Culture of Imagination

connecting spirituality to everyday life

Tag: local community

How Our Gifts Can Flourish

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I used to think that I had no gifts to offer anyone.  I was depressed, isolated and beaten down by life.  My confidence was gone and my self-esteem suffered.  I became detached and unaware of my true self.  The self that was authentic, full of love, wisdom, kindness, grace and serenity.

After many years I began to think about community more.  What could this look like?  How could I root myself in a place seeing this place as my parish, the place where I share life with others and practice a spirituality of love in everyday life.  The church as I had known it offered very little to me as far as encouraging me on an authentic, vulnerable path.

So I do not believe in the systems that we call “church” anymore that do not support a person’s life of authenticity.  I have become so disillusioned about everything.  The love of God is so beautiful to me, but the church systems that we have created do not manifest that love very much.  Often times our church systems create a rigid life of conformity, judgment and oppressive hierarchies which make almost no room for community among us.

How can anyone find their giftedness in all of this?  How can we manifest community in all of this?  How can we find a rootedness in all of this?  How can we find some peace in all of this?

It seems my various gifts as I live rooted in my local community have not been seen and valued by what we call the “church” as we know it.  This has made me angry in the past, but I am over it.  I don’t care what others think anymore.  I am learning to take responsibility for my own feelings.

What we have labeled as “church” in North America no longer makes sense to me.  It seems not to recognize the gifts we all bring to each other’s lives as neighbors.  When the church has more focus on mobility, wealth and buildings it becomes lame in my opinion and losses all meaning to me.  I want to have a rooted faith in my local community where I can live in simplicity, love and humility as I share life together with others in everyday life.

I don’t want to “go to church” in a building that boxes me up and secludes me from society.  I want to be the church in a place together with others where I experience community, love, grace, compassion, honesty, vulnerability, friendship and hospitality.  This is where our gifts can flourish!

  •  All of us have gifts to contribute

All of us have gifts to contribute to our locality.  There are many ways to contribute our lives to the lives of others in the place that we inhabit together.  All of us have relational gifts that contribute to the local fabric of social care in the parish.

  •  Using our gifts for the common good

Brian D. McLaren says, “We should use our gifts for the common good…” 

  •  Our gifts live within us all

Our gifts are manifested in our humanity naturally through relational integration.  Our gifts live within us all.  We have gifts of love, gifts of grace, gifts of humility, gifts of authenticity, gifts of listening, gifts of compassion, gifts of presence, gifts of honesty, gifts of vulnerability, gifts of empathy, gifts of friendship, gifts of reconciliation, gifts of forgiveness, gifts of nonviolence, gifts of sensuousness, gifts of celebration, gifts of joy, gifts of seeing beauty, gifts of kindness, gifts of gentleness, gifts of peace, gifts of patience, gifts of learning from others and gifts of passion.

  •  Relational engagement with others in everyday life

Gifts don’t necessarily have to do with skills that we do; but are more about the things we manifest within us through relational engagement with others in everyday life.  We have a multitude of gifts living within us all; but they cannot develop without an integration of taking ownership, investing and responsibility in a place.  These gifts are place-based and flourish within the parish imagination for the common good.

What gifts do you have that sometimes go ignored?

10 Ways the Parish Imagination Will Lead You

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I love the idea of the parish as being a place where you live and become connected in everyday life in community with others.  This has been so healing for me as I have now lived in the place I am at for almost eleven years now.  Time has gone by fast and I am getting older, but this experience for me over the last decade has shaped me tremendously.

I no longer go to church because the parish to me is not a building or a meeting, but a place I am becoming faithfully present to.  The parish is the neighborhood that is becoming a part of my salvation, my identity, my history, my true self, my vocation, my passion, my hope.  A lot of times I feel like a marginalized exile, but I am coming to terms with losing all expectations of where my life will take me.  I am trying not to fear and just live into the authenticity I know right now.

After more than a decade of exploring this new paradigm of what I think the church is, I am becoming more free, creative and alive.  I am discovering my true self that is beautiful, authentic and beloved by God.  Vulnerability is not so frightening.  Fear is not so overwhelming.

Jesus is teaching me to love.  I am leaning to be less like a Pharisee and more compassionate.  I am learning that all that matters is love in everyday life with others in community.  This is what my imagination is drawn to.  This is my hope and dream for the world I live in.

Here are 10 ways the parish imagination has led me and can lead you too:

1. To love our neighbors together in everyday life

The parish imagination has been ignored for too long.  We need the parish imagination if we want any kind of legitimacy before our neighbors in our changing culture.  We need the parish imagination to love our neighbors in everyday life together.

Wendell Berry states, “…you must reach for a reality that is inaccessible merely to observation or perception but that also requires imagination, for imagination knows more than the eye sees…” 

2. To create an embodied expression

The parish imagination may seem like an impossibility, but if we lived more in tune with our imaginations God could do ordinary miracles among us.  We need to reach for the parish imagination at all times.  We are not the body of Christ together without an embodied expression of the parish imagination in the place we inhabit.

3. To follow the leading of the Holy Spirit of love, compassion and humility

The parish imagination is where the Holy Spirit is leading us.  The Holy Spirit is teaching us the importance of the parish imagination in the place we inhabit.  The parish imagination can embody things that we have never experienced before.  We can be faithfully present to the parish imagination in our everyday lives together in beautiful ways.

4. To become creative and innovative

God has created us with powerful imaginations that are extremely creative and innovative if we practice cultivating them.  God has not abandoned our imaginations, but resides within them.  God manifests love to the world through the parish imagination in the place we inhabit.

Richard J. Foster writes, “God created us with an imagination…” 

We are created with a parish imagination to be the body of Christ together in everyday life.  The parish imagination is intertwined with the local community we find ourselves in.  The parish imagination calls out to us in everyday life.

5. To embrace beauty

The parish imagination is beautiful.  The parish imagination is rooted in our ways of life together.  A holistic counterculture is absent when we are not passionate about the parish imagination.

6. To listen deeply

The parish imagination teaches us to listen deeply.  The parish imagination teaches us to give up our colonial ways and care for our neighbors.  The parish imagination inspires us to be human.  The parish imagination embraces us as the body of Christ in our local community as we share life together.

7. To embrace something deeper than words

The parish imagination is a powerful voice in the world.  It says more about the gospel than any words ever could.  The parish imagination speaks to our creativity and potential in all kinds of ways.  The parish imagination lives within us, we just don’t understand this yet.

The parish imagination cannot be oppressed by institutional Christianity anymore.  The parish imagination is tired of being ignored and not valued.  The parish imagination wants to have the freedom to celebrate and dance in us as the body of Christ in the place we inhabit.

Dorothy Day says, “The imagination is part of our lives – part of reality…” 

8. To welcome authenticity

The parish imagination is authentic.  The parish imagination lives within us.  The parish imagination is about embodying the life of Christ in the place we inhabit together.

9. To live in freedom

We cannot truly be alive without the parish imagination.  We cannot see without the parish imagination.  We cannot live in freedom without the parish imagination.

10. To become the hands and feet of Christ

Our spirituality will become anything but authentic without the parish imagination.  The parish imagination is where we become the hands and feet of Christ in our local context.  The parish imagination is where we find true peace and beauty.

Have you taken the risk to embrace the parish imagination within yourself?

5 Ways We Can Live More Authentically


I have been thinking a lot about authenticity lately.  This is a word that has a lot of mystery to it.  The embodiment of authenticity is something I haven’t seen much of in the North American context.  Here are 5 ways I think we could move toward authenticity a little more in everyday life together:

1. We can become rooted in a local community for decades.  Rooting in the parish is essential.  Without this, there is no context to be the church Monday through Saturday in everyday life together.  Authenticity is embodied relationally and locally.

Community will be abstract if there is no commitment to place.  It will become an affinity group of homogenous people who all think alike.  When we root in a place, we become neighbors with all kinds of people crossing gender, class, religion, age and race barriers.

2. We can learn to listen to others, God and our own lives.  Listening is one of the most authentic things we can do.  Listening promotes love and the valuing of others.  It creates a pathway for a new way to experience our humanity in all kinds of ways.

Listening makes us vulnerable.  Listening makes us powerless.  Listening puts us in a posture of humility.  Listening is always about radical honesty with one another.

3. We can become neighbors.  We need to live in proximity to one another.  When there is no proximity between us, there is no neighborliness because we will not be neighbors in everyday life.  We accept living in different neighborhoods too easily.

When will we embrace the same neighborhood for the common good together.  There is no more authentic way to be the church together in everyday life.  We can only be an expression of love locally in a neighborhood that we live in.  We need to remember this!

4. We can participate in the mystery of God by seeing the sacredness of all of life.  Our lives are steeped in dualities of the sacred/secular.  This is destroying our spirituality.  We desperately need to recover and heal from this!

Recovering the need to see all of life as sacred is essential to our sanity.  We need to practice an embodiment of experiencing the sacredness of all of life through a deep contemplative spirituality.  There are no secular dimensions within us or our world if we could only see.

5. We can collaborate with others in the place we live.  Collaboration has been undervalued.  To develop any sense of community there needs to be a posture of collaboration among us in the place we live.  Without this all we have is division, colonialism and competition in the name of God.

This is ridiculous and we need to reimagine how we can collaborate more in everyday life together for the common good of our neighbors.  This is authentic and caring.  We need a faithful presence of collaboration, social capital, neighborliness and compassion among us.  This is how we can authentically seek God together as the body of Christ in the twenty-first century.

What does authenticity mean to you?

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!

Being the Church In and For Our Local Community


It seems that whenever I am having a bad day, I always try to return to a sense of deep listening while keeping my own responsibility of faithful presence within me. This keeps me in touch with my own love, grace and humility in everyday life. It keeps me from becoming frustrated and treating others with disrespect. I seem to need this to live my life in an intentional way that is good for the world around me.

  •  Deep listening in the parish

Stewarding our presence is about a deep listening in the parish. Deep listening could shape us tremendously. The Spirit is calling us to listen again and again in everyday life together. Our everyday lives should be characteristic of listening. Listening becomes like a sacrament of new wine being poured into new wineskins that Jesus taught about.

  •  Join with what the Spirit is doing in our communities

“This might sound counterintuitive, but it is important to realize that by listening carefully we may be able to discern where we can join with what the Spirit is doing in our communities,” says Alan J. Roxburgh. “This practice of joining with the Spirit… will give us the capacities to discover fresh ways of being the church in and for our communities…” 

  •  Leading us to an awareness

The Spirit is leading us to an awareness of Christ’s ongoing work in the parish. Stewarding our presence together helps us to discern and partner with what is going on in the place we inhabit. If we listen, we will slowly start to see relational revelations in everyday life happening often all around us in the place we live.

  •  Becoming the church in and for our local community

We become the church in and for our local community as we listen, as we steward our presence. We become listeners together through the parish imagination. The parish imagination joins in with what the Spirit is doing in the place we inhabit together.

  •  Taking the risk of interdependence

“Becoming incarnate will mean the same for us as it did Christ. We will have to experience being small and defenseless, requiring nurture from our host world just as Christ needed Mary’s milk. We cannot and must not remain rootless people or rootless churches. Christ needed water from the earth, food from the ground, education from his elders; yet we too often experience church as an organization that has absolutely no need for its surrounding community or area,” writes Kester Brewin. “It is too often an appendage, something slightly apart and independent, not needing the neighboring culture in order to survive. To admit our need as a church, our dependence on our host culture, is a risk. Yet like Christ we must take this risk of interdependence, this risk of being born, this risk of life.” 

What comes to mind when you hear the words faithful presence?


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

How to Reimagine Our Success Around Local Community


As I have grown up in a culture that places a high emphasis on being successful, I have struggled with this word over the course of my life.  I do not really want to be successful it seems.  Making a bunch of money, buying nice things for myself, having a lot of approval from others and conforming to family or cultural expectations does not interest me much.  I have been told that I need to grow up and work to become more successful.

  • Not much encouragement to care for the place we live 

Where is the mention in our notions of success of others and how our life contributes to the development and good of the local community we live in.  It seems that care for others has died in our individualistic culture.  It seems that there is not much encouragement to care for the place that we live.  My identity wants to be shaped by a different kind of success, one that values place and others.

  • Free to care and love 

I want to be free to care.  I want to be fee to love the place that I live.  I want to be free to be my authentic self in all that I do.  I want to be fee to create my identity around different kinds of values that bring happiness and peace within.

  •  Celebrating the success of the individual apart from the community

My friend Mark Scandrette, the Executive Director of Reimagine, a center for spiritual formation in San Francisco’s Mission District neighborhood, claims that “our interconnectedness should seem obvious – except for the fact that many of us have been groomed by a society that celebrates the success of the individual apart from the community.”

  •  A more relational way of life together within a particular place

We need more prophets of local, relational living within the body of Christ who will inspire our imaginations toward a more relational way of life together within a particular place.  The ways of individualism need to be subverted.  The ways of interdependence need to be liberated and celebrated in our day and age. The mental illness of this disease of individualism is corroding our humanity into something that is ugly and mutilated.

  •  Things that do not promote togetherness

It is not natural or right to dismember the body of Christ this way.  The local church should be the most interdependent, caring fabric of relationships around.  We have frightfully let our days fill up with things that do not promote togetherness.

  •  Fostering life, reconciliation and hope

We do not relate to each other on a daily basis in ways that foster life, reconciliation and hope.  How long will we live this way and destroy our relational imaginations of generosity, compassion, care, and hospitality toward one another?  If we could get back to interdependence with one another in life, we would live more wholly.

How can we question success and reimagine this word to be something different than what we have been taught?