Culture of Imagination

connecting spirituality to everyday life

Tag: God

Does God Care If We “Go to Church” or Not?

images (42)As Easter is here this week, I get sick of hearing about “going to church.” I am more interested in being the church together with others in everyday life. Community has been hijacked by the concept of “going to church.” In my opinion, church makes us dead, zombie-like bystanders who worship the status quo.

  • Do something that will help us to discover our true self

I have no interest in becoming a person who can’t evolve, think for themselves, and live into the mysterious paradoxes of life. For the sake of authenticity, please don’t go to church. Maybe Jesus is calling us to stop “going to church” and instead do something that will help us to discover our true self, our authentic self. The idea of “going to church” has become something we use to keep us from focusing on our responsibility to engage the world with justice, community, love, solidarity, compassion, risk, forgiveness, vulnerability, and honesty.

  • Be the church together

What can you do to be the church and stop going to church? Community, sharing life together in a particular place in everyday life, is one of the most overlooked things in the twenty-first century. It is so simply yet almost impossible in our hyper-mobile culture. Our intentionality is gone so we are left with the idea of “going to church.”

  • Very little local culture today

There is very little local culture today. Almost everything is taken over by corporations who franchise everything for our consumption. Let’s stop consuming religion and start loving our neighbors together as we love ourselves. Do we even love ourselves anymore? Maybe that is why we have a hard time loving our neighbors.

  • Missing the point of life

I don’t think that God cares if we “go to church” or not. What God cares about is if we live into our true selves and embody a lifestyle of love and compassion in the world. Nothing else matters. Without love, you can “go to church” all you want and completely miss the point of life.

  • Totally neglect the interior life

So many people “go to church” and totally neglect their interior life, their true self, their authenticity, a way of love in the world. But instead become arrogant, judgmental, and mean in the name of their God who is supposed to be love. It is all weird to me. Without love, everything will be weird (there is no shock there).

  • Church in North America is a joke

Embodiment1To me, the systems of what we have created as the church in North America is a joke. I can’t take it seriously. There is almost no contemplative dimension to help us to listen deeper and discover our true selves as well as community together because proximity is something very few people like to talk about or practice. But how can we love our neighbors as ourselves when we do not live in proximity in everyday life?

  • Take care of yourself

So this Easter, do yourself a favor and don’t “go to church.” Do something more worthwhile for your soul, to take care of yourself. Maybe that is what God is leading you to. What a heretical thought!

But maybe we need more heretics who aren’t afraid to give up the status quo and “stop going to church” to discover something more authentic.

How can you take care of yourself?

My new book The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life (2015) is finally done! It is available on kindle and paperback!

“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

My first book The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together (2014) is available on kindle and paperback also!

“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

We Cannot Manipulate God


It seems that when I embrace an openness to humility I do not try to manipulate life to my advantage.  My individualistic ways become transformed into a reverence for the mystery of life.  I start to see the sacredness of all of life.  Simple things fascinate me and bring joy to my life.

And joy is one of those things that has escaped me a lot of times.  I am leaning to take responsibility for my own feelings, especially the negative ones that people usually are uncomfortable about.  It seems that I cannot manipulate God no matter how hard I try.  Even though my life is not turning out how I have expected it to, I am able to move past my blindness and embrace the ordinary things with gratitude.

I am so tired of whining and being resentful every time something doesn’t go my way.  I don’t care anymore.  Seriously.  I am done with all of this and want to live with some serenity and peace.

It seems God is leading me to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.  I definitely need wisdom to know how to live into community, into a way of love, humility and grace.

Sometimes I think that I can manipulate life and God, but I am coming to see that there are some things that I cannot change.  I live with limitations, wounds, weaknesses and my own brokenness.  Perfectionism is not a reality for me and denies my humanity.  I don’t care about manipulating life anymore.

I am done with that.  When I open myself up to allow Christ to live within me in the present moment of life, I am much happier as I begin to understand what love, serenity and compassion are to me.  These are the mysteries and questions that I want to hold near me throughout life.

  •  Christ’s life within us

Christ’s life within us is radical.  It will shake us up out of the status quo.  It will disturb our comfortable theologies of safe religion.  Christ wants to be free to live in our human bodies.

  •  The neighborhood level

Christ wants to be passionate in our human bodies.  Christ wants to live through his body on earth in everyday life in the parish.  Christ is passionate about our world which starts at the neighborhood level.

  •  The status quo must be forgotten

The status quo must be forgotten.  Our passion for Christ living within us will cultivate the mystical imagination that will do away with the status quo.  Passionate lives and status quo living do not fit together.  They will never fit together.

  •  Living passionately

We will live passionately as Christ lives within us.  Our passion can only live when Christ is living within us.  The mystical imagination longs for this to be embodied in our lives together.

  •  Trusting in the mystery of life

We cannot comprehend this completely, but we must trust in the mystery of life within us constantly. We cannot manipulate the life within us.

  •  A God you cannot manipulate

Carl McColman states, “A God you cannot comprehend is a God you cannot manipulate.”

Do you find yourself trying to manipulate God at times?

A Story of Awakening: Redefining Life, Community and Mindfulness

Prismatic Awakening

In my own life, I have been experiencing awakening for quite some time now.  It has been a process of change, growth, shaping and listening.  Growing up as a Catholic, I went to a church building almost every Sunday with my parents and siblings.  I became an alter boy and rang the bells during the Eucharist at mass.  First communion, CCD and confirmation were all things I completed throughout elementary school, middle school and high school.

  • God was not relevant to me

After going to hundreds of masses growing up, I believed in God from a very young age.  Although thinking about God a lot was not something I liked to do.  I didn’t think God was relevant to this life.  I thought God was only present to the after life, as someone passes away.

  •  A profound awakening

Toward the end of my high school days, I had a profound awakening within myself.  I loved playing basketball.  It was what I lived for.  Playing year round was something that I did for years throughout middle school and high school.

  •  Facing a place of depression

When I was in high school, I played under a tough coach who made me want to quit the basketball team.  He yelled a lot and I experienced a lot of fear of making mistakes when I played.  I got to the point of hating practices so much that I quit the team for good.  This brought me to a place of depression.

  •  Alone and afraid in a state of withdrawal

It got so bad that I was having a difficult time wanting to finish my senior year of high school.  Dropping out of high school crossed my mind more than once.  I didn’t want others to call me a quitter.  Facing this within myself was extremely hard.  It seemed I was alone and afraid in this state of withdrawal and depression.  It was one of the most difficult experiences of my life up to this point.

  •  God cares for my life

Soon I met a youth worker within the Christian Missionary Alliance denomination hanging out at my high school.  I got to know this guy a little.  He would tell me that God cares for my life.  I would think to myself, “whatever.”  We started to spend time together.  He seemed to listen to me.  The guy was kind of strange to me, but became a friend.  I would listen to him talk about God’s love for me.  The kind of stuff now that I can see is very common among church culture.

  •  Engagement in listening carefully through loneliness and pain

My excruciating loneliness and pain kept me engaged in listening carefully.  Becoming even more depressed was something that I didn’t want to experience.  I didn’t want to turn to drugs and alcohol to relieve my pain, so I slowly became open to God.  I thought to myself, “I am so messed up I might as well try being open to God.  I don’t have a lot of options at this point.  Where will I be in a year?”  I kind of said this to myself out of a deep fear.  At the young age of 18, I was extremely scared and depressed.  Not a place you want to be right before graduating high school.  I didn’t know what to do.

  •  Starting to trust God in my own way

So I started to trust God in my own way.  I started to cry out to God.  Knowing pretty much nothing of theology at the time, all I knew was my pain and my need, but that was enough.  I had virtually no knowledge of the Protestant church.  All I knew was a little of the Catholic church.

  •  Beginning to practice reflection and rest

As I trusted in God and slowly began to practice reflection and rest, I experienced an awakening within myself.  I started to show signs of hope as the depression was receding within me over the course of the year.  Finding some kind of identity in God really helped me to ground myself in a sense of peace in life over my constant state of anxiety.  My identity as a basketball player had died when I quit the team.  This dream was crushed and gone forever which was hard to take.  But I wanted to live again.  Life was worth living.  I had a hope for the future of my life that I hadn’t thought was possible before.

  •  Becoming more mindful of God in everyday life

I couldn’t understand what happened, but I just wanted to keep seeking God more.  I had a conscious awakening over time to becoming more mindful of God in everyday life.

This was troubling in a way because what I experienced of church always seemed to have a sense of disconnection and disillusionment for me.  I never seemed to fit in.  It never really made sense to me.  I tried getting involved in Campus Crusade for Christ in college along with Christian Missionary Alliance and Calvary Chapel denominations.  But still things didn’t seem to work for me that well.

  •  Disillusioned with the experience of church

After I went through another stage of depression in the year 2000 after college, I explored the Emergent Church movement after realizing there were all these North Americans who were disillusioned with their experience of church.  Learning about postmodern culture through much reading, conversation as well as many new relationships in my life, I had an awakening to the context I was living in and being shaped by.  I soon had more awakenings to the Missional Church movement, New Monasticism and the Catholic Worker movement.

  •  What community means

And now I am having more awakenings toward what community means as embodied in a particular place of a local context together in everyday life.  The words or phrases  “parish,” “neighborhood,” “theology of place,” “rebuilding,” “authenticity,” “practices,” “faithful presence” and the concept of being “rooted and linked” have all been a part of my journey to understand the mystical body of Christ in the world today.  I am sure more awakenings will happen within me the longer I live and experience life.  I am sure more awakenings will happen as I practice reflection and rest in the parish where I live in community with my neighbors.

Does the term awakening resonate with you?  Does God give us ordinary awakening experiences in everyday life?

Does God Really Live in the Ordinary?


In my life I am learning that God is in the ordinary.  This doesn’t make sense to me a lot of the time, but this is how God is revealed in the world.  So I am finding that the ordinary is drenched in the sacred, the divine possibilities all around me. There is no escaping this.

In my worst moments God is there.  In my best moments God is there too.  God lives within me through the ordinary.  I am understanding that God lives in the hidden places of the ordinary in you and in me.  This causes great wonder to arise within me as I think about it!

  •  Seeking God in the ordinary

Seeking God together as the body of Christ often happens within an ordinary local context.  Days and nights, weekends and weekdays, fall, winter, spring, summer; all these take place within the ordinary moments and cycles of life. The ordinary is mundane, but the beauty of God can be discovered there.

  •  God is incarnate in the ordinary

Ronald Rolheiser reminds us that “If God is incarnate in ordinary life then we should seek God, first of all, within ordinary life.” 

  •  Jesus was very human and ordinary

Jesus was a very ordinary man.  If we were alive when he lived in Nazareth and got close to him, we would probably have found him to be very human and ordinary.  In fact, I believe a lot of his miracles and parables stemmed out of the ordinary.

  •  Seeing the sacredness of the ordinary

It was the ordinary people with whom he had ordinary relationships.  It was and is very ordinary to be hungry or sick or lonely.  Christ always saw the sacredness of the ordinary.  Let’s look at the parable of the mustard seed.

  •  The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field.  Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches” (Matthew 13: 31-32).

  •  The process of ordinary growth

In this parable, as in many of his parables, Christ uses what is ordinary to demonstrate what the kingdom of God is like.  Here he is referring to such ordinary things as a small mustard seed which turns into a garden plant and then a tree.  He is referring to the process of growth when something is planted in a garden and birds perch on tree branches.

  •  Seeds, birds, branches, trees and gardens are all very ordinary

Seeds, birds, branches, trees and gardens are all very ordinary everyday-life things.  Christ doesn’t tell us strange religious stories to explain life.  He puts everything into the ordinary so that we can relate and understand.

  •  Drenched in divine possibilities

Barbara Brown Taylor says, “The most ordinary things are drenched in divine possibilities.”

Do you think you can experience God in the ordinary moments in everyday life?