Culture of Imagination

connecting spirituality to everyday life

Tag: ordinary

Being Guided by the Ordinary – Excerpt from my book – The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together – Offered for FREE this week on Kindle!

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  •  Relational, slow, steady

As I have lived in my neighborhood for ten years now, I have seen God work in the ordinary.  It is relational.  It is slow.  It is steady.

  •  Not religious, not what we define as “spiritual,” not a ministry

It is beautiful.  It is not religious.  It is not what we define as “spiritual.”  It is not a ministry.

  •  Not a program, not a project

It is not a program.  It is not a project.  It is hard to communicate.

  •  Life together in the ordinary

But, this is what the body of Christ is called to: life together in the ordinary particulars of a neighborhood.  The body of Christ is called to seek God within the ordinary relationships of a place.  This is how we can live in communion with our Creator, with one another, and with the created world around us.

  •  The ordinary will guide us

The ordinary will open up our lives to be the body of Christ together in everyday life.  The ordinary will heal, nurture, and care for the body in beautiful ways.  The ordinary will be our prophetic witness.  The ordinary will guide us.

  •  The ordinary will teach us to love and show compassion

The ordinary will teach us to love and show compassion.  The ordinary will invite “the real.”  The ordinary will speak to us.  The ordinary will not be manipulated.

  •  The ordinary holds wisdom

The ordinary holds wisdom.  The ordinary is for the body of Christ what blood is to a human body: Blood fills our human bodies the way the ordinary is to fill the body of Christ.  The Holy Spirit is intertwined with the ordinary.  If we disregard the ordinary we disregard the church.

  •  Disillusionment and deconstruction

I am hesitant to tell my story because it is one of disillusionment and deconstruction.  Those terms are not always easy to absorb.  But, I am going to tell it anyway, the best I can.  I have always felt a strong disconnection in my experience with the church.

  •  What would people think?

I have tried and tried but it just seems strange and irrelevant to me, for many of the reasons I have already talked about.  I remember when our church first moved to the neighborhood of Downtown Tacoma to try to live out our faith together.  I was scared and timid.  I didn’t know anyone there.  What would people think?

  •  Moving into the Downtown Tacoma in the spring of 2004

What would my parents say about me dropping individual opportunities for “success?”  But, I wanted to do something that would be both counter-cultural and sustain me as a follower of Christ.  So when I moved into Downtown Tacoma in the spring of 2004 it was a risk I took that very few really understood. Our parish was not a very popular place to live.

  •  God gave me an imagination for the place

It had lots of abandoned buildings and empty streets.  The nights and the weekends were pretty dead and not too many people liked to hang out there. The built environment needed work and there was a lot of poverty.  But I believe God gave me an imagination for the place.

  •  Questioning myself

I remember walking the streets and questioning myself many times about my decision to move there.  One day I woke up with tears in my eyes.  I couldn’t understand why I was so emotional.  Looking back I think I was just weary and lonely.

  •  The body of Christ was hard to find in everyday life

But, as I began to settle there, God planted hopeful possibilities in my imagination.  I began asking, “What could this place become?”  There were many church buildings and Sunday meeting spaces in Downtown Tacoma, but the body of Christ was hard to find in everyday life.  I had to slowly work through my fears, insecurities, loneliness, and pain.

  •  Learning and listening to the ordinary has not been easy

I wanted to share life with others in Downtown Tacoma, but it was more difficult than I had thought.  My journey into the ordinary of this place has started to lead me through my pain and disconnection toward love and compassion.  Learning and listening to the ordinary has not been easy.

  •  All the stories remain unfinished

I experience a lot of loneliness and pain still, but my imagination is alive and growing and cannot be captivated.  Downtown Tacoma is an open book waiting to be written still today.  All the stories remain unfinished.  The ordinary of this neighborhood is becoming a part of my redemption, salvation and discipleship.

How can we learn to listen to the ordinary moments of life?  What have you discovered about God through the ordinary?

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?

Being Responsible Only for the One Action of the Present Moment

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I was taught by my upbringing that it is the big things that will supposedly change the world.  I was raised in a family were we went to a big Catholic church every week where God seemed to be too big to be sought.  The priests were impersonal and distant to me.  I believed that God was far removed from my small world in the particular place I lived, but I am coming to understand that it is in the small acts of love where God is moving and working within me in everyday life.

  •  Love is sometimes perceived as too small and ordinary  

Loving others is all about what the world perceives as too small and too ordinary for it to possibly be of God.  Love is not “spiritual” enough for us.  Love is not considered “religious” enough for us.  Love does not fit into our programs and services.

  •  Love cannot be boxed up or figured out

Love cannot be controlled because it is everywhere.  Love cannot be boxed up into propositional statements.  Love cannot be figured out.

  •  Love is relational, mysterious, subversive, countercultural, miraculous

Love is relational.  Love is mysterious.  Love is subversive.  Love is countercultural.  Love is miraculous.

  •  Paying attention to the small, hard to see things

We are to pay attention to the small, hard-to-see things of life in the parish.  “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him…” (I John 4:16).  The communal imagination needs eyes for the small.  It is through the small that we live our lives.  Christ always manifests himself to us through the small.

  • Being responsible only for the one action of the present moment

Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, says in her book Loaves and Fishes, “Young people say, What good can one person do?  What is the sense of our small effort?  They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time; we can be responsible only for the one action of the present moment.  But we can beg for an increase of love in our hearts that will vitalize and transform all our individual actions, and know that God will take them and multiply them, as Jesus did the loaves and fishes.

  •  Doing the small things that bring relational care

Our love could be multiplied again and again as we do the small things that build relational care in the parish.  Are we on a path that will give our lives to explore the small things of love?  Jesus is waiting for us in the small particulars of life.

  •  Collaboration and partnership around the small things

He is wanting some collaboration and partnership around the small things where he lives and dwells.  “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love…” (1 John 4:7).

How can we become an expression of love by paying attention to the small things in everyday life together?

The Ordinary is Profound

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The other day I got out of bed to face another day.  I thought to myself, “Will this be a day of gratitude or despair?  Will this be a day of looking for opportunities to love in the ordinary experiences of life or will I become indifferent and apathetic?”

  • The profound revelation of the ordinary

This tension within me is causing myself to see the ordinary as profound and important as I live out my days in the parish.  I am learning that gratitude and love are the internal processes of the ordinary in everyday life that are essential to my spirituality.  Christ speaks to me through what is ordinary and can seem “unspiritual.”

  • The ordinariness of a little child

Yesterday I was visiting with some friends and they brought their little daughter who is almost two years old to our house.  The little girl was so happy and free.  Her smile lit up the room.  She seemed so free just to be alive and to be around her brother, mom and friends who love her.

  • Thinking of the beauty of God

I couldn’t help to think of the beauty of God as I watched this child live in the present moment of their experience of life.  It was very ordinary, but so beautiful.  This child spoke to me of the ordinary beauty of God that I often times miss because I am looking for something other than what is before me.  But I have been learning to see God through what is ordinary.

  • God speaking through The Muppets

And then I watched the movie The Muppets with a third grader as his mom was doing the hair of a friend.  In this movie I saw one of the main characters, Walter, who had been different all his life find some sense of belonging by connecting with the Muppets and helping them save their studio from being torn down.  As I watched the movie, I couldn’t help but realize how this sense of belonging brought meaning, value and connection to Walter.

  • Acceptance, value, belonging

I couldn’t help to see myself in this character Walter and the Muppets were revealing to me the beauty of God through the ordinary acts of acceptance, friendship, kindness.  So in the next hours after everyone went home it seemed that God spoke to me through the ordinary act of watching a movie where acceptance, belonging and value was found in the narrative.  The ordinary revealed something to me again!

  • Resting in the ordinary

As I went to sleep that day after being kind of tired, I could feel my body finding rest as I placed my head on the pillow and closed my eyes.  God spoke to me through my need of rest laying in my bed and just finding peace from another day of living.  It is the ordinary that God is using to help me discover things about life that are shaping me.

How are you seeing God in the ordinary?

Book Review- An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor


This is a wonderful book!  The thing I love about this book is how Barbara Brown Taylor emphasizes experiencing our spirituality through what are the ordinary physical activities of life in the real world.  Waking up, paying attention, encountering others, feeling pain, being present, saying no, incarnation, groundedness and getting lost are some of the important themes in the book.  Highly recommended!

  • Wisdom is gained by practice

“…it is wisdom we need to live together in this world.  Wisdom is not gained by knowing what is right.  Wisdom is gained by practicing what is right, and noticing what happens when that practice succeeds and when it fails.  Wise people do not have to be certain what they believe before they act.  They are free to act, trusting that the practice itself will teach them what they need to know…”

  • The practice of paying attention

“The practice of paying attention really does take time.  Most of us move so quickly that our surroundings become no more than the blurred scenery we fly past on our way to somewhere else.  We pay attention to the speedometer, the wristwatch, the cell phone, the list of things to do, all of which feed our illusion that life is manageable.  Meanwhile, none of them meets the first criterion for reverence, which is to remind us that we are not gods.  If anything, these devices sustain the illusion that we might yet be gods – if only we could find some way to do more faster.”

  • Encountering another human being

“The wisdom of the Desert Fathers includes the wisdom that the hardest spiritual work in the world is to love the neighbor as the self – to encounter another human being not as someone you can use, change, fix, help, save, enroll, convince or control, but simply as someone who can spring you from the prison of yourself, if you will allow it.  All you have to do is recognize another ‘you out there’ – your other self in the world – for whom you may care as instinctively as you care for yourself.  To become that person, even for a moment, is to understand what it means to die to yourself.  This can be as frightening as it is liberating.  It may be the only real spiritual discipline there is.”

  • Engaging the most ordinary physical activities

“What is saving my life now is the conviction that there is no spiritual treasure to be found apart from bodily experiences of human life on earth.  My life depends on engaging the most ordinary physical activities with the most exquisite attention I can give them.  My life depends on ignoring all touted distinctions between the secular and the sacred, the physical and the spiritual, the body and the soul.  What is saving my life now is becoming more fully human, trusting that there is no way to God apart from real life in the real world.”

How can I encounter another human being as someone who I do not try to use, change, fix, help, save, enroll, convince or control?