Tending the Moments–Guest post from Christine Valters Paintner (plus book giveaway!)


Christine Valters Paintner

Christine Valters Paintner


You have undoubtedly had an experience similar to this: you are moving through a most ordinary day, when suddenly something shifts.  Where there was drudgery and habit, suddenly you become aware of the way sunlight is spilling across the living room rug and your heart breaks open at the splendor of it all.  Or you see a loved one in a new way and revel in their beauty.  Or maybe it is as simple as savoring the steam rising from your morning coffee, like incense lifting the longings of your heart.

We move through our lives, often at such speed, that our perception of time becomes contorted.  We begin to believe that life is about rushing as fast as we can, about getting as much done as possible. We are essentially skating across life’s surface, exhausted, and disoriented.

Contemplative practice calls us to change our perspective and awaken to a different reality, one that is governed by spaciousness, slowness, stillness, and presence.  Contemplation invites us to tend the moments.

Moments are holy doorways where I am lifted out of time and I encounter the sacred in the most ordinary of acts.  Moments invite me to pause and linger because there is a different sense of time experienced.  Moments are those openings we experience, where time suddenly loses its linear march and seems to wrap us in an experience of the eternal.

Mythologist and storyteller Michael Meade says the word “moment” comes from the Latin root momentus, which means to move.  We are moved when we touch the eternal and timeless which is available to us in each moment we are fully present. 

My work in the world is to invite people into this kind of awareness, something that is available to each of us, we just need to cultivate skills and practices to tend the moments.

Art and spiritual practice are how you find this moment of eternity, or better yet, how you allow the moment to find you. We only need to make ourselves available to them, to receive them as the gifts that they are, rather than seek them out as something we are entitled to.

Call to mind a time when you were so present to the moment, to the sheer grace of things, maybe watching a child giggle with delight or your dog romp playfully in a field.  And then perhaps, the thoughts broke in. The ones which seem to wield only criticism and dissatisfaction.  Maybe you remember the items still languishing on your “to do” list back at home and you felt an anxious dread. Contemplative practice cultivates our awareness of this pattern, so that we might be able to change it. So that when moments come to visit us, we find ourselves savoring and basking in wonder rather than reaching for what is next.

Contemplative practice also cultivates our profound awareness of life as an unending stream of gifts, and from this arises the impulse to create.  When we open ourselves to the sheer grace of things, we tap into a source of inspiration.  We feel moved to create something out of that gratitude.

For me, photography and writing are the ways I feel most often moved to respond to the generosity of life. Try this next time you feel overcome by beauty – pause there as long as you can without moving to do something else or complete another task.  And then, when there is a sense of fullness or completion, pick up a camera or a pen, and allow them to become the tools to honor what you have experienced and your expression of deep gratitude. Rather than “capturing” the encounter, let this be a prayer, so that slowly over time you might find yourself in an unending litany of praise.

Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice

Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice


Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, is the online Abbess at Abbey of the Arts, a virtual monastery and community for contemplative practice and creative expression.  She is the author of 7 books on art and monasticism, including her latest, Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice (Ave Maria Press). Christine currently lives out her commitment as a monk in the world with her husband in Galway, Ireland.


Thank you Christine!

The publisher has provided a copy of Christine’s book, Eyes of the Heart, as a giveaway to one of you! Leave a comment by Wednesday, May 22, 9 pm (est) to be included in the drawing. Please leave info for contacting you.

20 thoughts on “Tending the Moments–Guest post from Christine Valters Paintner (plus book giveaway!)

  1. Pingback: Virtual Book Tour: Guest Post at June Mears Driedger – "Tending the Moments" « Abbey of the Arts

  2. I really took some time to slow down and found myself really trying to interrupt that experience with busyness. I had to talk myself down over and over. Reminds me of Martha, sometimes I am not enough of a Mary.

  3. It reminds me of the “thin spaces” I’ve learned about first in Marjorie Thompson’s book “Soul Feast”, and then again in a course on Celtic spirituality at a nearby seminary. I remember experiencing my first “thin space” as a young teen. I was walking home from a friend’s house after a summer storm, and there was a heaviness in the air that almost felt like a blanket. It was so quiet and I remember feeling alone but comforted. I love taking pictures of landscapes, and I am not so concerned with the technical aspects of my photos as I am about capturing a moment that speaks to my soul, and then sharing it with others. I am intrigued by Christine’s new book, and I know I will try to acquire a copy as soon as school is out and I’m more free to pursue her insights into photography and contemplation. Thank you for this post.

  4. Learning to embrace the practice of noticing and receiving the gift of ‘moments’ has been a spiritual growth edge for me. My very amateur camera work is already often an expression of soul for me. Thinking about putting the two together, however — to engaging photography as a spiritual practice of savoring ‘the moments’ — is exciting to me.

  5. Gratitude is the basis of worship. Since January when someone asks how business is, I have felt moved to respond, “God is meeting my needs every day”. In the moment when I begin to be afraid in this uncertain economy, I suddenly feel the warmth of His presence and the gratitude that the Maker of the Universe is providing for me. This gratitude explodes for me in creating altar flowers to His glory. Thanks be to God.

  6. June – thanks for introducing me to Christine’s work. I have her website (Abbey of the Arts) bookmarked but haven’t explored it fully I love this quote from her post, “Contemplation invites us to tend the moments. Moments are holy doorways where I am lifted out of time and I encounter the sacred in the most ordinary of acts.”

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  8. My moments come when I weed and water my gardens. I love the organic connection with growing things and often repeat Lord’s prayer segments over each thirsty plant. Now my husband and I are renovating our second floor screened in porch to become a winter greenhouse, so I should be able to enjoy this spiritual/physical practice all year long.

  9. I received my own practice of contemplative photography nearly two years ago, after one of my pastors, a young mother in her late 30’s with three sons, broke the news to the congregation that she had just learned she had metastasized melanoma, and that there was no cure. The week she told us was a rainy one. I came home after one of those rain showers and discovered that the raindrops on the roseleaves near my back door were catching and holding the light — one of those moments of unexpected beauty, speaking to me of hope amidst tears and darkness. I had just finished setting up a website with a blog feature and started going out for camera walks, looking for the sparks of light, literal or metaphorical, and posting that to the blog a couple times a week (swglick.com/sparks-of-light-blog.html). I love the way going out with the camera slows me down to notice what I might not otherwise. And then working with cropping and zooming in for close ups with my computer provides another opportunity to see new things. And pulling together something for the blog is yet another moment for reflection, and for sharing that with others. Amen to Christine’s words, and to the work we share of paying attention and drawing others to this awareness of God’s presence in the world.

  10. I had the pleasure of being in Christine’s online class when she first offered “Eyes of the Heart” – my eyes and my heart were opened in amazing ways! This summarizes my experience: “When we open ourselves to the sheer grace of things, we tap into a source of inspiration. ”

    Thank you June for sharing her work and beauty here!

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