Culture of Imagination

connecting spirituality to everyday life

Tag: vulnerability

Book Review – Vulnerable Faith: Missional Living in the Radical Way of St. Patrick by Jamie Arpin-Ricci

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Vulnerability is often times one of the most difficult things to practice in an individualistic culture that celebrates pride, violence, arrogance and power.  But I have found Jamie Arpin Ricci’s book Vulnerable Faith so encouraging to me as I have longed to embody a vulnerability within myself in everyday life as I share life together with others.  Oftentimes we do not have much of an imagination for vulnerability.  So we see a lot of the church live in its arrogance, wealth, consumerism, mobility and apathy toward all that is rooted in being an expression of love.

Jamie shares in this insightful book about the story of St. Patrick’s life.  How he was enslaved and came back to the land of his slavery after his escape to be an expression of compassion, humility and love.  St. Patrick lived out of his vulnerability and because of it influenced many people throughout history.  The story of St. Patrick’s life is used by Arpin Ricci as an example of courage, vulnerability and perseverance in the midst of the struggles of life.

He also couples this with the wisdom from Alcoholics Anonymous.  Creating a culture of vulnerability, honesty and humility that AA promotes is very helpful when it comes to how we live in community with one another.  Community is best lived through vulnerability.  In fact, I have learned that St. Francis of Assisi thought that complete vulnerability was the central message of the gospel.

I really love this book and am so grateful that Jamie has written it at such a time as this.  When the church is struggling to find its way in our postmodern culture and institutional religion is decaying rapidly, we need a new imagination for what is truly authentic for us.  Jamie has called us to a communal imagination that is embedded in vulnerability through the stories of Little Flowers Community, St. Patrick’s life and the principles of AA.

When we do not desire vulnerability, we will struggle to love others.  We will struggle to love ourselves and our actions will be attached to guilt, shame and fear.  But what freedom we could experience through an open embrace of vulnerability.

In vulnerability, we will learn that the essence of God is vulnerability.  Vulnerability actually makes us strong, courageous and wise.  When many men in our culture think that vulnerability is the ultimate weakness, I am learning that this is a fabrication of our false self.  Men often times are afraid of the authenticity of vulnerability.

But it is in vulnerability that we find our true selves in the midst of everyday life.  I have found that a contemplative way of life where we practice awareness, listening and silence is almost impossible without vulnerability.  Vulnerability always leads us to a sense of creative compassion.  Vulnerability leads us to a way of life that is rooted in truth and life.

I highly recommend Jamie Arin Ricci’s book!  It is one of the best books on vulnerability and its essential role in creating community among us that I have read in a long time!  This is essential reading for anyone interested in authenticity in the twenty-first century.  He also wrote a fantastic book called The Cost of Community: Jesus, St. Francis and Life in the Kingdom back in 2011.

  • Presenting a false face to others

“All of us are prone to this instinct toward pretense.  It is ingrained in us as a way of thinking and acting that we are rarely aware of how often we present a false face to others…”

  • Hope in honest brokenness

“There is more hope in honest brokenness than in the pretense of false wholeness.”

  • Retreating back to some form of pretense

“When our pretense is exposed, whether by circumstances or by choice, what lies beneath is all the fear, shame, and uncertainty that we have worked so hard to deny, ignore, and conceal…  It can produce in us a deep sense of panic, a loss of control, spurring us on to attempt to restore order and stability, usually by retreating back into some form of pretense or another.  After all, the appearance of stability feels much more preferable than acknowledging the chaos that lies beneath the surface.”

  • The so-called freedoms we enjoy

“…too many of the so-called freedoms we enjoy are mere illusions, pretenses covering over the truth that we are, in fact, enslaved to fear…”

  • Learning the disciplines of peace

“…we are well served in learning the disciplines of peace, both internal and relational.  Practices such as meditation and reflection are so important…”

  • Community is the inevitable and essential result of faithfulness

“Community is the inevitable and essential result of faithfulness, inseparably linked to the work of God in our hearts and in the world…”

  • Seek to restore relationships at any cost

“In truth, the most compelling witness to our faith can be a willingness to humbly accept responsibility for our failings and seek to restore relationships at any cost.”

  • Community is a grace

“Community is a grace because of how it serves us in the very process of transformation…”

  • Can we trust each other enough to be that vulnerable?

“Such community, by nature and necessity, reflects relationships of deep intimacy and vulnerability.  This raises the inevitable question: can we trust each other enough to be that vulnerable?”

  • Building and sustaining community

“The practices and disciplines of building and sustaining community could fill volumes (and has).  From mystics to anthropologists, we learn how critical that quality of a community is to the health and well-being of people.  Yet, community remains one of the most elusive goals to so many… in our individualistic Western societies.”

  • Openness and vulnerability are what we are called to

“In fact, vulnerable faith produces in us a grace and patience for the same failings in others that we have admitted in ourselves.  We are no longer motivated to judge others to bolster our own sense of righteousness or protect our own moral purity, but are drawn to those who need grace and hope.  I have to keep reminding myself that openness and vulnerability is what I am called to…”

  • Faithfully embracing love right where we are

“…faithfully embracing love right where we are at can turn the course of empires…”

  • The centrality of love

“Above all is the centrality of love at the heart of vulnerable faith.  Vulnerability will thrive only where love abounds – a love that is generous, gracious, patient, compassionate, humble, curious, joyful, and full of hope…”

What comes to mind when you think of vulnerability?

http://www.amazon.com/Vulnerable-Faith-Missional-Radical-Patrick/dp/1612615910/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1428776370&sr=8-2-fkmr0&keywords=jami+arpin+ricci

http://www.amazon.com/Communal-Imagination-Finding-Share-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1428776675&sr=1-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination+finding+a+way+to+share+life+together

Humility and Vulnerability – Quotes from The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together

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  • Having the imagination to see Christ in others

“Loving others by seeing the value and mystery in and through them is about having the imagination to see Christ in others.  This is a radical thought!  Does Christ really live in each and every one of us even if we have not ‘accepted’ Christ in our lives?  I think he does in some mysterious way that we cannot understand.  I believe there are dimensions of Christ that live in all of us.  How could they not?  We are created in his image.  Not some people but all people…”

  • The different faces of God

“The different faces of God are manifested through our relationships.  Our understanding of God is a constant evolving process throughout our entire lives.  We learn of God relationally through others in the context of everyday life together.  The face-to-face interaction between us manifest relational revelations in the parish.  What a wonderful thought that is!  I can find Christ in you just as you can find Christ in me.  Without being in relationship it is hard to understand Christ in the particulars of everyday life.  So we need to make space for one another and be generous with our time.  Being with others as a way to demonstrate love could unleash relational miracles just waiting to happen among us.”

  • We need to unlearn so many things

“We need to unlearn so many things that we have practiced for so many years that have left us disillusioned.  We need to unlearn the practice of being in a relationship with others that is void of risk and humility.”

  • A powerlessness of humility and vulnerability

“The communal imagination takes on a powerlessness of humility and vulnerability in the place it inhabits.  It listens to its place in holistic ways.  It respects the value of the people who live there…”

  • To have respect for one another

“Humility and honesty are core to our spiritual development as the body of Christ in everyday life.  They help us to get along in life, to have respect for one another.  We need to embrace them by our own choosing before life crushes us and we are left limping and bleeding from the wounds of our own making.”

  • A spirit of gratitude

“Listening is intertwined with a spirit of gratitude.  We cannot embrace life as a gift if we cannot listen to all the subsidiaries of life in and around us.  We learn to notice things that would be unnoticeable when we practice gratitude together…”

  • A life of simplicity

“What will people think if we live a life of simplicity?  We might stand out too much and become something other than the status quo.  But it is worth the risk.  When we embrace simplicity, it will shape us in ways we cannot understand.  Simplicity redefines everyday life and all our relationships.  It helps us to become integrated with the communal imagination…”

  • Financial wealth, affluence, and power

“We prefer to focus on all the things that promote financial wealth, affluence, and power, while focusing much less on what promotes true life together…”

  • Individualism, fragmentation, and loneliness

“How can we be the body of Christ together in the day-to-day of life despite the individualism, fragmentation, and loneliness we all experience at times?”

Which quote stands out to you?

http://www.amazon.com/Communal-Imagination-Finding-Share-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1425650383&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination

Practicing the Way of Jesus

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Vulnerability and humility are things that I have to work at.  These are not easy values to embody, especially in a masculine culture of domination, control and technique.  But I truly believe that the heart of the gospel is complete vulnerability in everyday life.  Without vulnerability and humility, we cannot seek God.

As I live my life, I am desiring to have an openness to vulnerability and humility.  It seems to me that Jesus was extremely vulnerable and embodied humility in his lifetime.  And we are all called to do the same.  This is a way of life where we can bless the world we live in.

Here is a longing of my soul to embrace this vulnerability and humility:

Give us vulnerability so that we can be an expression of love in the world.  Let our egos yield to the deep humility within each of us.  Help us to see the power in vulnerability and humility.  Convince us that this is life-giving and will bring us so much freedom.

We do not want to be enslaved anymore by our own ignorance and pride.  Give us a spirit of openness, curiosity and wonder.  We long for this posture within us to explore greater depths of vulnerability.  Show us your vulnerability and humility.

This is the cry of our souls.  We long for this more than American progress.  We long for this more than anything else.  Help us to have the courage to live in humility and not be afraid.

  •  Demonstrating vulnerability

The body of Christ has to demonstrate vulnerability within our network of relationships in the parish.  Without the humility of vulnerability, there will be very little authentic relationship between us.  There will be very little human connection in everyday life.  We usually don’t like to share our pain, our brokenness, our struggles, our fears, our insecurities, our weaknesses, or our cluelessness.

  •  Some things we do not like to admit

We do not like to admit that our perceptions of things might be wrong.  We do not like to admit that we feel incomplete even though we have faith in God.  We do not like to admit that we need to let go of trying to control life and that we have trust issues.  We do not like to admit that sometimes we have no desire for God at all.

  •  The communal imagination needs vulnerability

We sometimes do not like to learn from or listen to others.  There is a real problem in our relationships if we cannot live into a freedom that promotes vulnerability.  The communal imagination needs vulnerability to be alive among us.

  •  Having our brokenness exposed

Innovative local practitioner Mark Scandrette states so clearly, “The kind of belonging and transformation that is promised through practicing the way of Jesus requires us to be vulnerable with each other and to work through the difficulties that result from having our brokenness exposed.

  •  A demonstration of humility

We are shaped through how we practice vulnerability with one another.  The way of Jesus leads us there.  We realize that we need one another.  Our weakness and brokenness become revealed through our relationships in the parish.  Our spirituality becomes no longer a show of piety, but instead becomes a demonstration of humility through practicing vulnerability in everyday life.

  •  Where there is vulnerability, there is humility

Where there is vulnerability, there is humility.  Where there is humility, the life of Christ is living within us.  It can be hard to let ourselves be exposed for who we really are in all of our pain, but it is a practice that the body of Christ must take seriously if we want to be relational in the local context we inhabit.

  •  When we are weak, we are strong

“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

  •  There is no colonialism with vulnerability

When we demonstrate some humility and practice vulnerability with one anothe, that is when we are most fully walking in the Spirit of Christ.  When we are weak and vulnerable, that is when we experience God’s power within us.  A theology of place can only be lived into through vulnerability.  There is no colonialism with vulnerability because it will help us not to impose our way of life on anyone and lead us instead through living into our questions about the mystery of life.

  •  There is no colonialism with humility

There is no colonialism with humility because it will lead us into deeper honesty around connecting with others through our struggles.  There is no colonialism when we learn to listen and expose our own brokenness to others through our vulnerability.  The place we inhabit will require that we be vulnerable if we want to stay there for any length of time.  Our relationships will demand it if we seek to live in humility with one another.

How can we show vulnerability in our spirituality together?

http://www.amazon.com/Communal-Imagination-Finding-Share-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1418401713&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination+finding+a+way+to+share+life+together

Do We Have the Courage to Live in Weakness?

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I am discovering in my life that when I am vulnerable my relationships seem to be healthier.  Things like forgiveness, solidarity, humility, compassion, gentleness, love and laughter all seem to be expressed in me when I am embodying a sense of vulnerability.  This feels good to me.  It is meaningful and brings value to others in whatever stage of development our relationship is in.

God is showing me the power of vulnerability.  This has been hard for me as I have been taught by my culture that men should not show vulnerability in life.  But I don’t care about this cultural narrative anymore.  I want to be weak, vulnerable and compassionate within myself.

I want to trust God that when I am weak and vulnerable I am strong.  I want to lose all the answers that I thought I once had.  Living in the freedom of vulnerability is where the Spirit is leading me in everyday life.  This is the best place for me to be and I find it authentic.

  •  Where there is vulnerability, there is humility

Where there is vulnerability, there is humility.  Where there is humility, the life of Christ is living within us.  It can be hard to let ourselves be exposed for who we really are in all of our pain, but it is a practice that the body of Christ must take seriously if we want to be relational in the local context we inhabit.

  •  Delighting in weaknesses

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong”  (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

  •  Experiencing God’s power within us

When we demonstrate some humility and practice vulnerability with one another, that is when we are most fully walking in the Spirit of Christ.  When we are weak and vulnerable, that is when we experience God’s power within us.  A theology of place can only be lived into through vulnerability.  There is no colonialism with vulnerability because it will help us not to impose our way of life on anyone and lead us instead through living into our questions about the mystery of life.

  •  Seeking to live in humility with one another

There is no colonialism with humility because it will lead us into deeper honesty around connecting with others through our struggles.  There is no colonialism when we learn to listen and expose our own brokenness to others through our vulnerability.  The place we inhabit will require that we be vulnerable if we want to stay there for any length of time.  Our relationships will demand it if we seek to live in humility with one another.

Do you think humility and vulnerability are interrelated?  What is your experience around this?

http://www.amazon.com/Communal-Imagination-Finding-Share-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1411839970&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination

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

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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?

http://www.amazon.com/Communal-Imagination-Finding-Share-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1403621065&sr=1-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination

The Wisdom of Vulnerability

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As a man, I have not really understood the role of a masculine vulnerability most of my life.  I have thought that vulnerability is too feminine and uncomfortable.  There is too much risk involved to be open with my weaknesses and struggles with others.  How can I be a “man” in this North American culture while showing others that I am not always strong and secure in myself?

•  Vulnerability connects us together

We limit ourselves when we choose not to be vulnerable.  We can only go so far in life without it.  Vulnerability reveals the pain that connects us all as human and alive, while it stimulates the imagination to new heights.

•  Following in the way of vulnerability

“Without vulnerability,” Paul R. Decker writes, “the experience of God, life, and others will be very limited …”  If all we want or think we need is a limited experience of God, then we disengage ourselves from any sort of vulnerability.  The body of Christ needs to be vulnerable if it is to follow in the way of truth.

•  The truth of vulnerability

There is no truth to our lives without vulnerability.  There is no truth to our relationships without vulnerability.  There is no truth to our relationship with God without vulnerability.  Vulnerability needs to live deep within our faith in the parish.

•  Complete vulnerability is the message of the gospel

Without vulnerability we should not speak another word.  “St. Francis of Assisi,” Paula Huston notes, “probably the most beloved saint who ever lived… believed that this experience of complete vulnerability was the central message of the Gospels …”  Many of us have been taught that certainty is a more powerful witness to the gospel than vulnerability, but St. Francis thought otherwise.

•  An authentic vulnerability

Can you imagine what would happen to our relationships if we lived into an authentic and humble mutual vulnerability?  It would revolutionize our relationships in everyday life together in all kinds of ways.  It would cultivate the communal imagination.

•  Men need to learn from women about vulnerability

Women are usually good at living into vulnerability in their relationships.  But men are usually not so good at it.  Men usually express less humility than women do.  Women usually thrive on relationships of vulnerability.

•  Embracing a more feminine-type wisdom

Men usually thrive on what they’ve accomplished than they do their relationships.  Maybe God is calling us to a more feminine-type wisdom in the parish with vulnerability in our relationships being the central message.  Isn’t it interesting how the Book of Proverbs refers to wisdom in the feminine?

•  Wisdom is calling out to us

“Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice?  On the heights along the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand …” (Proverbs 8:1-2).  We need to embrace a spirituality of vulnerability that has a more feminine-type wisdom underlying it.

Why is vulnerability so difficult for us to embody in everyday life together?