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 […]

Exhaling My Prayer Breath

On January 29th I received my first Pfizer vaccine shot. On February 19th, I received the second shot. Two weeks later, I could finally begin to breathe deeply again. How long had I been holding my prayer breath? I didn’t realize how long I had been shallow breathing… more than 11 months, beginning when we […]

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 […]

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 […]

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: […]

The Open

Smoke from raging wildfires is rising out West and making its way to the skies in the East. Hurricanes are finding their way onto Southern shores. Angry tears roll down the faces of black mothers and fathers remembering lost loved ones at the hands of a racist society. White people scramble to understand racial injustice; […]

Sons of Light and Daughters of Day

But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness, for that day to overtake you like a thief.  For all of you are children of the light and children of the day. We are not of the night or of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and […]

Learning the New Song

The old song of my spirit has wearied itself out. It has long ago been learned by heart so that now it repeats itself over and over, bringing no added joy to my days or lift to my spirit… I will sing a new song. As difficult as it is, I must learn the new […]

The Challenge of this Special Time

In a recent letter, a Trappist monk who has been my friend for decades, wrote this to me: “It is a special time to be living and praying…” This simple phrase immediately went to my heart. It seemed true, with a depth of meaning I would lean into in the days ahead. My friend is […]

Three Leadership Lessons from John Woolman

In this time of multiple pandemics and many crises, I struggle with how to relate to those with whom I disagree. How do I find the wisdom to interact in a loving way; how do I speak my truth so they might hear? I find the eighteenth-century American Quaker John Woolman inspiring and instructive for […]