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Lift Every Voice: Contemplative Writers of Color

Monthly Conversations on the Christian Mystical Tradition

Join Abbey of the Arts for a bi-monthly conversation on how increasing our diversity of perspectives on contemplative practice can enrich our understanding and experience of the Christian mystical tradition. 

Christine Valters Paintner is joined by author Claudia Love Mair for a series of video conversations. Every other month they take up a new book by or about a voice of color. The community is invited to purchase and read the books in advance and participate actively in this journey of deepening, discovery, and transformation.

Bi-monthly we will post our newest video recording and invite you to watch, ponder, and share your insights with us during the month that follows. Lift Every Voice is now available as a podcast in your favorite apps like Apple, Google, Spotify, Amazon, and Pandora. We then invite conversation and reflection in our dedicated Facebook group (click the link to request to join us).

This is a free series, the only cost for you is buying the books and we encourage you to support your local bookseller. We have provided links to Bookshop.org who sources from independent stores.

When you use our Bookshop.org or Amazon.com links we do earn a small commission on each sale that comes at no extra charge to you but helps to support this work. Click here for our Bookshop page with all the titles. You can also request that your local library make these books available for borrowing.

Listen to Our Conversations

What if the things we most fear about our bodies–our vulnerability to illness and pain–are exactly the places where God meets us most fully?

As Liuan Huska went through years of chronic pain, she wondered why God seemed absent and questioned some of the common assumptions about healing. What do we do when our bodies don’t work the way they should? What is healing, when one has a chronic illness? Can we still be whole when our bodies suffer?

The Christian story speaks to our experiences of pain and illness. In the embodiment of Jesus’ life, we see an embrace of the body and all of the discomfort and sufferings of being human. Countering a Gnosticism that pits body against spirit, Huska takes us on a journey of exploring how healing is not an escape from the limits of the body, but becoming whole as souls in bodies and bodies with souls. As chronic pain forces us to pay attention to our bodies’ vulnerability, we come to embrace the fullness of our broken yet beautiful bodies. She helps us redefine what it means to find healing and wholeness even in the midst of ongoing pain.

Joyful and daunting opportunities to live into God’s dream of justice and beloved community are compelling and available. Hope, says Luther Smith Jr., is essential to the needed personal and social transformations that prepare us for such sacred opportunities. Yet genuine hope is often confused as merely wish fulfillment, optimism, or perceiving better tomorrows. In Hope Is Here! Smith describes how we truly perceive and join “the work of hope,” enlivening us to a life that is oriented toward immediate and future experiences of personal fulfillment, justice, and beloved community. Interpreting five spiritual practices for individuals and congregations to experience the power of hope, this book prepares us to engage racism, mass incarceration, environmental crises, divisive politics, and indifference that imperil justice and beloved community. It delivers the inner resources necessary to work for change through its interpretation of hope. Additionally, each chapter ends with questions that prompt readers to examine their experiences and their readiness to journey with hope. Written for Christians who want to commit themselves to justice and beloved community, this book will provide helpful guidance for a life sustained by God’s gifts of hope and love. Hope is here for our “responsibility” and “response-ability” to live the fulfilling life that God dreams for us.

Featured Book for February 2024

Social Justice for the Sensitive Soul: How to Change the World in Quiet Ways

by Dorcas Cheng-Tozun

A timely, delightfully readable, and much-needed book. Booklist, starred review

Social justice work, we often assume, is raised voices and raised fists. It requires leading, advocating, fighting, and organizing wherever it takes place–in the streets, slums, villages, inner cities, halls of political power, and more. But what does social justice work look like for those of us who don’t feel comfortable battling in the trenches?

Sensitive souls–including those who consider themselves highly emotional, empathic, or introverted–have much to contribute to bringing about a more just and equitable world. Such individuals are wise, thoughtful, and conscientious; they feel more deeply and see things that others don’t. We need their contributions. Yet, sustaining justice work can be particularly challenging for the sensitive, and it requires a deep level of self-awareness, intentionality, and care.

In Social Justice for the Sensitive Soul, writer Dorcas Cheng-Tozun (Enneagram 4, INFJ, nonprofit/social enterprise professional, and multiple-burnout survivor) offers six possible pathways for sensitive types:

– Connectors relational activists whose interactions and conversations build the social capital necessary for change

– Creatives artists and creators whose work inspires, sheds light, makes connections, and brings issues into the public consciousness

– Record Keepers archivists who preserve essential information and hold our collective memory and history

– Builders inventors, programmers, and engineers who center empathy as they develop society-changing products and technologies

– Equippers educators, mentors, and elders who build skills and knowledge within movements and shepherd the next generation of changemakers

– Researchers data-driven individuals who utilize information as a persuasive tool to effect change and propose options for improvement

Alongside inspiring, real-life examples of highly sensitive world-changers, Cheng-Tozun expands the possibilities of how to have a positive social impact, affirming the particular gifts and talents that sensitive souls offer to a hurting world.

Featured Book for January 2024

What Makes You Come Alive: A Spiritual Walk with Howard Thurman

by Lerita Coleman Brown

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”–Howard Thurman

Known as the godfather of the civil rights movement, Howard Thurman served as a spiritual adviser to Martin Luther King Jr. and other leaders and activists in the 1960s. Thurman championed silence, contemplation, common unity, and nonviolence as powerful dimensions of social change. But Dr. Lerita Coleman Brown didn’t learn about him during her years of spiritual-direction training. Only when a friend heard of her longing to encounter the work of Black contemplatives did she finally learn about Thurman, his mystical spirituality, and his liberating ethic.

In What Makes You Come Alive, Brown beckons readers into their own apprenticeship with Thurman. Brown walks with us through Thurman’s inimitable life and commitments as he summons us into centering down, encountering the natural world, paying attention to sacred synchronicity, unleashing inner authority, and recognizing the genius of the religion of Jesus. We learn from Thurman’s resilience in the psychologically terrorizing climate of the Jim Crow South, his encounters with Quakers and with Mahatma Gandhi, and his sense of being guided by the Spirit. Each chapter illuminates an aspect of Thurman’s work and includes reflection questions and spiritual practices.

Decades after their deaths, sages like Howard Thurman offer spiritual kinship and guidance for our contemporary life. Thurman’s spirituality enlivened an entire movement, and it can awaken us to intimacy with God and to authentic action today.

Upcoming Conversations

Featured Book for September 2024

The Spirituality of Transformation, Joy, and Justice: The Ignatian Way for Everyone

by Patrick Saint-Jean

Discover how rooting our beliefs and practices in relationship–with each other, the natural world, and the Source of All Life–leads us to transform ourselves and the world.

At its heart, Ignatian spirituality is practical and experiential, offering modern readers a structure for pursuing inner growth that results in transformed action. While it is a deeply contemplative practice, Ignatian spirituality appeals to many of us who are looking for purpose and meaning, and who are wondering how to live out that purpose in a way that addresses the brokenness of our world.

At the heart of this thoughtful introduction to Ignatian spirituality are the Spiritual Exercises, developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola of Spain. Using ordinary language, these meditations point to the ways in which this spiritual path not only “grows our souls” but also inspires us to defend human rights, respect and listen to other cultures, find common ground between science and religion, struggle for justice, and honor a Divine Spirit who is actively at work in each aspect of our world. As twenty-first-century spiritual seekers, we do not need to be Jesuits, Catholics, or even Christians to make use of Ignatius’s methods; some of history’s most important thinkers–from René Descartes to Carl Jung–were influenced and inspired by the Spiritual Exercises. Let them guide you to transformation in the ordinary, everyday world.

Video coming in September 2024

About the Presenters

Claudia Love Mair - edited

Claudia Love Mair

Claudia Love Mair, MFA is a writer, artist, and Ringmistress of the Beautiful Soul Circus, a private Facebook group for creatives, queers, and tender souls. She’s an Inspirationalista who, when she’s not creating something herself, helps other creatives tap into their deepest intuition and longings through writing and painting. Claudia is the author of the God Alone is Enough, the critically acclaimed novel, Zora and Nicky, and her memoir, Don’t You Fall Now. She is a Certified Intuitive Painting and Expressive Arts Facilitator and the Coordinator for the Kentucky Black Writers Collaborative. Claudia lives in Lexington, with two of her adult children, and three cats, including one who thinks he’s a dog.

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Christine Valters Paintner

Christine Valters Paintner is a Benedictine oblate and the online Abbess of Abbey of the Arts, a virtual monastery and global community integrating contemplative practice and creative expression. Christine earned her PhD in Christian spirituality and is a Registered Expressive Arts Consultant and Educator. She is a retreat facilitator and spiritual director, as well as the author of 15 books on contemplative practice and creative expression including two collections of poetry, Dreaming of Stones and The Wisdom of Wild Grace. Christine has lived in Galway, Ireland since 2012 with her husband John, where together they lead online and live retreats to the wild edges.