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Archive for Contemplative Leadership

Desmond Tutu as Christian Mystic

The three-fold division of Christian mysticism (purgation, illumination, and union) is essential in understanding Desmond Tutu’s life. Purgation exemplifies Tutu’s formation as an institutional church leader, illumination exemplifies Tutu’s role as confessor, and union exemplifies Tutu’s elder years as sage. As Tutu’s life proceeds through purgation, illumination, and union, not only does mysticism describe Tutu’s […]

Prayer as Action: Loving the World

Does it ever seem that not much is happening when you pray? When that’s what it seems like to me, all I need to do is look back at the tracks of prayer in my life. The psalmist’s astonishment and relief at being “lifted out of the miry bog”- in all the bog’s various guises […]

Love, Not Atonement

This year in the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar, the feast of the Annunciation falls just a few days before Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week. (This isn’t always the case since Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox.) The proximity of the two feasts […]

Knowing by Heart

Jeremiah 31:31-34 (The Message) “That’s right. The time is coming when I will make a brand-new covenant with Israel and Judah. It won’t be a repeat of the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took their hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant even though I […]

Boundless Gratitude for Going Deeper

Do not forget that you serve a Mystery that neither you nor your father’s father nor your mother’s mother began. And the laughter and the tears that accompany your labor are not born of your cleverness or your holiness, but are reflections of the Mystery of God in the still waters of the eternal lake […]

Prayer Changes Us

There is an old saying: be careful what you wish for. In a similar vein we might also be careful how we pray and what we pray for. As we practice contemplative prayer things change and that change is mostly in ourselves. Our ways of seeing and acting in the world become transfigured by divine […]

Welcoming God with Open Arms

While Lent is sometimes thought of as a season to give up something, this Lent comes after a year of pandemic and unrest that has many feeling like they’ve already given up a lot. For some it has meant no in-person visits with family or friends for close to a year. Some have lost jobs. […]

Experiencing the Beloved Community

Where did life begin for you? My life started in the womb of my maternal grandmother, Margaret Dunnivant Owens, born in 1908 in Giles County, Tennessee, the birthplace of the KKK. Participants in Shalem’s Heart Longings program listened to stories of my grandmother on January 9, 2021, as I honored her legacy, her struggles in […]

What Do We Think We’re Doing When We Pray?

One of the readings assigned for my first program at the Shalem Institute, the Transforming Community: Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats program, was an article by Ann Ulanov entitled, What Do We Think People Are Doing When They Pray?  I have often returned to that question, both in my own practice and in my […]

Just As We Are

I’ve always known the call to write. Mom supported my efforts, placing a small table in the dormitory-style room that held beds for me, my siblings, and our grandmother. The writing space didn’t last long; getting into closets on either side required sliding the desk one way or the other. But the message was clear: […]