Culture of Imagination

connecting spirituality to everyday life

Tag: listening

5 Ways that Listening Brings Us Together


Listening has been the most life transforming practice for me.  Nothing has shaped me more.  Listening has taken me to the depths of my soul and has challenged me to see life in new ways.  Sometimes it is painful and sometimes it leads to joy, but it is the primary way the Spirit lives in me.

Here are 5 ways that listening can bring us together in everyday life.

1. Listening fosters respect and humility

Without listening we become arrogant toward and disrespectful of others.  We destroy our relationships and bring on the unconscious suicide of our personality.  We slowly deteriorate and do not carry ourselves well.

2. Listening cultivates love

We become blind and ignorant.  We become self-centered and begin to hate. As a matter of fact, all hate stems from a refusal to listen.  We are not called to hate as the body of Christ, but we are called to love.  And love is about listening in the parish.

“To live without listening is not to live at all; it is simply to drift in my own backwater,” writes the wise Benedictine Joan Chittister.

In other words, when we don’t listen, we die.  We are living a slow agonizing death without listening.  God is a listener and we are made in his image to listen.

 “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen …” (James 1:19).

James is encouraging us to listen.  He urges us to “take note of this.”  That means he thinks it is important.  I think there is a lot of correlation here with Paul’s encouragement in 1 Corinthians 13 to love above all things.

3. Listening makes us alive

Listening as a way to express our love for others is so important to the body of Christ in place, locality and neighborhood.  The particulars of everyday life need a fabric of relationships where listening is active and alive.

Keri Wyatt Kent says, “Our listening communicates love, often more clearly than our words …”

4. Listening is deeply relational

The communal imagination needs to listen if it is to communicate love.  There is no way around this.  Listening precedes a lot of other less important things that might seem more “spiritual” to us.  In fact, listening is deeply spiritual and deeply relational.

5. Listening is the basis for reconciliation

Thich Nhat Hanh observes such truth when he writes, “Deep listening is the basis for reconciliation …”

Could this possibly be so?  If listening really leads to reconciliation, then the members of the body of Christ have found the key to getting along with each other and those they live with in the neighborhood in the particulars of everyday life.  This would be truly miraculous.  It is in the ordinary, relational particulars of everyday life that God manifests his miracles.

Listening as a means to reconciliation has a big part to play in this.  This doesn’t seem “spiritual” to us, but it is: listening is infused with the miraculous, particular, ordinary aspects of relational living in the parish.  What good news to our lives! Listening is life-giving, and we can all do it through the guidance of Christ, who is the head of the body.

Does listening play a part in your spirituality?

5 Tips on Listening to Your Local Community


Listening has become one of the most important practices for me to develop in my spirituality.  Without listening, I do not think an authentic spirituality can be developed.  Listening is the foundation of a loving presence in our local community.  Without listening, there is no sense of faithful presence to the place we live.

Listening has been transforming my life for over a decade.  As I have become rooted within my local community, I am learning to listen.  I am learning to love.  I am learning to become faithfully present in the place I live.

The neighborhood of Downtown Tacoma has become a part of who I am.  It has shaped local memory within me to see all of life as sacred.  It is the place that I hold dear as I practice listening in everyday life through the ordinary moments of my days and weeks.  Here are some tips that can help you to listen to your local community:

1. Be open to living in the present moment of each day.  We cannot live in the past or the future.  The only moment we have is the one we embrace now in the present moment.  There is no listening to our local community unless we embrace the present moment of each day before us.  Listening can only happen in the present moment.

2. Cultivate an attitude of learning from others while valuing collaboration over competition.  We will not be able to listen to others if we do not learn from others by collaboration.  There are so many amazing things going on in each local community that we do not necessarily have to start new things.  It would be better to learn to listen and collaborate with others who care about the local community who have been there for awhile.

3. Live your life through the paradigm of gratitude.  Gratitude allows us to be open to listening like nothing else in life.  It seems that listening and gratitude are interconnected.  When we practice gratitude, we have a sense of wonder living within us that allow dimensions of listening to our local context to bring us to life.

4. Embrace the mystery of silence and solitude as you are faithfully present over time.  Silence and solitude greatly enhance our ability to listen. We learn to listen when we are alone by ourselves in solitude and this carries over into our relational context.  We need solitude, silence and community to develop a personal practice of faithful presence over time.

5. Have the imagination to see God in the relational context you inhabit.  God lives through our relational context.  God lives in the local community.  Listening helps us to become aware of this.

Which of these five tips do you like the most?  I would love to hear your thoughts about how you listen to your local community!

The Dream of Listening


  •  My neighbors are teaching me to listen

My neighbors are teaching me to listen.  I hear the sound of their voices as revelations of God to me.  Learning to hear under the anger, pain, joy or gratitude of someone’s life is what I want to base my days on.  Becoming the servant of all who cross my path in everyday life, I want to show some love by listening deeply.

  •  What will I become?

What will I become without sharing life with my neighbors?  I am learning to step away from my computer and TV screen and make room for others as I listen to what they care about.  How can I learn from them?  What do they dream about in life?

  •  Being faithfully present without saying anything

Being faithfully present without saying anything, but just listening to the mysteries of this human being in front of me is what I was created for.  This is the essence of human connection.  Listening is recreating me for the common good of the place I live.

  •  Finding God in the act of listening

I reimagine a life where I am quick to listen.  This listening will be my life.  It will lead me to beautiful places that are unknown to me.  I am finding God in the very act of listening in everyday life.

  •  Listening is a powerful expression of the work of God

Listening is a powerful expression of the work of God in the world.  I am learning to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world through listening.  There is no greater purpose in life.

  •  Without listening it is difficult to see

Without a listening spirt it is difficult for me to see.  I lose my way on the path to life.  I mistreat others and become judgmental.  I become impatient and demanding.

  •  The simple practice of listening

I pretend to have all the answers for everyone.  I become manipulative and controlling.  I live with high expectations.  But I am ready now to give it all up and learn to embrace the simple practice of listening with compassion.

  •  Listening is my dream

May listening save me from my foolishness.  Listening is my salvation.  Listening is my dream.  Listening is the lost treasure that I will find in the present moment of human connection in everyday life together.

  •  We all have the capacity to listen deeply

We have underestimated listening in our time.  I believe that listening could change our world.  Listening is creative and alive among us.  We all have the capacity to listen deeply.

  •  Created in the image of a God who listens

We are created in the image of a God who listens.  We live life most fully when we listen.  Community and human connection will be lost without listening as a way of life.  I am learning the importance of this practice in the parish.

How can we listen more and talk less in everyday life?

What Keeps Us From Listening to the Mysteries of Life?

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It has been so difficult to find myself apart from the dominant narratives of the entertainment culture and consumerism of North America.  I have been learning to live with more simplicity and hope.  I am learning to see Jesus in the poor and marginalized around me.  Sometimes this is too much for me and I do not have an openness to the mysteries of life.

Listening is becoming sacred to me as I practice slowing down to consciously breathe in and out through each day.  Centering myself on discovery, wisdom, love, grace, humility and kindness has become a path of life for me.  Allowing my desires to shape what I love is leading me to be my true self in many ways.  I am learning to love and not fear the difficulties of life.

Whatever God may be to me today, I hope I can have the strength to listen and not be afraid of the revelations that will push me to have courage in the midst of a culture of fear.  My sense of awareness is forming in me a deeper way of love for the world.  My compassion is something that I hold onto in everyday life.

  •  Cluttered with fragmentation, distractions and disembodied practice

We need the mystical imagination to see with a sense of clarity.  Our seeing is sometimes so cluttered with fragmentation, distractions, disembodied practice and default ways of knowing.  We have often times become focused on things that don’t matter and our seeing has turned to blindness.  Most of the time we don’t even know what is happening and this goes on unconsciously within us.

  •  Becoming more mindful and aware

The mystical imagination calls to us from the hills to wake up and run toward something more holistic and life-giving.  The mystical imagination teaches us to see with the eyes of a mystic.  We become more mindful and aware.  We become more loving and full of grace.

  •  Putting us into a posture of listening

We develop more of a longing for the God of mystery.  We become filled with wonder.  We become passionate about the parish.  Seeing with a sense of clarity puts us into a posture of listening.

  •  Living with an openness to revelation and discovery

Seeing with a sense of clarity gives us imagination for the body of Christ in everyday life.  As we practice more and more, God slowly reveals more to us of the mysterious nature of life.  But these revelations do not come so fast, they come very slow.  We cannot force them, but we must live with an openness in a way that we can listen when we discover something of their nature.

  •  Longing to discover relational revelations within us and around us

This is the purpose of the body of Christ in the parish.  We should always be longing to discover the relational revelations within us and around us all of the time.  There is nothing like an intuitive discovery of relational wisdom in the place we care about and inhabit.

How can we live with an openness to revelation and discovery in everyday life?

Seeking God Through Healthy Discipline and Rhythms

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I used to think that I was separate from God, the land, the environment; but I am coming to see how I live connected and in union with all of them.  As I have learned from writers such as Wendell Berry that to see myself as separate from the environment is an illusion.  The environment is a part of who I am so I must not exploit it or objectify it.

This has led me to explore healthy rhythms and discipline to honor the place I live.  I have been listening to my particular place I live in for over ten years now and am coming to find much wisdom in developing rhythms of deep listening.  Finding ways to show love in the world is becoming a major personal discipline that is shaping me tremendously.  I have found that without rhythms I slowly become lost.

  • Rhythms help us to listen

Rhythms help us to listen.  Listening helps us to become more aware of others.  The mystical imagination cultivates listening.  Listening helps us to honor the place that we live.

  • The earth, land and place

The earth, land and place becomes sacred to us as we cultivate a rhythm of finding ways to listen.  God is the Creator of the earth and we need rhythms to honor its creation.  Macrina Weiderkehr says, “Indigenous peoples often have an innate awareness of the need to honor the natural place and rhythm of their inner beings.  They seem able to pick up signals drawing them into a stance of obedient listening…”

  •  Learning from native, indigenous people

I propose that we need to learn from native, indigenous people such as the Native Americans who are highly in touch with the earth, their land and the place that they live.  They listen more than we do.  They live more simply and experience life less dualistically.  They seem to understand the ecology of life, how all of life is connected and they live more holistically.

  • Rhythms that are relational and contextual

They have rhythms that are relational and contextual to the good of the place they inhabit.  You might think that there is nothing to learn from these people, but that will be our greatest mistake.  We need some rhythms that will help us to develop an honoring way of life toward our place.

  •     Seeking God in everyday life

Rhythms are ways of seeking God in a specific locality in everyday life.  There is such a need for creative ways to seek God in our postmodern culture.  It is hard to seek God apart from a commitment to a particular place.  It is hard to seek God and be disconnected from culture and others.

  •  Finding freedom through healthy discipline

“We need to find freedom,” writes Lynne M. Baab, “by embracing healthy discipline.”  There is a liberation and reconciliation that happens with holistic discipline.  We live more holistically when we become rooted in a particular place over time.

How can we create practices of healthy discipline and local rhythms?

Learning to Listen Through Silence and Solitude

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Most of my life I have faced the temptation to evade any sense of silence and solitude.  This practice has haunted and terrified me for many years.  I have not wanted to face the reality of listening to my life, God or others.  Because of this I have been blinded to the mystery and beauty in life.

  • Christ learned to listen through the silence and solitude of the desert

“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert…” (Matthew 4:1).  Christ was led into the silence and solitude of the desert in order to learn to listen to the mystery and beauty in life. Jesus had a listening spirit because of the silence and solitude he practiced.  He practiced this for the common good of his local community and the world.

  • Listening to life in all things

He needed to practice this in order to listen to life in all things.  The desert was not easy for Jesus, but it was essential to his longing to listen.  What did Jesus do in the desert for 40 days?  If you break it down 40 days is just under 6 weeks.

  • Finding many different ways to listen

I believe he found many different ways to listen.  Most of it was probably practiced in silence.  It was a cultivation of groaning, longing, dreaming, reflecting, walking and sleeping.  He probably was bored, lonely, tired and hungry at times.

  • The process of disciplining ourselves

But he kept going because he knew this was the process of disciplining himself to listen.  This was essential to the whole life of his passion.  Can we imagine what 6 weeks of silence and solitude a year would do for our capacity to listen as the body of Christ in the place we live?  Have we had the courage to experiment with this kind of practice?

  • Becoming seasoned practitioners of listening

We would be a much more holistic church if we experimented with this practice of silence and solitude.  We need to become seasoned practitioners of listening to all of life in the parish.  We need a holistic approach to listening to mystery.  We need a holistic approach to listening to beauty.

  • Finding the mystery and beauty all around us

We need to take this listening seriously through our practice of silence and solitude.  Mystery and beauty are all around us as the body of Christ in everyday life.  We need eyes that long for this mystery and beauty to be seen, understood and experienced in our locality.  It is there, we just have trouble seeing it because we do not always live a life of listening.

  • Keeping silence and solitude so we can listen

Tony Jones says, “Ultimately, we keep silence and solitude so we can listen better – so we can hear what God is saying to us and to our world.”

How can we practice silence and solitude in our lives?

How Context Shapes Us


Several years back, I thought I had all the answers for everyone else in regards to spirituality and life.  If you didn’t want to hear what I had to say, I just wrote you off as deceived.  But maybe I was the one that was deceived.  I missed out on many relational revelations because of my ignorance towards others in my life.

  • Figuring out what good news means

Contextualizing the good news is important as the body of Christ in the parish.  Without contextualization the church becomes disconnected from culture and place.  There isn’t any authentic expression of the body of Christ in everyday life without contextualization.  We are all rooted in a particular context and need to figure out what the good news means to this context that we inhabit together.

  • Context shapes us

Our context shapes our lives in the parish.  Our context shapes who we are as the body of Christ in everyday life together.  Sean Benesh writes, “…we’re all rooted in a context.  It forms and shapes our lives…”  Contextualizing the good news forms us as the body of Christ in everyday life.

  • Contextualization and listening

Contextualizing the good news teaches us to listen to our particular place.  There is no contextualization without listening.  Listening is so important in contextualizing the good news.  Listening and contextualizing are intertwined.

  • Connecting relationally with neighbors

Our place can speak to us in mysterious ways if we just experimented with listening more.  Contextualizing comes with rootedness in the parish.  Contextualizing will shape and form us as we listen in the parish.  Contextualizing the good news is so important to connect with our neighbors relationally in the particular place we inhabit together.

  • The ecology of context

Everything is connected to context.  There is an ecology of context that cannot be ignored in the parish.  Everything leads to the stream of context.  As we listen to our context, we will understand what the good news might mean to this particular context over time.

  • The damage of the franchise approach

Contextualizing the good news takes years to embody with much experimentation, innovation and risk involved.  It is so much easier to have no contextualization and apply the franchise approach, disregarding context and culture altogether.  But how much damage this has done as Christians have become colonial through this franchise approach.

  • The American demise of the incarnational, relational way of love

This isn’t incarnational.  This isn’t relational.  This does not represent love.  This is American.  The franchise approach is the American way.  This isn’t what God has in mind for the body of Christ in everyday life in the parish.

  • All things are connected

Wendell Berry says, “All things are connected; the context of everything is everything else…”  Can we see that “the context of everything is everything else?”  This means that everything in our particular context is connected whether we realize it or not.

How can we figure out what the good news is for us in everyday life in the parish?

Listening to Others


Listening has been a foreign concept to me for most of my life.  My culture, family and religious tradition have all taught me that talking is more important than listening.  I have been taught that you must assert yourself through words or you might just be invisible to others.  Awhile back I began to question all of this because it didn’t seem like it was leading me to a place of reconciliation and beauty.

•  Learning how to listen

I remember when our Downtown Neighborhood Fellowship first moved into the neighborhood to become a local expression of the body of Christ.  We had to learn how to listen to each other and those in the neighborhood.  If we didn’t love, we could not get along very well.  We had to grow in our love for others through a new paradigm of listening.

•  The witness of listening to others

Our way of witnessing was to listen.  We started to build trust with one another and with others in the neighborhood who were skeptical about us through listening.  Now after years of listening, we have come to be better friends with our neighbors in the parish.

•  The miracle of listening

All kinds of things have developed out of us expressing our love for others just by listening.  We would have been driven out by the locals if we didn’t learn how to listen and respect them. Listening can drastically change the body of Christ as we share the particulars of everyday life in the parish.

•  The difficult task of listening

There is so much talking today within the body of Christ.  There is an overemphasis on preaching and converting others through words and information.  When will we ever learn how to listen instead of preaching so much?  Listening is much harder than talking all the time.

•  The experiment of listening together

What would happen if we had an experimental approach to listening in the particulars of everyday life together in the parish?  I think we would see amazing things happen.  Love is intertwined with listening.

•  Listening as an expression of relational love

Without listening, does love even exist within us?  The communal imagination has a desire for listening.  Listening is the foundation of all relational love in the parish.

What are some of the ways you have experimented with listening to others in the place that you live?