“Eyes of the Heart” Book Winner


Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice

Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice

Thank you for your thoughtful responses to Christine’s wise words of tending to our moments. I am grateful.

The book winner is Deanna Risser–congratulations Deanna! I will contact you for your address to mail to you.

And, I encourage everyone to pick up/order Christine’s book.

A final thought for today:

Look and See photo

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.

The Unmade Bed


I am reading Christine Valters Paintner’s latest book, Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice and am marking up the book with stars, underlines, and circled words as I begin to shift my understanding of photography. In the introduction she writes: “Photography as a spiritual practice combines the active art of image-receiving with the contemplative nature and open-heartedness of prayer.” (p. 3)

In chapter 1, Christine suggests we take 50 photos of one thing. “Choose an object from your everyday life. It could be anything that you engage with daily but that often falls under your radar of real attention …become curious about this object and see if you can make fifty images of it.”

I chose our unmade bed (perhaps a cheeky choice). I took 50 photos of it and I became curious of how the light and shadows might be seen on the sheets and quilt. I was surprised by my emotional responses to the images as I uploaded them later to my laptop. Here is a sampling:


I saw our bed as a place of life, safety, comfort, intimacy, and love. This is the place where I feel safest, secure in Kevin’s love and fidelity.  The unmade-ness of the bed reveals our life together.



This is the second quilt I made, in the late 1990s. I fell in love with colors in both the printed fabric and the batik fabrics when I first saw them together in the local quilt store in Goshen. I had enormous fun wandering amongst the fabrics, pulling bolts from their snuggled companions, and place them with the other fabrics, seeing if they will mix well together.  I was so excited to play with these fabrics and I had great fun piecing this quilt together.


IMG_0458I see how the colors are beginning to fade by use and sunlight. Although the colors have lost their vibrancy I still love them.  And I still love the sunflowers—one of my favorite flowers.


IMG_0463I was unaware of how worn the quilt is getting from daily use as I see the fraying of the binding. The fraying is a sign of love to me. Love for the quilt, love in the bed.


IMG_0466I didn’t intend to photograph my shoes beside the bed but I am delighted to see them. A sign of life and life beyond the bed.


IMG_0475Lastly, Kevin’s shirt discarded onto the bed late in the day after he had worked hard in the backyard. Another sign of life.


Christine will be writing a guest post for this blog later this week and I will be giving away one copy of her book.  Be sure to check back for Christine’s wisdom and a chance to receive her latest book!

Trust (my word for 2013)


TrustMy word for the year is trust. I discerned this word from an online retreat offered by Christine Valters Paintner on her Abbey of the Arts website.

Christine traces this relatively new practice to the desert Mothers (ammas) and Fathers (abbas) of the third through sixth centuries. She writes: “Many people followed these ammas and abbas, seeking their wisdom and guidance for a meaningful life. One tradition was to ask for a word—this word of phrase would be something on which to ponder for many days, weeks, months, sometimes a whole lifetime.”

Christine invited us to seek and discern a possible word for the next year as “something to nourish you, challenge you, a word to wrestle with and grow into.”

As I began pondering this (and it was a “pondering” rather than “thinking”) I originally settled on “deeper” as in, to live my life more deeply, to do deeper in prayer, etc. But it didn’t quite feel right. So I pondered some more. One night, as I was drifting toward sleep the word “trust” came to me. And I intuitively knew that “trust” is my word for 2013.

I held onto this for a few days and when I had a chance, I looked up “trust” in the dictionary. Here are a few definitions that resonated the most for me:

*reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence
*to rely on or depend on
*to believe
*Syn: certainty, belief, faith, assurance, confidence imply a feeling of security.
*”Trust implies instinctive unquestioning belief in and reliance upon something. Confidence implies conscious trust because of good reasons, definite evidence, or past experience. Assurance implies absolute confidence and certainty; commitment, commission, credit; entrust.” (my emphasis)

Then I made a list of what I want to trust and my list surprised me—essentially I want to trust God and I want to trust myself. I was/am surprised by how fundamental my desire is—the stuff of life, really. Here are a few:
*I want to trust that God does love me;
*I want to trust in God’s goodness and generosity;
*I want to trust that God is with me on my life journey;
*I want to trust that God is on my side;
*I want to trust that I can trust myself;
*I want to trust that I can live without fear and shame;
*I want to trust that I will honor myself—my dreams, hopes, desires, and plans;
*I want to trust that God is interested in my dreams, hopes, desires, and plans.

Notes on trust

I illustrated the word visually, as seen in the photo above. I also wrote an acrostic poem which is where the word is written vertically on a page and then use the letter to form the first letter of each line. Here is my attempt:
Trembling I grasp hold of I know not what
Releasing what I need to leave behind, what I have gripped onto for too long
Understanding that releasing is the way
Sustaining me as I move toward the invitation
Trembling with anticipation for what will come, what will be.

I am both curious and excited to see how I will live into “trust” this new year!
What about you? Do you have a word for the year?