Why I Wrote a Book About Christian Mystics

Or, What Trent Reznor and John O'Donohue Have in Common

When Peter Gabriel came to Atlanta in 2003, my wife Fran and I were able to get tickets to the concert through a friend who works in the music business. Not only did we have the best seats in the house (right behind and above the soundboard), but we were seated next to a row […]

The Flicker of the Screen

Is the Biggest Threat to Contemplation Hiding in Our Pockets?

For if there is no dark night of the soul anymore that isn’t lit with the flicker of the screen, then there is no morning of hopefulness either. The above quotation comes from a fascinating, and I believe vitally important, article by Andrew Sullivan, called I Used to Be A Human Being. Originally published in New […]

One of my editors recently introduced me to Deacon Chris Anderson, a Catholic author from the other side of the country. Deacon Chris is an English professor, a poet, and a spiritual guide. He has a book coming out later this fall on the spirituality of the Examen, called Light When It Comes: Trusting Joy, Facing Darkness, and Seeing God in Everything. Plus he has this delightful video called “Why We Talk About the Weather.” Watch it; you’ll be glad you did.

Who’s Your Favorite Christian Mystic?

Here's a Book to Help You Find Out

I’m happy to announce that my latest book — Christian Mystics: 108 Seers, Saints and Sages — has been published. The first printing has been delivered to my publisher’s warehouse, and they are now in the process of being shipped out to bookstores (both online and brick & mortar). So your favorite bookseller should have stock […]

Take the biblical phrase: “God is love” (1 John 4:18). Repeat it again and again in your heart. As you do so, savor it, relish it and you will find that it is sweet as honey in your mouth. “God is love … God is love … God is love.” Repeat it at your own pace and rhythm. After some time you may wish to stop repeating it and be silent, without words and without thought. This is a rich silence, a sacred silence, a precious silence, a mystical silence. This is indeed the threshold of mystical prayer. So treasure that silence lovingly until after some time (perhaps after one minute or perhaps after ten minutes) you get all distracted, and then you return to your biblical words: “God is love … God is love … God is love.”

William Johnston
Being in Love (London: HarperCollins, 1988), p. 15.

I’m teaching a new class for the Emory Continuing Education Creative Writing Progam this fall. It’s a blogging class — with an emphasis on how to write effective and engaging blog posts. It’s ideal for anyone with a blog, whether it’s a business blog or a more personal (or spiritual!) project. If you live in Atlanta and want to explore blogging with me, I hope to see you there.

Event: Blogging: Effective Writing for Your Personal or Professional Blog

Know Who You Are: When God Gazes At You, Who Does God See?

A Contemplative Approach to Self-Awareness

In Delphi, in ancient Greece, at a famous pagan temple these words were carved above the entrance: γνῶθι σεαυτόν (Gnothi Seauton), which in English means “Know Yourself.” It’s a universal spiritual principle, not just something the Greeks thought up. For example, in 12-Step Programs, the first step to recovery involves admitting to yourself that addiction has made your […]

The Coptic monks of the desert knew only a single word and a single struggle for designating both the mind and the heart. We tend to separate the mind from the heart. We like to fill the mind; yet, we forget the heart. Or else, we fill the heart with information that should fill the mind. Nevertheless, the two work differently: the mind learns; the heart knows. The mind is educated; the heart believes. The mind is intellectual, speculative; it reads and speaks. The heart is intuitive, mystical; it grows in silence. The two should be held together; and they should be brought together in the presence of God.

John Chryssavgis
In the Heart of the Desert (Bloomington, IN: World Wisdom, 2008), p. 76f.

Books for Beginning the Spiritual Journey

Recommended Reading for Anyone Working With a Spiritual Director

Here is a list of several books I recommend for spiritual seekers — especially those who are working with a spiritual director or companion. When I recently posted a list of books for spiritual directors, I suppose it only made sense that someone would send along this request: Thanks for putting this list together! Do […]

The Mystical Body

Contemplative Spirituality Is More Than Just a 'Head Trip'

How do we embody the contemplative life? And how does the contemplative life make a difference in our bodies (both as individuals and collectively)? Fran and I had dinner the other night with a charming couple named Ray and Lee. We had met Ray a few weeks earlier when I spoke at a UU Church […]

Joyful Sanctity

If you think holiness is dreary, remember that melancholy is not a fruit of the Spirit!

What is the relationship between holiness and joy? A reader named Gordon writes, in response to my concerns about how “experience” can be misunderstood in a spiritual context: I agree with you that experience is not there for entertainment. But given my background in a very dreary fundamentalist religious upbringing, I always find the word […]

Before I can say “God Himself is mine,” I have to let go of everything but God himself. The familiar picture I may have of God is not God himself, and I will have to leave that image behind in the desert. God as he is in himself is wholly Other than I can imagine him, is transcendent Mystery. Likewise, my experience of God, whether in prayer or in my brothers and sisters, is not God himself. And so I will have to let go of my familiar forms of praying and experiencing God as I journey through the desert. I can learn to trust him whom I do not name or experience, trust him because I love him.

Charles Cummings OCSO
Spirituality and the Desert Experience (Denville, NJ: DImension Books, 1978), p. 118.

Recommended Reading for Spiritual Accompaniment

Books for the Ministry of Spiritual Direction and Soul Friendship

Spiritual direction, also known as spiritual accompaniment, is an essential ministry for anyone seeking to embrace contemplative Christianity. Not only is it a vital and beautiful ministry to receive, but many find meaning and value in providing this kind of soul friendship and guidance to others. Recently a reader of this blog wrote to me and asked, “Do […]

The Place of Joy in Christian Spirituality

Is it Okay to Enjoy a Deeper Prayer Life?

What is the relationship between prayer and joy? If we enjoy our prayer, does that mean we are avoiding the hard work of spirituality (which, at least in Christian terms, is meant to make us holy, not to entertain us)? I had an interesting little exchange on Facebook the other day, when a reader, who […]

Reviving an old page from my first blog

Warning: If you love spiritual books, this could be hazardous to your wallet...

Reading books about the spiritual life can be a substitute for actually devoting time each day to prayer. So if you have to choose between prayer and reading, make prayer your priority. Nevertheless, one of the best ways to nurture an ongoing prayer practice is to devote some time each day to reading nurturing and […]