Sitting under a Mature Tree: the Gift of the Contemplative Life

Sitting under a mature tree on a warm fall day I realized that there was a vast depth within me. I was 19 years old, in college, studying biology. But I did not care about classes they were just the excuse so I could sit under that tree and explore the depth of my soul.

Contemplation is a gifted moment when time and necessity fade and the present opens like a rare and beautiful flower. Contemplatives are committed to the importance of these gifted moments to human wellness and the common good.

More than this, Christian contemplatives look to God to open these moments. Through intentional design we prayerfully create an environment to open fully to God’s presence who has created everything and holds all things together. Jesus is our wise teacher and spiritual guide who leads us toward sacrificial living in response to the grace and outpouring love of God. And the lively Spirit dwells in us and all creation providing the gifts needed to grow and mature in faith, hope and love.

To live the contemplative life is a full and rich adventure because in any given moment we believe the riches of heaven can be seen and experienced. Every person in front of us every moment at hand is pregnant with meaning and guidance toward the heart of God.

I have been drawn to deepen in my own contemplative practice since I was young, now I am committed to  lead others to the riches found in wellspring of life in God.

Below are two recent poems I wrote that express a Christian Contemplative view.

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The long walk home begins with a word.

“Talitha cum”.

The Lord awakens the sleeping soul with one word, one breath of heaven and darkness melts away.

Then comes stunned awareness, a new dawn breaks forth. The dance of morning fills the senses, open clear awareness.

Time elapses noonday comes, clarity falls prey to gravity and sinks down under necessity. What can I behold in so short a day? The butterfly alone could steal my life.

Who am I to love so much? I am slain by the heat of day. And at night I am lost to the limits of this mortal life.

Please speak your word afresh, do not leave me alone in this gentle morning light, whisper the word, “little girl get up”

Stunned, I am born again and again.
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When I find myself in a weightless universe

The day is a playground

every moment a dance.


Gone is the impatience of time

and the boundaries of language vanish.


The harsh corners of reality melt away into a

soft, gentle, warm embrace.
No division, no opinion

Truth is union, love is the light.


The Divine Gift in a Crappy Cup of Coffee

coffeeI am not a big “foody” and I don’t often fall prey to food snobbery but morning coffee has become important to me. That first cup in the morning awakens all of my senses to the day before me. I had not known how important it was for that coffee to be drinkable until my time at St. Gregory’s Abbey last week. The prayers of the monks were sincere and beautiful but the coffee was crap. Each morning I poured a cup full, raised it to my lips ready for the taste of a new day but instead its weak bitter flavor had to be forced down.

The spiritual life requires that we be aware of our longing for more, our weakness… the imperfection of it all has to be part of our awareness in order for space to open for God to come. This acceptance of reality awakens us to His merciful loving Presence.

This Sunday is the last in our Advent observance. The scripture readings of anticipation and hope for the coming of the Lord reach a summit in the story of the Annunciation. We receive a new view of God’s loving way with his creation in the story of the Angel who appeared to Mary declaring her favored status with the Almighty One and announcing that she a young vulnerable woman is going to carry in her womb the Son of God.

Mary had to be barren in order to conceive. Mary said, “how can this be?” As we all do in life. How can it be that God can overshadow this world and our very lives when so often it looks and feels barren of a holy Presence?

There is much to distract us in this life from paying attention to how we are in need. We can be so full we aren’t aware of the deep longings of our soul. That is until we have to force down a cup of weak bitter life.

When we are aware of our longings we find God. God saves us, God gives us purpose, God clears our lives of what is unimportant and bad for us, God gives us the power to open our hearts in love to every person in front of us and moment at hand. When God overshadows us new life is conceived.

On the final morning of my retreat I lovingly cupped in my hands that little porcelain mug of terrible coffee. I recalled all the people in my life that are suffering, lonely, grieving, that I miss and I gave thanks for the bitter cup of longing. I learned again the secret that God can be trusted to transform longing into love.