Culture of Imagination

connecting spirituality to everyday life

Tag: practice

A Mystery to Participate In


Does Jesus really want us to believe in him if we do not practice what he taught about love, community, humility, grace, compassion, kindness and authenticity?  It seems that Jesus is not really an idea to believe in but more of a mystery to participate in.  I want to participate in the mystery of the body of Christ here in the place that I live.  Christ is drawing me into community where I find the many faces of God through my neighbors as I practice my spirituality in the twenty-first century.

  •  The rain came down, the stream rose, and the winds blew

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the stream rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash”  (Matthew 7:24-27).

  •  A practice-based approach to life

It seems that Christ is emphasizing a practice-based approach to life.  He must want his body to practice his words and teachings.  It is within the context of shared life, proximity, living into the ordinary, seeing the sacredness of life and a commitment to a particular place where the body of Christ can practice their faith as a way of life together.

  •  Christ’s teachings are practiced together in everyday life

This is very foreign to the dominant paradigms of the day, but Christ’s teachings are always based on practical life situations.  They are best practiced together in everyday life. The apostle Paul passed this on as well.

“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice …”  (Philippians 4:9).

Or, to the church in Corinth,

“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ  (1 Corinthians 11:1).

They must have grown to know Paul deeply and have been encouraged in what they had seen in his relational life among them.  He is encouraging them to live with a grounded practice-based theology within their local context just as he did.

  •  On-the-ground practice based-theology

We should develop our theology not just from an intellectual or theoretical perspective, but from what I call an “on-the-ground practice-based theology.” All theology should be practiced, tested, and even discovered in the context of real-life experience.  It should not dismiss everyday life, but instead integrate it with the intellectual stimulation that comes through learning new information. Learning is both intellectual and environmental within the context of the locality we live in.

  •  The integration of both/and

It is not either/or but an integration of both/and.  Just as the church cannot be separated from locality, so the academic and intellectual cannot be separated from the environmental and local contexts of life.  We desperately need the paradox of combining the environmental learner in local relational contexts with the intellectual academic learner of the classroom.  A Christianity that doesn’t hold to this paradigm is likely to be empty and irrelevant to life.

  •  The body of Christ in everyday contexts of life

Why do many people question the existence of God today?  I think it might have something to do with the reality that many people have never seen the body of Christ in the everyday contexts of life.  All they have seen is what we box up inside of a building or cram into a ministry one day a week.

  •  Others have not experienced grace and love from us

It doesn’t seem holistic to a lot of people—me included.  They have not felt from us God’s love. They have not experienced from us God’s grace.  We have not fascinated them with God’s beauty.

  •  Creating a culture of imagination

I think it is important to have an awakening around this on-the-ground practice-based theology.  Let’s take the theology of the intellectual in the classroom and integrate it with the on-the-ground practice-based theology of the neighborhood.  There need not be any dualities between the two.  Let them become one and we will see a culture of imagination rise from the dead.

In what ways do you take a practice based approach to your spirituality?

Top 10 Things I am Grateful for this Past Year


Gratitude is something that I have to be intentional about or I will fall into cynicism, bitterness and despair constantly.  This has been a major struggle for me over the course of my life.  I can easily turn melancholy and withdraw from the world.  But I am learning to practice a better way of gratitude the best I can in the midst of life’s difficulties.

So as I have been thinking about this a lot, here are 10 simple things that I am grateful for as someone who is created in the image of God and called to live in my true self.

1. I am grateful that I can breathe.  Breathing is a gift of life.  I take this for granted sometimes and do not recognize what I have in this gift.  I would have no life without it.

2. I am grateful that I can walk and run.  My legs are a gift that carry me where I want to go.  I am grateful that I do not have to use a wheelchair or crutches to get around.  The ability to run and walk has been such a blessing in my life.

3. I am grateful for the local community I live in.  The neighborhood I have lived in for the past decade is such a gift to me.  This place where I get to seek God on the earth has shaped me tremendously.  I would not be the person I am today without it.

4. I am grateful for the ability to read books.  I see books as friends who teach me about life.  So I am grateful to be able to party with friends as I spend lots of time in silence, solitude, reflection and rest.  This brings me joy and peace among the stress of life.

5. I am grateful that I can move.  Life is about movement in whatever way we can.  I am grateful that I can move my body and experience life through all of my senses.  As I move my body, I am seeing how much wonder there is in this.

6. I am grateful for the many people who make me feel loved.  Authentic Relationships bring me life.  All of life is relational.  I am grateful for all the people I know who love me as I am.

7. I am grateful for laughter.  Laughter does not come easy to me.  But I am grateful on the days and moments that I can experience laughter.  This is something that is necessary so I do not become angry, cynical or frustrated in life.

8. I am grateful for sleep.  Sleep is so necessary and needed to function.  I am grateful that I can sleep through the night without being terrified.  Sleep helps me to get the rest I need so I can seek God the next day in new ways.

9. I am grateful for food and shelter.  I am not very happy when I am cold and hungry.  I am grateful for a bed to sleep in and a room that is warm.  Having food to eat is something that is a gift in life.

10. I am grateful for clothes.  Having clothes to wear is such a gift.  I get cold very easily so a warm coat, some long johns, a shirt, hat, scarf and gloves is essential in the winter months.  I think I would die a miserable death without the gift of clothes to stay warm.

What are you grateful for?

Faithful Presence as a Way of Life Together

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Being raised as a Catholic, I always thought that Christianity was just an intellectual belief.  It never occurred to me that it might be possible to live out the teachings of Christ authentically as a way of life.  I had never heard of community, listening, formation and the importance of place.  So I have been on a journey for the past decade to reimagine the body of Christ in our time within the twenty-first century.

  • Practices are important

Christ practiced his way of life in a local community of friends and followers who did not have the New Testament to guide them.  So practices, place, relationships were much more important than mere doctrines that had not developed until later after Jesus’ death and resurrection.  What are some of the practices that we need in our world of the twenty-first century?  Practices are so important that I think they have to do with relational connection, deep interior listening to the life of Christ in us, giving up a sense of upward mobility, rooting ourselves in the parish and linking to other places for new learning.

  • Routines, patterns and everyday habits

My dear friends Paul Sparks, Tim Soerens and Dwight J. Friesen of the Parish Collective say, “Personal practices are simply the routines, patterns and everyday habits you carry out in the neighborhood that give you the opportunity to engage with what’s happening.  In a very real sense this is about your public presence in the parish.  Most of your presence in the neighborhood is incredibly ordinary, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be intentional.”

  • Slowing down to root ourselves locally

While we live in a highly fragmented culture where we are running around a lot of the time in all different directions, it would do us good to just slow down and start rooting ourselves locally as much as we can.  This might take some deep listening to our lives and reimagining our context as a place to practice the teaching of Christ to love our neighbors.  Isn’t Christianity about love and nothing else?

  • Love dominating all we do

How can we be alive in our world without love dominating all we do through the actions of our faithful presence and care?  The poor are being abandoned because we often do not live with them, among them, for them in the parish.  There is little hospitality and works of mercy on their behalf.

  • A way of life one practices

The Catholic Worker Movement which was co-founded by a young single mother by the name of Dorothy Day in the 1930’s has practiced hospitality, care, faithful presence in poor neighborhoods throughout North America for over 80 years now.  Caring for the poor is central to their mission of community and justice.  It is more about a way of life one practices than just believing certain intellectual doctrines.  When you love the poor and are inclusive, you might find yourself questioning what you thought love looked like in everyday life.

  • Constantly changing, evolving and mysterious

It is constantly changing, evolving and mysterious.  Every situation is different and contextual.  We need to be constantly asking ourselves what does an expression of love look like in the here and now of this context in the present moment.

How can we see Christianity as a way of life?

Practicing Living In My Body


Living in a place and living in the body are so interrelated that we cannot elevate one over the other.  They need to be practiced together through the mystical imagination.  North Americans seem to live outside of their bodies.  We are sometimes fragmented and scrambling for peace and sanity in the midst of this.

  • Recovering the lived body

A lot of times we create any kind of life we want at the expense of other people.  We become subtly, unconsciously violent through our individualism.  We need to learn how to recover the lived body in our postmodern culture as the body of Christ in the parish.

  •  Getting back into a body, live in a place

It is not very easy and will take some work on our part.  But it is definitely possible through the mystical imagination.  Walker Percy says, “The time is coming when the American… will wonder how to get back into a body, live in a place…”

  •  Seeking God in our locality

Do we understand what it means to live in the parish?  Do we understand how to become an expression of love in the place that we live?  Do we understand how to seek God in our locality with passion and intelligence?

  •  Have we forgotten how to listen?

Have we forgotten how to listen to the mystical imagination as the body of Christ in everyday life?  We cannot dismiss these questions anymore.

  •  Things I have done to practice living in my body

Some things that I have done to practice living in my body are: exercising, eating meals with others, slowing down, listening to others, reading, reflecting, walking in the neighborhood, gardening, cooking, hospitality, writing, meditation, silence, solitude, resting, art, working locally, living locally, shopping locally, partnering, collaborating, meaningful conversation, relaxing, laughing, contemplation, being present in the neighborhood, listening to and creating music.

  •  Taking a local songwriting class

I once took a local song writing class in which I had to write songs and play them publicly in front of others in the class.  I was so intimidated and afraid because I didn’t think I had a good voice.  I was new at playing the guitar.  I didn’t want to write songs about the typical romantic themes we all hear a lot.

  •  Haunted by the progress ideology of needing more

So I wrote a song about the disturbing draw of progress in our culture.  It was about how we are haunted by the progress ideology of needing more at the expense of everything else important in life.  I was not sure how this would go down.  I hadn’t played many songs before, but this experience cause me to become aware of living in my body.

  • My entire body being connected and whole

After I sang the song, I felt as though my entire body was connected and whole.  My voice was connected with my mind, with my hands, with my arms, with my legs, with my eyes, with my emotions, with my friends, with my place.  The time I took writing the words, creating the music and playing the song connected me with people in my neighborhood in a very mystical way.

How have we lost connection with our bodies in the midst of everyday life?

Learning Through On-The-Ground Practice


I remember some of my friends really struggling to understand the importance of shared life in the parish.  I think this was primarily because they were not really ready to practice their way into a new way of thinking.  They were only searching for understanding with their minds, and consequently they never really experienced an integration.

•  Revelation is difficult without practice

As a result, many of them could not connect and never entered the neighborhood with us.  We soon lost contact with many of them as our on-the-ground lives together demanded attention. This has affected me for many years and I still feel a sense of sadness about it, but without practice, revelation is difficult.

•  Something is missing

I always felt there was something missing in my past experiences of church as a service, or a series of programs, but I didn’t really know what to do about it.  My friend and mentor Paul Sparks worked with several us to create different experimental environments where we could practice an alternative together.  As I participated in learning, reading, listening, and practicing, I slowly became more aware of the importance of things like proximity, locality, shared life, centering in a place, creating a new culture, and embodying life together.

•  Becoming present

I soon moved into the neighborhood reorienting my whole life in the neighborhood of Downtown Tacoma.  I have not stopped studying, reading, asking questions, and listening to the wisdom of experienced voices, but I have integrated those with an on-the-ground practice-based theology within the context of our parish.  Slowly, the more I practiced my faith, and the more I became present to my place, the more that wisdom began revealing itself to me, however mysteriously.  I can no longer think of being part of the church in any other way.

•  Practicing in a particular place

The impossibility and hopelessness we feel toward life could be subverted if the body of Christ were to practice together the things that Jesus taught in a particular place.  Our imaginations would come to life and we would be able to dance again.  As Brian McLaren says, “practice makes possible some things that would otherwise have been impossible.”

•  The wonderful and beautiful takes practice

Everything in life that is wonderful and beautiful takes practice.  Will we dare to practice and see the impossible shattered?  Will we practice and see the ordinary miracles of everyday life manifested through our relationships?

•  An on-the-ground practice-based theology

We need to approach our spirituality in the neighborhood we inhabit with an on-the-ground practice-based theology that is life-giving and filled with hope for all.  “Our spirituality needs to become earthy practice that engages with the scruffy and wonderful world of which we are part,” writes Ian Adams.  When the body of Christ does not practice together in a place, it will be invisible and nonexistent to those around it.

What do you think of an on-the-ground practice-based theology?