Culture of Imagination

connecting spirituality to everyday life

Tag: neighborhood

Finding the Love that Lives Within Us – Excerpt from my book – The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together

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  • To love in a place will liberate us all

This communal imagination to love in a place will liberate us all to become more human.  This has been my own experience.  I understand my own humanity better because of the embodied, relational, communal imagination that I am a part of in my neighborhood.

  •  If I do not have love living within me I have nothing

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging symbol.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.  But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away …

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love…”  (1 Corinthians 13:1-8,13).

  •  Love is the story we are to enter into

I love this passage of Scripture because it is the major theme of all of the New Testament.  Love is the story that we are to enter into.  It is everything.

  •  Becoming an expression of 1 Corinthians 13

We are to inhabit our local context as the body of Christ living into this posture toward all of life.  This is what will shape us relationally.  I want to become an expression of 1 Corinthians 13 together with my friends in our neighborhood.

  •  When we lose sight of the central element of love

Thomas Merton states, “When we lose sight of the central element in Christian holiness, which is love, and we forget that the way to fulfill the Christian commandment to love is not something remote and esoteric, but is on the contrary something immediately before us, then the Christian life becomes complicated and very confusing.  It loses the simplicity and the unity which Christ gave it in his gospel, and it becomes a labyrinth of unrelated precepts, counsels, ascetic principles, moral cases, and even of legal and ritual technicalities.  These things become difficult to understand in proportion as they lose their connection with charity which unites them all and gives them all an orientation to Christ.”

  • Without love everything we do amounts to nothing

Such things as tongues, prophesy, knowledge, giving my body to die in the flames, a faith that can move mountains, giving to the poor, and fathoming mysteries all amount to little without love.  I would say that without love everything we do amounts to nothing.

  •  Love is essential for the social capital of our neighborhood

Boasting and pride are not a part of love.  Being rude and self-seeking is not a part of love.  Anger and bitterness is not a part of love.  These things are unhealthy for the social capital of our neighborhood.

  •  Love is hospitable

Love is hospitable to patience and kindness.  Love is hospitable to celebration and protection.  Love is hospitable to trust and hope in others.  Love is hospitable toward the strength of perseverance.

  •  Love is the greatest quality

Faith and hope always stem from love.  And love is the greatest quality of our faith as the body of Christ together in the parish.

How can we find the love that lives within us and embody this love into the world?

What is Neighborhood Night Out?

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Yesterday we had a great block party in our neighborhood that was so much fun!  It brought so many people out who live in houses, apartments, cars and even outside.  There weren’t too many cool hipsters at this party.  It was mostly for the poor, those with low income housing or no housing at all.

  • Neighborhood night out

We called it our neighborhood night out.  It was put on by the Tacoma Catholic Worker where we have eight houses within one block.  The block most of the houses are on is called G Street.  We blocked off a section of it from 14th to 15th Street right between some of the houses.

  • Painting a giant mural of a sunflower on the street

Lots of families showed up with small children or elementary age kids.  One of the things most the children were excited about was painting a giant mural on one of the intersections of G Street.  The mural was of a giant sunflower!  It was so much fun to see how the children were so engaged in the painting even after a lot of the adults got tired and took a break.

  • Serving around 200 plates of food

There was a lot of joy and laughter on the faces of the children as they painted and played in the street.  We also had a crafts table, bubbles, chalk art, badmitten and lots of free food.  We served around 200 plates of hotdogs, hamburgers, chips, watermelon, pasta, salads, beans and desserts.  I had the honor of serving food which the line took almost an hour to get through.

  • Reflecting on one another, God and our neighborhood

In honor of our Tuesday night liturgy, we took the first half hour for a space to reflect on one another, God and our neighborhood.  The theme of the liturgy was on loving God with all of your heart, soul, mind, strength and loving your neighbor as yourself.  This was great as the sharing was done in the street by the sidewalk in front of some of the houses.  We sat on the nearby grass or brought out chairs to sit on as we listened and pondered on our life in the neighborhood.

  • Block party not just for white people

The block party was not just white people, but folks of many different races were enjoying the evening with us.  This wasn’t just a party for those labeled “cool” in their 20’s and 30’s.  No, this party was inclusive toward those older in their 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and above.  This was a party for families and younger kids also.

  • Creating an environment of hospitality and welcome

The painting of the mural on the street was so amazing!  It was fun to see new and old faces.  We ended up meeting neighbors down the street who we hadn’t seen much of before.  We hoped to create an environment of hospitality and welcome in our neighborhood.  I think we accomplished this and had fun doing it!

What do you think of a neighborhood night out block party?

Book Review – How To Be A Christian Without Going To Church: The Unofficial Guide To Alternative Forms of Christian Community by Kelly Bean

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This is a fantastic book by Kelly Bean!  She helps us to reimagine what an embodied Christianity can look like in the twenty-first century.  Local community outside of the structures of what we know as the institutional church is a big emphasis of hers.  I find this to be compelling and inspiring.

Kelly takes us through a paradigm shift from going to church to being church in the particular place we live.  I love how she has a strong emphasis on the idea of parish and neighborhood.  She draws out how we need to be asking new questions together about authenticity.  Uncertainty, relational community, sustainability, hospitality, intentionality, self-awareness, presence and listening will all be a part of our journey in this way of being.  I strongly agree and am delighted that Kelly Bean has written such a wonderful book at such an important time in our history.

  • Local and sustainable ways of life

“People have an increased awareness of the need to live in ways that are local and sustainable.”

  • New questions become important

“…we were not made to go it alone, and the body of Christ cannot be the body of Christ if we give up on each other.  But what happens when the structures, institutions, and forms that exist now – even innovative new forms – are no longer working for a growing number of people?  New questions become important…”

  • Authentic relational community

“These non-goers are likely to look for faith expressions that support integration of ordinary life, authentic relational community, hands-on engagement, and smaller, more sustainable forms of community.”

  • Lived communal examples

“More than ever, the world needs to see lived communal examples of what it means to be Christian…”

  • There will be uncertainty

“It comforts me to remember this: when the first Jesus followers threw down their nets, they had no idea what they were getting into.  When the Protestant Reformers parted ways with the Roman Catholic Church, they didn’t have new forms in place to replace the structures that had shaped their way of life.  When Francis of Assisi flung his father’s fortune in the street and set out to form a new community of faith, he had no idea what would be born.  Charting a new course does mean there will be uncertainty.”

  • The peace of Christ is with us

“No matter what our circumstances are or what craziness is going on in the world, we can remind each other that Christ is present – the peace of Christ is with us.  We are not alone.  A simple kindness, eye contact, and human touch bring a blessing wherever we are…”

  • Examine the call toward hospitality together

“When we, the community of Christ, examine the scriptural call toward hospitality together and then we work together, we can stretch our imaginations and our comfort zones.  It is important to keep in mind that sometimes we need to first be hospitable to ourselves, close that open door, and focus inward for a season.  When it is time to open the door, when we welcome the wayfarer, the immigrant, the homeless, the displaced, the lonely, the single parent, we incarnate the welcome of Jesus and we ourselves are transformed.”

  • Relational expressions of community

“Relational expressions of community can be healing and life-giving to us and to others…”

  • With intention and with action

“With intention and with action, and even without the structure of the church, we can indeed bring blessings to the world and extend transformative hospitality to others.  When we take the initiative to be present to people, to share our gifts, and to always keep learning from others, we extend the light of kindness and the Good News of Christ right where we are to whoever we are with.”

  • Being transformed by others who live differently

“There are many ways that, together, we can build bridges.  Being open to being transformed by others who live differently than we do not only helps change us but helps to connect and change the world.”

  • Working through our pain

“…working through our pain and choosing to gain new tools for dealing with conflict and engaging in communication brings benefit to not only ourselves but to all our relationships…”

  • Real-life experience

“…real spiritual formation comes from real-life experience…”

  • Called to be Christ to people where we live

“As Christ was God incarnate – fully God and fully human – someone we could see and feel, so we are called to be Christ to people, incarnating and redeeming the places where we live and work, for the good of all…”

  • Getting in touch with our own pain and becoming aware of our own brokenness

“Getting in touch with our own pain and becoming aware of our own brokenness is not an easy path, but it’s one that leads to our own transformation as well as the possibility of forming authentic relationships.  No matter how many good intentions we have, if we are not becoming more self-aware and taking active measures to continue toward growth and healing, our work and our relationships can only go so far and may end up causing more harm than good over time…”

  • Starting with our own neighborhood

“…if we can learn to walk with others, in ordinary ways and places, we help bring grace and healing to our neighborhoods and cities – to the whole of society right where we are.  I would add that in the process we receive grace and are healed as well.  The fact is that we need to start with our own neighborhood, our own zip code, to work toward making a better society and world.”

  • Stop to listen and learn from our neighbors

“When we stop to listen and learn from our neighbors and neighborhood, the need of the neighborhood itself can inform our action…”

  • Engage in local solutions and connection for the good of the world

“Christ, who made himself local and rooted himself in a particular place at a particular time in history, invites us to engage in local solutions and connection for the good of the world.”

  • Become communities that bear light together

“May we all keep growing, continue learning, and become communities that bear light together, even in our brokenness…”

  • Wounded by the church

“If you were wounded by the church and you’ve left in pain or discouragement, please, seek healing and don’t allow that place of pain to settle in and take hold of you.  Grieve, and when you are ready, move forward with the awareness that there is goodness to pursue.  For those of you who have been lonely or uncertain, be encouraged that you are not the only one in this place of change.  There is a place for you – make a way for others or seek out kindred souls for the way forward.”

How do you feel about the idea of being a Christian without going to church?  What positive or negative impressions does this bring up in you?  Does it bring you hope or fear?

Why Do We Get Caught Up Trying to Change the World?


Today I want to be faithfully present to what is right in front of me.  I am done with trying to change the world.  Losing myself to a way of relational love, doing the small things that are simple, letting go of control, this is where I am being shaped within.  These things have been difficult because sometimes I am left misunderstood, unacknowledged and frustrated.

But I am coming to understand that there is power in community, there is power in small acts of love, there is power in humility, there is power in vulnerability.  I am afraid to give my life to these things sometimes.  After many years of struggling to be myself, I am learning to have serenity, compassion, grace and gratitude.  I am learning to be my true self.

As I breathe today the common air we all share, I want to live face-to-face with real life people in real life contexts in the place I live.  This neighborhood where I have rooted my life this past decade has become a place of practice of love, grace and humility.  I have the opportunity to love someone today who I may see tomorrow, next week, a month from now.  My compassion to listen will keep me from harming the world I live in.

These are the things I want to focus on today as I have a good 24 hours to live into who I am in the present moment.  These 168 hours that have been given to me this week will be hours of learning to love.  I am drawn out of my pride and into vulnerability.  I am drawn out of my confusion and into compassion.

This world will not discourage me, even though I cannot change it.  I will let it be and just love it.  I will love others and find some power in that.

  •  Stop trying to change or fix others

We need to stop trying to change or fix others.  This is the call of being present to others out of love for them.  Presence has an attentiveness to it.  We need to be present to one another as friends who care deeply and love.  We will have to let go of some control.

  •  Getting down to what is right in front of us

We will have to let go of the cliché that we can “change the world.”  This vision is too big, too abstract.  Let’s get down to what is right in front of us: real people in real life contexts who live in our neighborhood.  These are the people we are called to love and become faithfully present to relationally.

  •  Faithful presence is slow, organic, face-to-face

Faithful presence takes time.  It is slow.  It is organic.  It is not a project or program.  It is real face-to-face relationship in the context of everyday life together.  This is such a challenge and this relational presence will test our faith as the body of Christ.

How can we stop trying to change the world and become faithfully present to what is right in front of us?

Discovering What God is Doing in the World


I have always wanted to be a part of a community where I can share life with others.  But I have not always had the awareness of the importance of place to create a context for this to happen.  So much of my life has been a search for authenticity within myself disconnected from place and others.  This is noble to some extent, but I do need shared life to live into the way of Jesus.

Insecurity and anxiety have arisen within me at times as I have stepped into a commitment to place where I have become rooted and linked to others.  There will be struggles I must face my whole life as I seek to know and be known by others.  But I am discovering that there is a hidden communal imagination within me that is leading me to love, grace and humility which is who I am in my true self.

  • Reconnecting to place

Each person’s journey back into place will be different.  But we need to get reconnected with a place, a local context to inhabit as the body of Christ in our day.

  •  Moving back into the neighborhood

As Alan J. Roxburgh says, “We discover what God is doing in the world and what it means to be the church as we move back into the neighborhood.  This is both a simple and radical proposal.  It’s radical because for many of us there is little connection between where we live… and what it means to be a Christian.  That’s the tragic state of Christian life in North America…  A radical way we can re-form Christian life in our time is by the simple decision to reconnect with our neighborhoods, by asking what God is doing there.”

  • Being ready to listen

The neighborhood has an unceasing number of relational revelations to teach us if we are ready to listen.  God has been working and manifesting himself in particular places for centuries.  That is where relational, holistic ways of living take place.

  • Large enough to live life together, but not so big there is a relational disconnection

Some people want to care for a large city or region — perhaps even a country — but when it comes to relationships of care, these are all too big.  The neighborhood is large enough to live life together, but not so big that there is a relational disconnection due to an overwhelming number of people and places.

  • When life becomes fragmented

Tim Dickau in his fascinating book Plunging Into The Kingdom Way gets after this problem: “If you work in one place, shop in another, play in a third and ‘go to church’ (which is bad theology to begin with) in a fourth, life becomes more fragmented.  When you are part of a community that inhabits a neighborhood with a vision to be involved in its transformation, life itself becomes more integrated and whole.  Our communities become kinder, and we begin to consider each other’s welfare as we make economic, social, and political decisions.”

How can we explore becoming connected to place again?

Learning Wisdom Through the Writings of Wendell Berry


  • The need for better communities

“If we are to hope to correct our abuses of each other and of other races and of our land, and if our effort to correct these abuses is to be more than a political fad that will in the long run be only another form of abuse, then we are going to have to go far beyond public protest and political action.  We are going to have to rebuild the substance and integrity of private life in this country.  We are going to have to gather up the fragments of knowledge and responsibility that we have parceled out to the bureaus and the corporations and the specialists, and put those fragments back together in our own minds and in our families and households and neighborhoods.  We need better government, no doubt about it.  But we also need better minds, better friendships, better marriages, better communities.  We need persons and households that do not have to wait upon organizations, but can make necessary changes in themselves, on their own.”  A Continuous Harmony: Essays Cultural and Agricultural

  • How can a society live when its communities die?

“…for I cannot see how a nation, a society, or a civilization can live while its communities die.”  Another Turn of the Crank

  • The truth of the imagination to prove itself in every life and place in the world

“One of the most profound of human needs is for the truth of the imagination to prove itself in every life and place in the world, and for the truth of the world’s lives and places to be proved in imagination.”  Home Economics

  • Cultivate the possibility of peace and harmlessness

“If one disagrees with the nomadism and violence in our society, then one is under an obligation to take up some permanent dwelling place and cultivate the possibility of peace and harmlessness in it.  If one deplores the destructiveness and wastefulness of the economy, then one is under an obligation to live as far out on the margin of the economy as one is able: to be economically independent of exploitive industries, to learn to need less, to waste less, to make things last, to give up meaningless luxuries, to understand and resist the language of the salesmen and public relations experts, to see through attractive packages, to refuse to purchase fashion or glamour or prestige…”  The Long-Legged House

  • The destruction of local economies, neighborhood, and community

“The mess that surrounds us, then, must be understood not just as a problem in itself but as a symptom of a greater and graver problem: the centralization of our economy, the gathering of the productive property and power into fewer and fewer hands, and the consequent destruction, everywhere, of the local economies of household, neighborhood, and community.”  What Are People For?

How can we care for our local economies, neighborhood, and community?

Faithful Presence in the Parish


What if we saw the church not as a building or a gathering we go to, but as a network of relationships in the particular place that we live?  What if we saw the parish as the neighborhood we live in, the context where we practice being the body of Christ together in everyday life?  What if we became faithfully present to the parish we live in?  Then our spirituality would be about living in the neighborhood with people and learning to love.

  • Living in proximity

Our spirituality would be about living in proximity in the parish.  There would be no more reliance on driving our cars to church and going home to leave the local community behind.  The local community would become home, worship and work space in everyday life.  We would become the body of Christ to the world through the local place we live.

  • Becoming faithfully present

It wouldn’t matter so much where you attended a gathering, as to living in the neighborhood where the gathering is, becoming faithfully present and learning to find some collaboration with other people who have redemptive hopes for that place.  This would change everything because it would take the focus off of the highly reliant theology of the mind and embed our theology into a more balanced practice-based embodiment of everyday life together in the parish.  This paradigm shift would help us to live incarnate instead of excarnate lives where love is all that matters in the place we live.

  • Becoming the most rooted people in our community

Michael Frost states in his new book Incarnate: The Body of Christ in an Age of Disengagement, “I believe Christians should be the most rooted people in their community; their loyalty and devotion to a particular geographic area and everyone who lives there should be legendary…”

  • Living out a way of life together

This would help us to not to be so individualistic, independent and competitive.  Things would not be about growing a gathering, but about caring for a local community, living out a way of life together, loving the world in the context where we live.  Interdependence, love, compassion, solidarity, humility, grace, simplicity, collaboration and relational living are what we are all called to practice together in everyday life.

  • The medium of discipleship – a practice of love

A Christianity without a practice of love is meaningless and destructive.  A Christianity where we are not rooted and committed to the parish together is an illusion because there will be no place to practice being the body of Christ together in everyday life.  There will be no mission, community or formation together.  The parish is the medium of discipleship that shapes us to become people of love in the world together as the body of Christ in everyday life.

  • The unifying paradigm of parish

As Kathy Escobar so wonderfully says in her book Down We Go, “…humans have a natural propensity toward homogeneity and structures that keep us safely contained with other people most like us…  We tend to stick with other people who look like us, think like us, act like us and believe like us.  It makes life much easier…”  The parish blows all of this apart.

How can we find some unity together through becoming faithfully present to the parish?

This post is a part of the April 2014 synchroblog where Kathy Escobar has asked fellow bloggers to contribute to the conversation of what will bring healing and unity to the divisions in the body of Christ.

The Things I Have Learned Through Ten Years of Rootedness


It has been ten years since I moved into the neighborhood of Downtown Tacoma to become a part of its life.  I remember back in 2004 when I left my life in Kent, packing up my apartment and leaving a life of individualism behind me.  Over the course of a decade in the parish where I live now I have learned many things about life that I would have no understanding of otherwise.

  • Challenged to live authentically and relationally

It was kind of a risk to leave a lot of what I thought I knew and allow my spirituality to be shaped within me through the relationships of this new place.  I thought I understood how to love, connect, listen and show compassion.  But this place has challenged me to live authentically, relationally and not hide from who I am.

  • The questions that haunt me

I started to question a lot of things within me such as: “Maybe I don’t have all the answers.  Maybe I don’t understand how to love.  Maybe I am afraid of being known by others.  Maybe my human experience is not authentic.”

  • Learning to face my fears

I had to learn to face my fears, to allow others in my life, to listen to others of a different perception than my own, to face poverty and practice hospitality.  This has scared me.  This has shaped me tremendously.  This has shown me ways to do something different.

  • The illusion of independence, the life of interdependence

Giving up a life of comfort and ease has not been easy for me.  Sometimes I want my life of individualism back.  I want to go back to the matrix where I can do anything I want and live in the illusion of independence where I do not see the consequences of my actions.  But I am finding that the life of interdependence is much more what I was meant to live.

  • Seeing all of life as sacred

Sometimes I can feel absent and yet remain faithful to being present.  It is all so ordinary and hard to explain how a decade of my life in this place has helped me to see everything as sacred.  I am being freed of the traps of my own dualities and liberated to see all of life as sacred.  This place has caused me to focus on what I love, what I am for, what is authentic, what is beautiful instead of just falling into despair.

  • God is revealed through the ordinary things of life

Eating together, doing common work, learning together, practicing hospitality, walking the streets, spending time in public spaces, engaging in ordinary conversations, laughing, dreaming, listening, storytelling, showing love and compassion all have revealed more of God to me through the ordinary things of life.  I have learned to be grateful cultivating a way of life in which gratitude lives in me, guiding me when I am tempted to live in my depression and idealism.  Happiness instead of sadness is living more within me because of my relationship to this place, this community, this way of life.

How has being rooted in the place you live shaped you?

Caring for a Particular Place


I am slowly coming to see that my individual life has limitations so I need to become a part of a collaboration of relationships in a particular place so I can bring a sense of love into the world.  I cannot do this by myself.  The place I live is the context to create a new imagination for the world in the present moment of shared life with others.

•  Creating a sustainable culture

The parish imagination creates a sustainable culture, a livable environment, a holistic counterculture among us.  Christ is revealed to the world through the parish imagination.

•  An incarnational understanding of the church

Robert E. Webber says in his book Ancient-Future Faith, “The church is therefore to be regarded as a kind of continuation of the presence of Jesus in the world.  Jesus… is visibly and tangibly present in and to the world through the church.  This is an incarnational understanding of the church.  It is a unique community of people in the world, a community like no other community because it is the presence of the divine in and to the world.  This conception of the church has specific relevance to the world of postmodernism.”

•  Our lives together in everyday life

Our lives together in the parish, is “a kind of continuation of the presence of Jesus
in the world.”  Christ is always present to our world, but others need help to sense this presence through our lives together in everyday life.  The body of Christ is the physical presence of Christ to our watching world in the parish.

•  Becoming the hands and feet of Christ to the world

When we share life together through the parish imagination, we demonstrate Christ’s love to the place we inhabit together.  We become the hands and feet of Christ in and to the world through the parish.  We can only live in the world through place.  We can only be incarnational in and to the world through place.

•  A local culture of relational care

When a local culture of relational care is absent from a place, the result will be exploitation and destruction in the long run.  When there is no local culture in the parish, nobody seems to care for it.  Nobody will stand up for it.  Nobody will protect it from exploitation.

•  Caring for and protecting a place from exploitation

Wendell Berry says in his book What Are People For?, “Lacking an authentic local culture, a place is open to exploitation, and ultimately destruction, from the center…”  If we are not serious about an “authentic local culture,” we cannot be the body of Christ together.  It is the call of the body of Christ to inhabit a place, to care for its place, to protect its place from exploitation and colonialism.

How can we create a local culture of relational care together?