Culture of Imagination

connecting spirituality to everyday life

Tag: relational

Embracing an Embodied, Relational Way of Love

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The mystery of love is very compelling.  There is something about love that is longed for within us.  We all wanted to be valued, cared for and treated with respect rather than abused.  I think this means we all want to be loved.

And my experience is that God is love.  We are all created in the image of God so we have the capacity to love as God does.  I have seen too many people who believe in becoming an expression of judgment rather than love in the name of God.  And this is why so many people have dismissed the church and rightly so.

The church’s lack of love has contributed to too much atheism in the world.  I lament over this.  It is sad to see a God who is so beautiful become misrepresented so much by people who are addicted to power, wealth, greed and individualism.

Where are the people who want to become an expression of love, humility, simplicity, vulnerability, honesty and grace?  This would be a truly beautiful way to live if we could long for it.  But a lot of times we just don’t care that much and we settle for apathy.

  • Embodied, relational, communal imagination

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.

  • Love never fails

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 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.

How can we become an expression of love together in everyday life?

How to Cultivate the Relational Path of Spiritual Formation


I love the concept of spiritual formation.  Spiritual formation to me is difficult, mysterious and fun.  It is the shaping of my identity.  In the process of my spiritual formation, I become my true self as I lose the illusions I’ve held onto over the years.

After many years of thinking about spiritual formation, I am starting to understand that it is a solitary experience sometimes but it is also very relational and social too.  I am learning that there should be no dualistic thinking around the solitary and relational aspects of formation, both are important.  It is not either/or, but both/and.

Spiritual formation seems to be one of the hardest things for the church in the twenty-first century to figure out.  I think we have such a hard time with it because we have lost the context of everyday life in a local community to practice what this means to us.  Recovering the idea of parish is so necessary to help us find our way back to context and practice.

  •  Spiritual formation is always profoundly social

Dallas Willard writes, “Spiritual formation, good or bad, is always profoundly social.  You cannot keep it to yourself.  Anyone who thinks of it as a merely private matter has misunderstood it.  Anyone who says, ‘It’s just between me and God,’ or ‘What I do is my own business,’ has misunderstood God as well as ‘me.’  Strictly speaking there is nothing ‘just between me and God.’  For all that is between me and God affects who I am; and that, in turn, modifies my relationship to everyone around me.  My relationship to others also modifies me and deeply affects my relationship to God.”

  •  Our lives affect those we are in relationship with

Everyone undergoes spiritual formation in our culture whether we realize it or not.  Spiritual formation that is good and holistic is connected within a rootedness to place.  It is connected with how our lives affect those we are in relationship with.  It is integrated to the sanity of our souls within the body of Christ in everyday life together.

  •  Learning how to heal the patterns of escapism

There is a mystical sense of discipline we need to develop within us as the body of Christ in the parish.  We need to learn how to heal the patterns of escapism through an undistracted life of mystical discipline.  We often times like to escape everything that does not produce immediate, comfortable results.

  •  Years of listening and faithful presence

But that is not how rootedness in a place works.  Our rootedness will most likely cause us pain and discomfort at times.  There are things that are so complex in our local context that it takes years of listening and faithful presence to understand what is going on.

What is your path of spiritual formation?  What are some of the practices that shape you?

Creating Beautiful, Healthy Rhythms


My life has been so fragmented that sometimes I want to give up any searching for what is authentic within me.  Fear, confusion, frustration and pain all leave me in my melancholy where it is hard to be grateful while seeing all of life as sacred.  Sometimes I allow the dominant narratives of the media around individualism, competition and mobility to create unhealthy rhythms in me.  But I am learning a more healthy way of life that creates beautiful rhythms in the place I live.

  •  God’s presence is always living within us

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).  God’s presence is always living within us and our locality.  Even in the most seemingly God forsaken place, God is always with us.  God is intertwined into our world.

  •  Our rhythms bring awareness to God’s presence within us and around us

God is intertwined into our locality.  God is intertwined in our relationships.  God will never leave us abandoned and alone even though we can often feel like this is happening.  Our rhythms bring awareness to God’s presence within and around us.

  •  Rhythms that are relational and contextual

The more rooted practices and rhythms in our locality that we develop, whatever they may be, the more we will be connected to the mystical imagination within us.  We need to become creative and intentional with exploring unlimited possibilities of rhythms that can be experimented with in our locality.  Rhythms are always relational and contextual to our locality.

  •  Finding intentional rhythms within ourselves

I cannot tell you what rhythms will work for you and you cannot tell me what rhythms will work for me.  That’s why it is dangerous to have a centralized hub of power telling you what to do outside of the particular context.  This will not work and will result in colonialism and exploitation which doesn’t represent the gospel.

  •  Rhythms are about intentionality

Simon Cross says, “We might conceive of all lives having rhythms…  In this context, a rhythm of life is again all about intentionality.  We choose to do certain things at certain times, to accept certain parts of life as necessary, and to incorporate ways of being into our way of life.”

  • Doing away with unhealthy rhythms

Intentionality, spirituality and locality need to find a way to fit together in everyday life for rhythms to actually develop and have some sustainability.  We can cultivate a rhythm of fragmentation and speed that is unrooted in place and violent in the name of God.  This is not a good representation of the body of Christ and will do much damage.

  •  Creating beautiful rhythms for the common good

But we can also create rhythms that are helpful, beautiful, relational, convivial, rooted, peaceable, loving and for the common good.  I hope we will chose to orientate our rhythms around the latter of the two.  If this does not happen, it is questionable what kind of a future we will leave our children.

How can we create beautiful, healthy rhythms in our lives together?

Being Faithfully Present by Face-to-Face Relationship


It is so easy to escape face-to-face relationships through all of our technology today.  Texting, facebook, iphones, surfing the net, blogging, emails, twitter, TV and video games all keep us at times from real face-to-face community in everyday life.  I have been overwhelmed by the temptation to always check my facebook, email or twitter accounts.  Being glued to a screen of some sorts is becoming more common and is wearing me out.

When we are drawn to life through our screens we will have a hard time being face-to-face in faithful presence to others.  Practically the only time I ever get headaches in my life is when I spend hours on the internet.  It is too much for me.

  •  Relational presence to others

The communal imagination is one of relational presence to others.  When we are physically together with others, but not emotionally present, this is not relational.  It doesn’t foster love.  It is treating people as less than human.

  • Being faithfully present to one another

What a tragedy that in so many of our relationships we are not truly present to one another.  God wants the body of Christ to be faithfully present to one another in the parish.  If the body of Christ cannot be present it cannot love.  And this presence to our parish is what will shape us as we live, work and play there.

  •  Presence begins with attentiveness

David G. Benner writes, “Presence begins with attentiveness.  This demands that I focus on the other person…  This attentiveness to the other involves setting some things aside. It usually means setting aside my own interests and preoccupations.  It also demands that I stop analyzing what I am hearing or rehearsing how I will respond.  And… it also involves resisting the impulse to solve problems or fix things that appear broken.”

  •  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.

  •  Letting go of the cliché that we can “change the world”

We will have to let go of some control.  We will have to let go of the cliché that we can “change the world.”  This vision is too big, too abstract.

  •  Getting down to what is right in front of us

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 takes time.

  • Real face-to-face relationship in the context of everyday life

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 be faithfully present in the parish?