Saturday, December 29, 2012

Following the Path of Celtic Prayer

This blog began in mid-June 2012 as a way for me to continue reviewing religious books, as I had been doing for years and in various publications.
Now on nearly the last day of 2012, I want to tell you a little about Calvin Miller’s the path of CELTIC PRAYER, first published in 2007 but as of November 2012 available in paperback and well worth reading and thinking about (
Miller is entranced by Celtic lore and the depth of Celtic spirituality and he shares what he has learned from their history and practice. His goal for this book is seen in the subtitle: An Ancient Way to Everyday Joy. He wants readers to see and know that, whether of praise or confession or whatever our prayers may be about, each day they bring us closer to God, and as with the Celts, "our hunger for Christ keeps us talking with God."
As Miller says, "For Celts, to know God was to talk to him as he is. When they sang or prayed or hunted or played, they did so in the presence of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit." Consistent adoration of the Trinity "filled their theologies, and the oneness of the Three permeated their art," and in fact, all they did and said and prayed. It’s amazing to see it in their words and their art, but it seems so right when we do see it.
In six chapters, Miller shares six ways of praying, calling them: Trinity Prayer, Scripture Prayer; Long, Wandering Prayer; Nature Prayer; Lorica Prayer (referring to the breastplate of protection described by Paul in Ephesians 6); and Confessional Prayer. He claims that "the Celtic embers of spirituality are catching fire all around us," as "the Celtic way stirs anew." Sounds to me like the right book to start the new year of 2013.
And a companion volume could be Miller’s Celtic Devotions, A Guide to Morning and Evening Prayer, also from InterVarsity Press. In this one, he offers 30 days of morning and evening prayer based on Psalm 119. He calls readers to be as pilgrims on a pilgrimage, making a journey "into the eternal presence of God." Each day includes a quote from the psalm as well as meditations and poems from Miller’s pen, and quotes from Celtic prayers and poems, especially from the Carmina Gadelica, a collection of early and traditional "Gaelic songs."
I count these two books a treasure, and maybe you will, too.

—Lois Sibley

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Christmas Adventure

The Lost Christmas Gift tells of an amazing adventure shared by a father and son in the wintery snow and cold of the Colorado mountains. Author Andrew Beckham tells us the story, combining imagination and truth-telling with maps, and skis, an old-fashioned sleigh, and beautiful trees. There is a mysterious man in the background, seen in antique photos and drawings on vellum. He leaves kindling wood and lumps of coal where they will find them. It is an intriguing mix of text and art that seems magical as one turns the pages. Who is this man and what is he doing here in the woods? It’s a bit scary as father and son finally realize they are lost in the dark, the cold, and the snowstorm.
It is a true story. The father and son were separated shortly after this adventure together, as the father, who was a mapmaker, had to go off to the war in Europe. The father wrote down their story in a handmade book that he made and sent back to his son from France, as a reminder of the fun time and the love they shared with one another. The book never came, or at least, not for 70 years. It was lost in the mail and when it finally came, it was old and worn. The boy was surprised to receive it and pleased that his father had sent him the story of their now long ago, overnight adventure in the snow. He wanted the story to be told to others so he sat down with his friend, Beckham, and showing him the special book, he told the story again.
Beckham, an artist and a skier himself, heard the story as an opportunity to tell it through the medium of unusual and different art works. He thought about how to present it in a book that both children and their parents would enjoy. And he wanted to include the mysterious man, who appears in the woods, who leaves skis, and firewood and lumps of coal, and who guides the father and son back to the path so they may find their way back home. Could he be St. Nicholas? Who knows?
Published by the Princeton Architectural Press (, this is what I call a "coffee table book," at 10 ½ by 12 ½". It’s a beautiful rendition of the story, sure to become a favorite.  

—Lois Sibley