Ellul), contemplatives (Merton, Weil, Nouwen), and activists (Cleveland, Sine), this book manages to be intellectually stimulating, spiritually refreshing and deeply practical all at the same time.” Michael Frost, author, Incarnate, The Road to Missional, Seeing God in the Ordinary

“Communities are shaped though rhythms and rhythms are formed through practices. The values and culture of a community emerge from these rhythms and practices. In The Mystical Imagination, Mark Votava, explores how practices such as listening, questioning, silence, and communal dreaming form a mystical imagination which in turn forms us individually as well as communally. I highly recommend The Mystical Imagination to anyone who is seeking to grow a beloved community that is deeply rooted in a place, yet mindful of a reality beyond what we can see or touch. I believe our capacity to cultivate a mystical imagination determines our ability to become transforming and healing agents in our communities and our world.” Wendy McCaig, author of From the Sanctuary to the Streets, Executive Director of Embrace Richmond

“A must read! Mark unpacks the beauty of entering into the embrace of the sacred mystery, where we are given permission to search, to question, imagine and be in endless wonder… where we search for God, and God instead finds us.” Eileen Baura Suico, Adjunct Professor of Leadership and Contemporary Culture at Fuller Theological Seminary, Co-Founder, Pastor, and Director at With, contributing writer to The Gospel After Christendom

“Our crowded, overly-consumed, hyper-active, digitally-addicted lifestyle is draining the life out of us. We are desperate to transcend the chaos and find a better way to live. We need a mystical imagination. Get ready to be transported into the depths of meaning as Votava breaks open the contemplative path and shows you how to live your life to the fullest.” Phileena Heuertz, author of Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life and founding partner, Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism

“So much of the new locality movement is about strategy, rhetoric and technique. In contrast, Mark Votava offers a soulful path for living locally in community with others for the good of the world. He is a masterful compiler of the best wisdom of the mystical Christian tradition and writes with honesty and characteristic intensity. This is a serious book for people who want to live awake to the sacred in all of life.” Mark Scandrette, activist, founder of ReIMAGINE and author of FREE, Practicing the Way of Jesus and SOUL GRAFFITI

“I underlined and highlighted this book like crazy. I’m chomping at the bit to reflect on all that stood out to me. Votava’s book is the kind that demands further reflection. It is deep, challenging, and convicting. Indeed, the Holy Spirit used this book to expand my imagination and to help me better see the sacredness of life.” Marlena Graves, author of A Beautiful Disaster: Finding Hope in the Midst of Brokenness

The Mystical Imagination is an essential read for anyone sensing that following Christ just might be a whole-life adventure transforming everyday moments into our chance to join the Spirit in community as the ‘body’ reciprocally serves God by serving neighbor. Mark has put into words a deep longing for Shalom that woos me to invite the Holy Spirit to enliven my imagination for seeing that God is already present, at work, and graciously welcoming all to lives of rest, play, creativity, and beauty.” Dwight J. Friesen, Associate Professor of Practical Theology at The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology, co-author of The New Parish, Routes & Radishes, and author of Thy Kingdom Connected

“In The Mystical Imagination, Mark Votava explores how to create a holistic counterculture that seeks to explore within a Christian context the rhythms of silence, listening, togetherness, solitude, intentionality, presence, neighborliness, hospitality, learning, and exploring. Those seeking to delve into the mystery of faith will benefit by his wisdom and guidance.” Becky Garrison, satirist and storyteller, author of 8 books including Roger Williams Little Book of Virtues and Jesus Died for This?

“Mark’s book is a deeply personal expression of his spiritual journey to a place and a people. Through solitude, listening, and reflection, he proposes a way to develop an integrated, ordinary, everyday faith in a neighborhood. With a mystical imagination, framed by rhythm and discipline, we can become a gift to our community.” Sherry Maddock, urban farmer, co-author of Sowing Seeds of Shalom in the Neighborhood

“Just one look at the table of contents of this book made me eager to dive in. Mark hasn’t left anything behind when it comes to contemplative spirituality. With an emphasis on not just the individual journey but also the communal one, this book is sure to be a gift for the new parish movement.” Lacy Clark Ellman, spiritual director, author of Pilgrim Principles: Journeying with Intention in Everyday Life

“The vision I’ve caught from Mark isn’t for ‘a mystic on every block’, but one of Christians everywhere who are fully alive to the possibilities and responsibilities of the present moment. A wise and generous guide, Mark never takes us somewhere he hasn’t already been himself. This book is an invitation to ALL Jesus followers — not just the rarified few — to explore the mysteries of God as embodied, placed, interconnected and interdependent people.” John Pattison, co-author of Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus

“Votava invites his reader to enter into a world where one is reminded of the wonders of life. Mysticism may not be that out of reach after all. The gifts God gives us- the body, the mind, the sounds and silence around us- are, in the end, the path to God. Mark Votava’s words are like drinking tea with honey, but don’t be fooled. The Mystical Imagination is not for the faint-hearted. The work of silence, of deep reflection and of material sacrifice are, as Christ warned us, a difficult path indeed. But what a beautiful path it is, if we are to trust Mark Votava’s wonderful instincts.” Jenna Smith, author of A Way: The Story of a Long Walk

“Mark aptly slips on the shoes of a modern-day mystic who is both theologically sound and experientially in tune with God’s presence within himself and the community (and within the parish, as he puts it). Mark does a wonderful job blending practical experience through his own personal story, stories from his community in Tacoma, and through great scholarship, in which he has woven a masterful array of quotes from a variety of authors both old and new. The essence of this book, if I could sum it up in one word, would be awareness. God is present. God is working within and without. Mark says it best: ‘God’s presence is always living within us and our particular context. Even in the most seemingly forsaken place, God is always present.’ Mark not only tells us how to see the sacredness of life, he models it. This is a treasure worth getting and returning to again and again.” Dave Arnold, author of Pilgrims of the Alley and Building Friendships

“Consider this book a gentle and strong invitation toward a more peaceful, human and sane way of being. Be inspired to clear space and allow the longing for God to rise up. Let the compulsive desire to pursue distraction and patterns of escapism gradually become subdued. Instead, in the welcome void, nurture patience, contemplation and authentic relationships. Words that move us toward mystery and transformation as individuals and as communities are a gift. Thank you Mark Votava for your work, forged in the trenches of real life and offered up as a hopeful guide.” Kelly Bean, author How to Be a Christian Without Going to Church: The Unofficial Guide to Alternative Forms of Christian Community

“Mark Votava’s The Mystical Imagination is a call to nurture a deep contemplative spirituality for the 21st century. The vision is of ‘an undistracted life of liberation’ that may bring healing from all that keeps us diminished and fearful, and contribute towards the healing of our world. Mark makes clear that this possibility is for everyone – as he memorably calls us to become ‘ordinary mystics’. He has gathered a wide and compelling collection of contemporary wisdom and experience, whilst reflecting with vulnerability on his own story, and drawing on his experience of shaping rhythms of life in the context of parish. I was moved, encouraged and challenged by this book, and love Mark’s suggestion of a new paradigm for the parish: ‘Dreaming, Awakening and Remembering’. The book closes with an enticing adventure back into the vital spiritual tradition of mystical love for God: ‘Sometimes I imagine that Christ is the pillow or cushion beneath my head. I imagine Christ holding me as I rest my head upon him.’ I warmly commend this book.” Ian Adams, poet, photographer, retreat leader, Anglican priest, partner in Beloved Life, director of StillPoint, Spirituality Adviser for CMS and author of Cave Refectory Road: monastic rhythms for contemporary living, Running Over Rocks: spiritual practices to transform tough times and Unfurling

“Mark Votava has written a passionate call for the church to make a serious commitment to contemplative formation. Votava’s own mystical imagination is fiercely incarnational, insisting that rootedness in a specific context—‘in the parish,’ as he says—is critical. Without being anchored in a community, we can easily chase the fantasy of loving God and humanity without involving either the true God or actual humans. Mindfulness. Honesty. Learning and unlearning. Awareness of our mortality, attentiveness to our longing. These disciplines will make the difference between going to church and being the church. A loving and prophetic call.” Susan R. Pitchford, sociologist at the University of Washington, author of The Sacred Gaze: Contemplation and the Healing of the Self, God in the Dark: Suffering and Desire in the Spiritual Life, and Following Francis: The Franciscan Way for Everyone


Endorsements for The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together (2014):

“Inside everyone there is a longing for community, to love and be loved. We are made in the image of a communal God. But in our hyper-mobile, individualistic, cluttered world… community is an endangered thing. And community is like working out – it takes work, sweat, discipline… without that our muscles atrophy. Everybody wants to be fit, but not too many people want to do the work to get there. Mark’s book is sort of a workout manual, helping you rediscover your communal muscles and start building them up slowly. It is an invitation to live deep in a shallow world.” Shane Claiborne, author and activist

“Mark Votava’s book is like a smooth stone in a churning stream. When all around us seems to be prone to speed, consumption, movement and success, The Communal Imagination is a sure and unwavering call to simplicity, presence, attentiveness and collaboration. Read it slowly. It calls us to nothing less than a new way to be human.” Michael Frost, author of Incarnate and The Road to Missional  

“Mark Votava wrestles with ‘the tension between the real and the possible’ in his Tacoma neighborhood, in community relationships and inside himself. His humble witness invites us to consider and practice simplicity, love, growth, and gratitude. This profoundly honest text is chock full of ideas born of experience. A battle with depression, an intentional choice to leave employment as a school teacher and instead take jobs as a janitor and a dishwasher and the struggle to overcome anger and bitterness give him the authority to bring relevant recommendations. Votava’s wise words on forgiveness, reconciliation and letting go of control have the ring of one who knows. This book covers essential territory for building healthy communities of Jesus for the long haul.” Kelly Bean, Executive Director, African Road, co-planter Urban Abbey, co-founder Convergence, author of How to be a Christian Without Going to Church: The Unofficial Guide to Alternative Forms of Christian Community

“Words like simplicity, vulnerability and humility are hard to find and harder to live in today’s individualistic, high speed pursuit of success and control. Nonetheless, Mark Votava not only writes about them but intentionally and authentically embodies them in his everyday life in the parish. With warmth, honesty and a wonderful integration of Scripture reflections and true stories, Mark presents components of a communal imagination such as love, forgiveness and gratitude that challenge our current modes of being and invite us to embrace a way of life together that embodies the shalom of God’s Kingdom. This book is not just for reading, it’s for doing!”  Karen Wilk, Forge Canada National Team and Neighborhood Mission Catalyzer, author of Don’t Invite Them To Church: Moving From a Come and See to a Go And Be Church

“Mark refreshingly awakens his readers to the life-giving significance of the everyday ordinariness of community life together. He unfolds the beauty of shared life lived intentionally in close proximity and regular everyday encounters. Mark’s honesty is very encouraging as he invites and at the same time challenges readers to take courage in order to know the joys of belonging. His book draws readers into a counter-cultural lifestyle of vulnerability and interdependence where we can experience Scriptural reality of salvation by entering the same community life they were written for, from and within. Most beautifully pointed out here, is how Mark unpacks Jesus’ teaching of everyday forgiveness – challenging, inviting and coaxing us to know the freedom it gives through the reality of our own experiences.” Eileen Baura Suico, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Leadership and Contemporary Culture at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pastor and Director of With, contributing writer of The Gospel After Christendom: New Voices, New Cultures, New Expressions

“Community not individualism, shared life in proximity together – these are the concepts that grabbed my imagination as I read Mark Votava’s book The Communal Imagination. Weaving his personal story with the wisdom he has gained from rooting himself in a community that has become home, workplace and worship space, Mark engages us in a journey of discovery and revelation. His practice-based experiences of sacredness in the ordinary and how it opens us up to being the body of Christ is both compelling and refreshing. Think global, act local gains new meaning through this book.” Christine Sine, Executive Director, Mustard Seed Associates, author of Godspace: Time for Peace in the Rhythms of Life, Return to Our Senses: Re-Imagining How We Pray and Living on Purpose: Finding God’s Best for Your Life    

“Embracing community is not simply a strong Christian value in which we all just try to get along, but rather is about becoming, together, the presence of Christ to one another and the world. Mark Votava invites us into that possibility in this book, in parts equally practical, personal and prophetic. It is high time for us to rediscover The Communal Imagination.” Jamie Arpin-Ricci, author of The Cost of Community

“Some writers are widely read but live thinly; others read little but live deeply. In page after page of The Communal Imagination, my friend Mark Votava evidences the rare gift of being one who reads widely and lives deeply. Mark’s careful but tenacious wisdom – forged in adventures of the glorious mundane of neighborhood gospel life – kindles me with hope and gratitude. May these pages likewise gift your community with eyes to see together what God may be up to.” Brandon Rhodes, D.Min., author of Blip: Faithful Presence Amid the Making and Unmaking of the Petrol-Driven Church, Field Guide for the Parish Collective, owner Rolling Oasis Grocers   

“Rooted in intellect and experience, this book is a charge for the Church to reorient its identity from an autonomous entity to an interconnected organism. Acknowledging the high cost of such a reorientation, Mark offers a vision and set of practices that might just allow us to experience life and faith as it was meant to be lived.” Jon Huckins, neighborhood practitioner, author of Thin Places

“Many have written on church as local presence, few have explored its depths with such first person intensity as Mark Votava. In The Communal Imagination Votava propelled me into his personal journey in a way that grew my capacity to be ‘with’ people I did not think possible. With wisdom and grace, the book challenged my life. It gave me a ‘practice-based theology’ for taking the gospel local.”  David Fitch, author of Prodigal Christianity, The Great Giveaway and The End of Evangelicalism?