The Celtic Hearth – epicenter of community and spirituality

The hearth is the heart of the Celtic home. There is a very old tradition of burning turf, or dried earth, for warmth and cooking in the hearth. The hearth also serves as a gathering place for community, family, and friends, a fact that may hint at a link between two Gaelic words: teallach (“hearth”) and teallagh (“family”).

The hearth is a place where stories are told. It is a place where the family traditionally gathers befre the start of a day and at the day’s conclusion. From the sound of the fiddle to the giggles of children listening to old family stories, from the hot water of a boiling teakettle splattering on stones to a fresh loaf of bannock bread beng pulled fro the fire: the hearth is a hub of activity in the Celtic world, ancient and modern.

In the Celtic tradition the hearth is the heart of the family, both biological and spiritual. Traditionally, the hearth is a site where the Celtic family gathers for both physical nourishment (for cooking and eating) and for spiritual nourishment (in the form of story telling, spiritual teaching, prayer, and healing). It is widely understood in the Celtic world that the hearth is a sacred place. It is a practical, yet spiritual, epicenter of Celtic culture. In essence, with the nourishment of the soul through spiritual practice at the hearth, we see very clearly John Scotus Eriugena‘s notion of the spiritual cosmos of the human being in the Celtic hearth tradition. Heaven and earth are enjoined in this single place within the home. Nourishment of the body and nourishment of the soul become interconnected; a spiritual cosmos is born and sustained.

Frank MacEowen, The Mist-Filled Path: Celtic Wisdom for Exiles, Wanderers, and Seekers


Economics and mysticism… related?

I’ve been thinking lately how the differences in economic variance between now and the mystics’ times may affect our feelings towards those who might be mystics in our current culture.

In Bend we have a good number of homeless folks who hang out downtown where I work and for a “small” town they are pretty visible. I was thinking about how many of them really would have trouble getting jobs at this point because of psychological or physical issues and so they end up homeless in a society that can really overlook those of of a lower economic standing.

I began to wonder if in a society where there wasn’t such a huge gap between the rich and the poor, as during the time of the middle ages and monasticism, perhaps those who had mystical experiences, leaving them not able to function on the same level as normal working class, might be more accepted. Many of the mystics have had physical illness or tragedy, which I personally think has shifted there perspective on the world both spiritual and physical. Maybe some of our homeless could really be considered mystics we have just lost our ability to hear them.

So economics and mysticism… are they related?

One year ago… Unanswered prayer… a response and a theology

As I am sitting here at George Fox Sem, I am reminded of these posts from last year. Enjoy!

Folks, I want what I do to be for the village… the community… the place where the spiritual unites with the physical.

So, for me, taking classes at George Fox Seminary to get my certificate in spiritual formation is about more than just me. I am doing it because it is what I must do… for the community and for God.

I recently finished my semester paper for my class on prayer and as I wrote it with the community in mind it is important for me to share it here. I will be posting it up in sections over the next week or so. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

To read part 1, Starting with Prayer,  GO HERETo read part 2, Prayer and it’s place in the Spiritual Life (pt 2), GO HERETo read part 3, The difficulty of sustaining our prayer life, GO HERE

Unanswered prayer… a response and a theology

Perhaps the one of the most difficult reasons for maintaining a sustainable prayer practice and perhaps one of the most painful parts of being in relationship with a God who is so much greater than any of us. How do I respond to someone who prays for healing of a loved one and does not receive it? How do I respond to someone who prays in his infertility that God would give him children and yet still remains childless? So much pain and so many unknowns…

I do believe that God calls us to compassion and presence, but not necessarily answers. Compassion is entering into the suffering of another, as Jesus entered into our suffering. This is being the presence of Christ to my community. Compassion may very well be just sharing the tears and the burdens while so deeply dwelling in the terrible, “I do not know…” So someone who’s prayers are not answered? It is the spiritual leader’s responsibility to provide compassionate presence… whether it be from myself, or from the community. Again, there are no good answers as to why or how or when or what… It is so much easier to go into this as a leader, even slightly. How much more difficult it is to allow someone to be in their pain, their anger, and their blame! Walter Wangerin, in his beautiful book, Mourning into Dancing, says that we MUST let the griever blame God. Better God blamed than others because God is the only one that can so lovingly take on this blame. This is hard for the spiritual leader trying to give the “right” kind of help.

Unanswered prayer part 2 can be found here.

Not much organizing for the organizers

There is very rarely anyone to organize for the organizers. If you are one who facilitates community or feels called to it, you may already know this to be true. I’ve had a few conversations with some wonderful men over the last few days that have made this very clear in my mind.

You see, in an ideal community, led by elders and leaders who have earned their leadership and authority by virtue of their years and their life experience and giving, ceremony and ritual would flow naturally. For a man in my place, a soon to be first-time father, the community of men would naturally be planning an initiation into fatherhood… a blessing rite… or something of the sort. But in this time, if I (or anyone else) want to encourage the ideal, I am the one who has to do the organizing or subtle (or not so subtle) hint, hint, hinting. I’m sure there are others who can share this sentiment. No hard feelings… it just is what it is right now.

We have a long way to go… as a community and society. I am realizing that peer pressure, in a positive way, can be very beneficial and very transformational. In a village society, where we are having rites of passage, ritual, and are led by true elders, the community-push for men to participate fully is natural. But in our current context, men want to do their own thing and worry about their own direct families. We don’t want t o take off work, drive to a remote site, be asked to show up fully, fast, and then sit in the wilderness alone for 24+ hours. What man is going to step out of his comfort zone to do this? Not many. Because it is hard work. So there is a huge chasm between the place and time when peer pressure can be a positive thing and now when a man can just say, “What?!? Are you crazy? I’m staying home.”

When we suck again

I may be the master of self-deception and not even know it. See, we can be wise, we can value all the right things, we can study and pray and serve and meditate… And then all of a sudden we realize we are just a big Shit. There is always something… Always something. And it builds up and builds up and BAM!! We suck again. I guess this is why grace is so important. This is what all the saints keep telling us… Without God we are nothing. We need him. It’s why so many of the mystics in one breath talk about union with God and in the next are saying, ”God save me” or “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

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