Tuesday, March 02, 2010

"Celtic Treasure" by Liz Babbs...a coffee table book to actually be read

I received a review copy of Liz Babbs' gift-size edition "Celtic Treasure," and want to brag on it.

I won't go into much of Celtic spirituality actually is, as that is what this new book (accurately subtitled,

"Unearthing the Riches of Celtic Spirituality")

and Babb's previous integrative book and music( "Celtic Heart") are all about.

But if this is all new to you, you may want to start with
this video interview with the author:

and our own Keltic Ken's audio interview with her at this link or here below:

Or for more 101 info on Celtic Christianity, testdrive this article, browse Len's posts tagged "Celtic," or my posts on "thin places."

Suffice to say Celtic Christianity is a historic movement much more multiplex than just the powerful point person you may associate with it (St. Patrick), with profound help for us walking in the Kingdom today. Bottom line takeaway, perhaps, is: heaven comes to earth now, it's not just us going to heaven later. There are ways to form and reform community/communitas in ways that leave room for sacred space (without the idolatry of place). And there are means to discipleship that are (as we say at our church) mystical and missional; as well as monastic and marketplaced. Celtic worldview eschews "either-or" thinking in favor of a biblical "both-and" approach.

Since that just confused you, anyway (:....

I much prefer to introduce you to things Celtic, and Babbs' delightful book, in a less propositional way...which is itself indeed a very intrinsically and epistemologically Celtic way of learning.

Risking being propositional, then, here are several (random) bragging points around the book(:

First of all: it, its layout and photographs, are gorgeous.
This is a coffee table book (as we say on our side of the pond) that is not to only ornamentally decorate the table, and decidedly not one to set a coffee cup on. Like all good books I own, I took notes. But unlike any other book I own, I felt I had to make the notes on a separate sheet of paper, and not in the book itself..........my scribbles would look like sacrilegious graffiti on the beauty of the book.

Around 1989, I took an amazing class from George Hunter III, who had at that time done some research that later became the wonderful book, "The Celtic Way of Evangelism." Several years later, Hunter presented that material for our West Coast Men's Retreat: great theory made practical. I could get quite excited about the implications of Celtic spirituality/theology/music for evangelism...in fact, too excited, if not careful. (Far too utilitarian, modern-evangelical, and compartmentalized an approach).

What Hunter's material, and what Celtic Christian music (Moya Brennan, Iona, et al... and other artists who may not be officially "Christian" or consistently "Celtic": Sinnead O'Connor, U2 as in "Drowning Man") does for me...

....and what Babb's book dramatically and powerfully does for me..

is my second bragging point:

..it challenges me into the implications of Celtic spirituality for all of life.

Celtic spirituality is holistic, sytemic, nonlinear, centered-set, inductive/abductive and intuitive.
How timely that those terms are all buzzwords for postmodern sensitivity; but they are first and foremost signposts of Celtic spirituality, which was (and is) ahead of it's time and therefore on time.



Babbs' prose and poems, especially due to the way they are typset, are the perfect thread to weave together the themes of the book. They are not mere markers or punctuation; they are to the point, and are the point. They themselves express and embed a Celtic sense in a way that historical narrative inherently cannot.

One example:

For love is of God.
It's the life force shaping all creation.
The very essence we breathe.
For love removes boundaries
eradicates prejudice
crosses divides
builds community
and moulds

Here is video of the author with a reading of another poem from the book:

Chapter Five on "Celebrating Creativity" was a standout for me, and my fourth brag.
I have so often lamented that Christians, who are made and remade in the creative image of a creative Creator are so often the least creative people on earth! Part of Liz Babbs' calling is as a "creative prayer consultant." May that tribe increase!

This chapter is a model and microcosm of the others: it is packed with history, but in a concise and engaging way; and it is illustrated with art and photos that bring it to life.

Witness, page 52:

"Fathers were said to pass the gift of storytelling to their sons and poetry to their daughters, and storytellers and poets were held in high esteem." Babbs then brilliantly dovetails this insight with an example of a Celtic poem attributed to St. David, which includes the line: "No man loves poetry without loving the light." Great example of simple and profound, and simply profound Celtic wisdom whih must be resurrected to speak into today's church.

Three not-necessarily Celtic commentators come to mind:

  • "Poetry is just the evidence of life, " Leonard Cohen offers," If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash."

  • In a vintage dictum, Chesterton nailed it: "Poets do not go mad; but chess-players do. Mathematicians go mad, and cashiers; but creative artists very seldom."

  • Celtic fan Martin Smith of Delirious once replied to Keltic Ken and I (hear it here), when we asked his wisdom about church, "I'm a poet, not a church leader."

When we grab hold of Celtic spirituality, and realize that now more than ever, poets ARE..by definition...church leaders. All I can say, we Western pastor types, and heresy hunters who lump anything Celtiis as "New Age," pagan or satanic have often been adventures in missing the point.

Even though Babbs' book is not marketed as a "church leadership" book, it may well rank among the top five books that should be included in seminary curriculums, but likely aren't...until seminary education becomes more...well, Celtic.

But at heart, this is a valuable book for any follower of/leader towards Christ..

notably those noticing a flatness and emptiness to much of the B.S. (click that last phrase, it doesn't stand for what you think) that passes today for meaningful Christianity.

I recommend it to all..as long as you remember, it is not just for the coffee table.

other endorsements (below) may help:

A beautifully illustrated taster that resonates with the heart of Celtic Christian spirituality.

Roy Searle, The Northumbria Community.

A veritable spa for my weary soul after a season of struggle… an oasis of refreshment for a thirsty traveller.

Joanne Hogg, lead singer of the band Iona

This beautiful book touches the heart-strings and gives us treasures of wisdom for our journey.

Ray Simpson, International Guardian,
The Community of Aidan and Hilda.

As you take in the beautiful illustrations and chosen text you will be transported into another world and enriched by our Celtic Christian heritage.

Dave Fitzgerald, musician and founder of the band Iona

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