A "Purer" Communion?
Creation Care

Interview with Liz Babbs, author of "Celtic Treasure"

2008_a8 Here's a portion of my interview with author Liz Babbs about her recently released book, Celtic Treasure: Unearthing the Riches of Celtic Spirituality.

Writing “gift books” seems like such a rare yet creative approach to writing. What led you into the writing of gift books, and why have you stuck with it?

Thanks for describing Celtic Treasure as a ‘rare creative approach to writing’. I enjoy writing gift books because I can reach a much wider and more diverse readership through a gift book and it crosses the sacred/secular divide. Christians can buy any of my gift books for their non-Christian friends and they won’t feel threatened, because many folk are interested in Celtic spirituality and these books are very accessible. A gift book is also given to people for Christmas, Birthdays and to celebrate St Patrick’s Day. I’ve even signed ‘The Celtic Heart’ as gifts for Valentine’s Day! And one pastor bought copies of ‘The Celtic Heart’ for every woman in his congregation, as a Mother’s Day gift! Gift books also give me the freedom to write in a more visual and creative way, weaving in some of my original prayers and poems inspired by my travels to Scotland, Ireland, Lindisfarne (Holy Island) and Iona.

What are “thin places” actually, and what role do they play in one’s spiritual journey?

My understanding of a ‘thin place’ is somewhere where the veil between heaven and earth is thin. A place heavy with the presence of God where it is easier to pray, to walk, to talk and to listen to God. When I visit such places, it’s like stepping into a warm bath. It’s as though all my worries and the heaviness of living in this world, falls off. I can relax and begin to breathe again. Often, in these places, there is little or no cell phone reception and there may not be Internet access either. This is a blessing in itself - suddenly I become unchained, unshackled.

Many of the thin places that I love to visit, like Lindisfarne, have monastic roots, and so there has been a rhythm of daily prayer taking place across maybe 16 centuries or more. That’s an awesome thought.

Celtic prayers – both ancient and modern – often possess a mysterious yet wonderful way of expressing what we deeply feel and/or want to say to God. Why is that so?

Celtic prayers are rooted in everyday reality and get to the point quickly. They do not use over complex language and are both inclusive and reverent. People struggling with information overload, both inside the church and outside, love the simplicity and directness of Celtic prayers. Sometimes, they can bring new meaning and insights to old truths. On my blog I shared the prayer ‘The Scribe’ which is a wonderful Celtic prayer which could help writers, like myself, make a real difference, if we but prayed this prayer before starting work each day. But actually, this prayer could help us all communicate more effectively. Someone on my blog suggested posting it on our computers and praying it, before any written communication takes place that day!"

[Check out "The Scribe" prayer on Liz's blog]

How might a spiritual director or soul-friend be different than a persons priest or pastor, and what does a person stand to gain for having what the Celts called an Anam Cara?

I’m trained as a spiritual director or soul friend and think it is a wonderful tradition that really helps people deepen their relationship with God. Many of us struggle, at times, to know how to pray and there are times when we sense God is absent or doesn’t care etc. Spiritual direction is not the same as counseling, I’m not listening to a person’s problems, though they are bound to have them. I am listening to God and discerning what God might be saying to that person or how he might be leading or directing them. I really value being in direction myself, as the Christian journey can be a confusing one and I feel it is important for me to check that I’m discerning the right way forward. Spiritual direction also allows me the freedom to be me. God made me multi-creative, so there is no point putting me in a box and expecting me to pray a certain way for a certain length of time each day. It would begin to stifle my relationship with God. A good spiritual director will encourage you to pray as you can rather than as you can’t and will give you ideas for different ways of praying.Seeing your pastor for spiritual direction would be somewhat different. I don’t think it’s even encouraged her in Britain, you would be referred to someone outside your church.

Your pastor of priest may not necessarily be trained in spiritual direction, either, and so would not have the time or skills necessary to offer this service. The anonymity and confidentiality of spiritual direction is very important and it may be difficult for a person to admit to their pastor that they’d got a communication problem with God!

My spiritual directors have always been nuns at my local Anglican convent.

What advice do you have for readers who are interested in learning how to write their own inspirational prayers and poems in the Celtic tradition?

Keep your writing simple, authentic and rooted in God. Many Celtic prayers have patterns and refer to each member of the Trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The community of God as three persons was an important framework for the Celts. Many of their prayers cried out for justice for the poor, the afflicted and the lonely. The Celtic Saints led the way in seeking freedom for slaves from captivity. Their prayers echoed the themes of the Sermon on the Mount. Writing the Contemporary Beatitudes prayer in Celtic Treasure, was a great privilege and it has since been used in many liturgies with the congregation joining in the refrain.

Contemporary Beatitudes

To those who are lost

And ache for truth,

God brings his comfort.

 

To those who cry out for justice

But have no proof,

God brings his comfort.

 

To those who struggle to

Make ends meet,

God brings his comfort.

 

To those who don’t have

Enough to eat,

God brings his comfort.

 

To those who are marginalized

And have no self worth,

God brings his comfort.

 

To those who are beaten

and pushed down in the dirt,

God brings his comfort.

 

To those who are shackled

Without and within,

God brings his comfort.

 

To those whose life

nears its end,

God brings his comfort.

(c) Liz Babbs Celtic Treasure Lion Hudson 2009

 

I’m holding a competition on my Celtic Treasure blog www.celtictreasure.blogspot.com for people to write some original Celtic-style prayers. As a prize, I’ll give away a free signed copy of Celtic Treasure to the winner.

How about readers who loved the introduction they received to Celtic Christianity in your book, but are hungry to learn more – where should they go?

I’ve just compiled a list of some of the great books on Celtic Christianity on my Celtic Treasure blog www.celtictreasure.blogspot.com

 

You have visited and spoken within the United States a number of times. If you could encourage American Christians to either do or change one thing, what might that be and why?

CelticTreasure To be more flexible and open to change. To realize that America is moving towards being a post-Christian country, just like Britain. Some of our ‘Fresh Expressions’ or ‘ways’ of being or doing church, may shock Americans, but every denomination has had to adjust and change in order to survive and meet a rapidly shifting culture. This does not mean that the Gospel is compromised, quite the contrary, it is being thought though in a new and changing context. Many churches have left their buildings and are meeting in public venues like cinemas, coffee houses, warehouses. schools and pubs. Crossing the threshold of a church in the UK is a more alien concept to non-Christians here, unless it is a Cathedral with historic interest. The rapid change in our culture has even brought some denominations together, like the Methodists and the Anglicans, as they work out ‘Fresh Expressions’ or new ways of being church. But change can be acutely uncomfortable and so it will always be an easier option to keep on doing things a certain way because a church or denomination has always done things that way. Here in Britain, we’ve had no choice but to change!

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Comments

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Thanks for the interview, Chris. I've just put up a link from my Celtic Treasure blog to yours.

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