The Magic of Contemplation

By Elaine Knudtson

Luke 18:15-17

But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”


I am returning to my childhood imagination after spending a lifetime in the modern, material world.  I left the inquiry of childhood to enter the “real world” of acquiring knowledge, education, status and possessions”, only to realize that the wonder of life had been stilled.  The joy of contemplation returns me to that place once again.

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In the chapter “The Ethics of Elfland”, Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton states:

“My first and last philosophy, that which I believe in with unbroken certainty, I learnt in the nursery. . . . The things I believed most then, the things I believe most now, are the things called fairy tales. . . Fairyland is nothing but the sunny country of common sense. . .

  • The chivalrous lesson of “Jack the Giant Killer”; it is a manly mutiny against pride
  • “Cinderella”, which is the same as the Magnificat
  • Beauty and the Beast – that a thing must be loved before it is loveable
  • Sleeping Beauty – the human creature was blessed with all birthday gifts, yet cursed with death; and how death may be softened to a sleep.

“When we are asked why eggs turn to birds or fruits fall in autumn, we must answer exactly as the fairy godmother would answer if Cinderella asked her why mice turned to horses or her clothes fell from her at twelve o’clock.  We must answer that it is magic.”

“The only terms that ever satisfied me as describing nature are the terms used in the fairy books, “charm,” “spell,” “enchantment.”  They express the arbitrariness of the fact and its mystery.  A tree grows fruit because it is a magic tree.  Water runs downhill because it is bewitched.  The sun shines because it is bewitched. . . When we are very young children we do not need fairy tales; we only need tales.  Mere life is interesting enough.”

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“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”.  .  . Perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony.  It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening.  “Do it again” to the moon.  .  . It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.  The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be the theatrical encore.”

G. K. Chesterton – “The Ethics of Elfland”, Orthodoxy.


20180823_095927This morning Paul and I went for a walk by the river.  We stopped and listened to the river chatter and the crows squawk overhead.  The sun painted the water silver and shone a spotlight on a gnarly tree near the bank.  “It looks like it’s dancing,” I said.

“Childhood Inquiry” by Elaine Knudtson

Simple faith.  Sitting on Jesus’ knee.

Sitting on my mother’s knee.

So many questions.  Everything is new.

Tell me the stories of Jesus.

You mean there really was a Jesus?

I can go there someday and see where he lived?  It’s not just a story?

I can talk to God and He will hear me? I just have to speak my thoughts?

You mean I don’t even have to speak!  It’s like magic!

Not magic?


God teach me to dance again,

like I did as a little girl

when I tucked my crinoline into my panties and twirled in the front room until I dropped to the floor in giddy delight. 

The marvel of seeing you in the ordinary

reveals your presence all around me

when I have eyes to see and ears to hear

as a child.


Matthew 11:25

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.

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Paul was a preacher and teacher until he retired in 2015. He continues to write and listen to what God is saying to him in the ordinary and extraordinary things of life. Elaine was a public school teacher and administrator until she retired in 2018. She is using her retirement to reflect on God's work in her life and to share insights with her family and friends.

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