Culture of Imagination

connecting spirituality to everyday life

Tag: shared life

5 Reasons Why Shared Life Together is Important  


1. It is a seed of life that will grow and flourish

Are we not all called to share life together to some degree?  I think we are.  In my neighborhood of Downtown Tacoma, I have come to see a shared life with my friends there as a true gift from God.  It is a seed of life that will grow and flourish over time.

2. We need friends to both celebrate and cry with us

It is nice to be connected to other people of faith who care for the place we inhabit together.  Shared life will sustain us through life.  When we have good times, we need friends to celebrate with us.  When we have bad times, we need friends to cry with.

3. Keeps us from becoming isolated, disconnected and depressed

Life is a mystery and we need to live in relationship with others or we will easily become isolated, disconnected and depressed.  The pain we all experience in life will destroy us all if we are not committed to a place, where we live in the context of shared life with friends who care for us as human beings instead of objects.

4. We show our love for God through our love for others

For years I have studied the life and work of Dorothy Day, the co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement.  After years and years of loving the poor and trying to live in faithful service to God, she shares at the end of her autobiography The Long Loneliness:

“The only answer in this life, to the loneliness we are all bound to feel, is community.  The living together, working together, sharing together, loving God and loving our brother, and living close to him in community so we can show our love for Him.”

I have experienced a lot of pain and disconnection in life.  My college experience was a common one, I believe, for many of us.  Central Washington University is where I chose to study to become a teacher.  As I moved to Eastern Washington to a little town called Ellensburg, I did not know very many people there or the place I was moving to.

The several years that I lived there, I became connected to the students at the school.  Surrounded by lots of people on a daily basis, I had developed many connections with others.  It was a sad day for me when I graduated and moved back to Western Washington, because I was pretty much alone again.  It seemed like I was starting over.  All my relational connections in everyday life were gone.

Being uprooted from my college experience and moving on to become a professional left me extremely lonely.  After moving to Kent, Washington, where I knew hardly anyone except for some family members, I was out in the world on my own.  I was now a professional teacher and I started working for a school district.

But I didn’t like it very much.  It wasn’t really what I thought it would be. Monday through Friday I went to work, and mostly stayed in my apartment the rest of the time.  Depression and loneliness soon began to overwhelm me as I started to sleep a lot.  I was extremely disconnected from relationships with others.

After struggling for about a year, I slowly began to see my need to take some initiative in the relationships around me.  When I started to open up to relating with others, I began a process of healing within myself.  And this has led me to who I am today.  For many of us, it seems like college is the closest experience we will ever have of sharing life with others in everyday life.  And yet college is very temporary.  When it is over, we often feel disconnected and lonely.

In our early years, we all enter a very communal experience through elementary school, if we stay at the same school.  We are with the same students all year in the same classroom.  There is quite a bit of shared life in the classroom.  It is a little different in middle school and high school in that we have many different classes and teachers, but it is still very much an experience of shared life with peers.

That’s why some people say our high school days are the best days of our lives because most of us will never share life with that many people again the rest of our lives.  When those days are over many of us go to college and then get married, work a career, buy a house and often have little connection to any real community life.  We are a lonely society that has been disconnected from shared life with others.  How sad it all is.  But we have tasted little bits of its potential through our years in school.

5. We become fully attentive to our situation

Norman Wirzba points out so elegantly, “We live in a broken and wounded world and in a culture that encourages isolation and fragmentation.  But from a practical standpoint, the desire for wholeness means that we make our local community and habitat, the native network of relationships that directly feed and nurture us, the focus of sustained attention…  This is not so that we can avoid what is foreign, different, or exotic.  It is rather so that we can see more clearly and understand with greater honesty the requirements, limits, and potential of our life together.  It is so that we can become fully attentive to our concrete situation, celebrate the gifts that we are to each other, and take responsibility for our collective needs.”

What keeps us from shared life together?

Getting Specific, Local, Particular – 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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Endorsed by Shane Claiborne who says, “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.”

  •  A radical reorientation towards a commitment to a particular place

To even start the process of shared life together in everyday life there needs to be a radical reorientation towards a commitment to a particular place.  The body of Christ needs to see itself as a fabric of relationships living, working, and playing within the proximity of a local context.  In other words, we have to practice inhabiting a neighborhood and committing to that place as the body of Christ together.

  •  The mediums we have created

Reimagining the local body of Christ this way breaks open the paradigm of the regional commuter church that is disconnected in everyday life and then meets inside the four walls of a building we culturally call “church.”  This is the only paradigm most of us have ever known.  But is the body of Christ supposed to be confined to such a limiting imagination?  So many people have given up on the body of Christ simply because the mediums we have created communicate that Christianity has nothing to do with the realities of everyday life.

  •  We care about the things that affect our lives

Put bluntly, it is irrelevant.  Most of the time, we only care about the things that actually affect our individual lives.  These are the things we invest our lives in, because we feel it will give us life with the most pleasure, enjoyment and meaning.  That’s why the mediums we have created as “the expression of the body of Christ” do not seem relevant.

  •  Reorient around the themes of community or parish

They communicate vibes of boredom and unpleasantness.  I have struggled with these mediums myself and my faith has had a hard time surviving through a default that produces a lack of engagement in real life.  What I want to propose is that the body of Christ reorient around the themes of community and parish (that is, contextual to neighborhood and local culture).

  •  Many ideas and definitions of community today

There are many ideas and definitions of community today that spring from affinity groups, city associations and the conversations of the emerging and missional Church, but I like Wendell Berry’s definition: “If the word community is to mean or amount to anything, it must refer to a place (in its natural integrity) and its people.  It must refer to a placed people …”  Berry goes on to say, “It exists by proximity, by neighborhood; it knows face to face, and it trusts as it knows…”

  •  Proximity is crucial

Proximity is crucial to this definition of community.  Without it there is no community.  This has to be taken seriously and then practiced together if there is to be any real face-to-face interaction as the body of Christ in everyday life.

  •  Living into a healthy expression of the body of Christ

The neighborhood cannot be forgotten.  I believe that the neighborhood or parish is the holistic medium that we need if we are to live into a healthy expression of the body of Christ that does not do damage to its local context.

  •  Specific, local, particular ways

“Here is the mystery of the incarnation,” says Gerald W. Schlabach. “Union of human and divine means that faith always must express itself in specific, local, particular ways …”

How can we develop a communal imagination in everyday life together?

The Shared Experience of Life


Recently I have been thinking a lot about my life.  As another year passes and I find myself in a regular routine in everyday life where I live, I am struck by how ordinary my spirituality is.  God is present to me in very ordinary ways although sometimes I do not understand this very much.  I like to look for God in mountain top experiences, but it seems God is found through my neighbors in community.

How have I missed this for so long?  I am understanding more that the God in me is connecting with the God in the other who I connect with in everyday life.  This is leading me to a more interdependent way of life where community and relationships have more meaning to me now.  As I have lived in my neighborhood of Downtown Tacoma for over ten years, I am discovering a new imagination within myself for this interdependent life.

I have cultivated a searching spirit within me that has questioned almost everything around me, but one thing I have discovered is that God is always manifesting wisdom to me through my everyday encounters with life.  My imagination is always grasping for relational connection in community with others.  This longing is so deep that many times I struggle with being disillusioned as I live in a culture that has been programmed for individualism over interdependence.

  •  Suffering from my own programming toward individualism

In a culture that values the individualistic over the interdependent, we become disconnected from one another.  I have suffered from my own programming toward individualism and have longed to be set free to live into something different.  I’m haunted by these words of Christ: “For whoever wants to save his live will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:35).

  •  Can we lose our individualistic dreams?

I want to understand what this means and how to embody Christ’s words.  Can we lose our individualistic dreams and ambitions that take priority over everything and everyone else?  Can we stop the pain that is caused by our self-centered pursuits where the imagination necessary for relational life is forgotten?

  • Developing an imagination for interdependence and loving mutuality

It’s one thing to disconnect ourselves from the cultural comfort of the modern paradigm of success, but the authentic life should not be lived alone.  Our imaginations are coming to the point of starvation and death.  We must develop an imagination for interdependence and loving mutuality, if we are to flourish together.

  •  Our imaginations need the shared experience of life, goodness, and beauty

All the systems of our culture are ripping us away from one another, and few of us have awakened to what is happening.  Our imaginations need the shared experience of life, goodness, and beauty.  We cannot know for sure what will happen in us and through us together, but I think it will be something beautiful as we let go of all our controlling individualistic ways of life.

How can we live into a more interdependent way of life together?

Seeking to be a Body Together

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I have experienced the church in my life as a building that you attend once a week where it is very difficult to share life with others outside of this space.  This always seemed very lonely and frustrating to me as I have wanted the expression of church to be more authentic.  I have always wanted church to be different, maybe a network of relationships in a place where I share life with others in the context I live in.

  • The Interdependence of the early church

I often wonder what it would be like to be around those Christians in the book of Acts.  They were real flesh-and-blood people like us who saw a sacredness in their life together as followers of Christ.  They needed one another.  They cared for one another.  They trusted one another.  They were in relationship with one another.

  • The practice of shared life together

They probably didn’t see this as radical; it was just how they lived as Christ’s body together. “Every day they continued to meet together …  They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts…” (Acts 2:46).

  • Seeking something beyond institutionalization

As Christianity started to become institutionalized and the idea of just going to a service became more common, some followers of Christ went out into the desert to create new communities where they could live their faith together in everyday life.  This is how monasticism started.  They wanted to seek God in the solitude of the desert apart from the over-institutionalization that they felt was corrupting the body of Christ.

  • Living relationally with one another

All of this happened a long time ago.  But how will we respond to the institutionalization of the body of Christ in our time?  Will we give up and let our imaginations be imprisoned by all of this or will we live relationally with one another, rooted in local contexts within neighborhoods?

  • A living breathing body

The body of Christ is not some mechanism with no heart and life, but a living breathing body.  All bodies breathe, move, change and relate to their environment.  When bodies are unhealthy they stop functioning properly.  When bodies are dead we bury them.

  • Becoming an evolving body in everyday life

Kester Brewin says, “We must reestablish ourselves as the body of Christ, not the machine of Christ.  Bodies are organic, dynamic, sentient, and conscious …  Machines break down, while bodies evolve …”  We should be an evolving body in everyday life together.  Will we feel the pain and the joy of living life together and loving one another?

  • We are not building a machine but a body

These are difficult real-life experiences that we cannot escape if we are to be human.  We are not building a machine but a body.  I don’t want to become a part of a machine where I become the very fuel that it needs to work.

Why is it so difficult to share life with others?