Author Archives: Tammie Grimm

The Fundamentals of Baseball (and the Methodist Movement) by Tammie Grimm

Have you ever noticed the similarities between Major League Baseball and the Methodist movement? Both exist throughout the country and are recognizable around the world. In the case of baseball, professional baseball is played on other continents and plenty of players call another country “home.” Similarly, a branch of Methodism like the United Methodist Church is a global denomination with congregations, schools, ministries and outreaches found in far-flung exotic places most of us will never visit.

Despite their world-wide recognition, neither baseball nor Methodism is the only game in town. Baseball is only one of many spectator sports that compete for the attention of fans. Likewise, the Wesleyan Methodist theological tradition is one tradition that exists within the Church universal.

Both organizations experience their share of disputes and controversies. Each has a ready supply of pundits ably offering a play-by-play analysis. One big difference is that in baseball, pundits are former players and former coaches sitting on the sidelines offering their opinions. In Methodism, however, the opinions proffered and analysis given often come from active clergy and laity: Christian disciples do not sit on the sidelines when it comes to practicing faith.

So for all the parallels between the two, Major League Baseball and Methodism are by no means the same. Part of the point of the baseball season is to provide a platform for athletes to compete and win the World Series. Team franchises seek to offer their fans a good game to view and make a profit in the process. Part of the point of Methodism is to provide space for disciples of Jesus Christ to practice their faith in the Wesleyan tradition and grow more disciples. Congregations seek to be that space of growth even as they strive to be a part of God’s kingdom realized in this world.

As a baseball fan, I really enjoy post-season play even if my team is not playing; I love to watch the game being played in its top form. I especially enjoy watching the seasoned player who exudes the level of enthusiasm and excitement evident on a little league field. In every post-season, it is inevitable that a broadcaster will comment about one of the coaches whose team has made it to the playoffs because the coach stressed the fundamentals and how it has helped the team get to the playoffs. Since the beginning of the season, the coach has drilled the team in hitting, base running, throwing, pitching. In essence, the coach has kept the players focused on the basics of the game.

In many ways, a coach focused on the fundamentals reminds me of John Wesley and the Three General Rules of the early Methodists. The General Rules are simple guidelines to practice Christian faith: 1. By doing no harm. 2. By doing good and 3. By attending on all the ordinances of God. It is the third rule that fleshes out the fundamentals:

  • Public worship
  • Ministry of the Word
  • The Lord’s Supper/the Eucharist
  • Family and private prayer
  • Searching the Scriptures
  • Fasting

Just as hitting, base running, throwing, catching and pitching are the fundamentals of baseball, these Christian practices form the basis of Christian faith because they were evident in the life of Jesus Christ. The ordinances of God – fundamental practices of Christianity – are intrinsically and uniquely Christian. They connect Christian disciples with each other and are a means to connect us to God’s grace.

Wesley’s Third General Rule grounds us in Christian witness and faith. The ordinances of God are the fundamentals of how we get initiated into faith. Repetitive practice and exposure to prayer, worship, Scripture reading and study, the Eucharist and even the lost discipline of fasting all help to mature us as Christian disciples. By participating in these uniquely Christian practices, we are made available to God’s grace that aids us in knowing how and when to avoid harm and to do good.

By attending on all the “ordinances of God,” we open ourselves to God’s active presence in our lives. Through these practices, we remember the past and look towards a future with hope illuminated by God’s grace. We attend on the ordinances of God not so that we can win pennants and rings, but so that we can be disciples who demonstrate love for God and neighbor and participate in God’s transforming love in this world.

Baseball and Methodism will always have their superstars – but baseball and Methodism aren’t limited to the “major league.” Baseball is played on a local field in the neighborhood and even happens with a game of catch in the back yard with family members. Methodism is visibly practiced by attendance at Sunday worship services in the local congregation, and it is sustained by the regular and repetitious practice of prayer, devotional Bible reading, and extending God’s love into the world.

How is becoming a baseball player like being a Christian disciple? By paying attention to the fundamentals. Or, by attending on all the “ordinances of God.”



Adapted from an archival post originally published on Wesleyan Accent in 2014.

Tammie Grimm ~ Keeping the Feast and the Fast

It is Easter. Alleluia! Or, more properly, it is Easter-tide. Palm fronds saved from Sunday’s service a few weeks ago are woven homemade crosses drying on the kitchen windowsill or (in my case, on the pile of mail stacked on my desk). The signs and symbols of Lent and Holy Week – along with the bins of empty plastic eggs – are packed up as we savor the last morsels of Easter chocolate many of us denied ourselves for lo those 40 days. Refreshed by caffeine enjoyed anew with gusto, we put decorations into storage till next year’s Lenten fast returns and we begin the ritual again by asking ourselves, “What to give up for Lent this year?”

To be honest, I did not give up chocolate or caffeine for Lent this year. Or last year for that matter. And as long as I have plans to travel to England during Lent I will not give up chocolate or caffeine as my Lenten discipline. I will not purposefully cut myself off from the widely available British treat of chocolate-covered digestives with a cuppa Yorkshire tea during my travels. But traveling hasn’t stopped me from being more creative and circumspect about my choice of fast. This year I fasted (with varying degrees of struggle and success) from dependency on social media, so that I might grow more mindful of my dependence upon God.

For the last several weeks, I have contemplated the rhythms of fasting and feasting as a part of Christian discipleship. How does the experience of fasting help shape us when we finally break it and enjoy the feast? In what ways are our daily lives punctuated by choices we make to abstain from certain pleasures so we might be more conscious of our need for God? And, conversely, how do we share the joy we receive in the presence of God with one another so we seek to extend it further into our communities? How and why should fasting and feasting be a part of our discipleship, our way of living that is meant to help us grow in Christlikeness?

While in England, I had the opportunity to read the manuscripts of early Methodist pioneer Mary Bosanquet Fletcher housed in the John Rylands Library of the University of Manchester. Having taken requisite Methodist history classes in seminary, I knew Mary Fletcher was the first woman John Wesley permitted to preach in the 1770s. Later, she became the wife of John Fletcher, who is often considered the theologian of the Methodist movement. They were married for four years before his death and she continued their ministry in the same parish for the next 30 years before her death. Her journals, diaries, private thoughts, and letters embody the largest collection of Methodist papers in existence with the sole exception of John Wesley’s papers. Though I had research purposes relating to my doctoral thesis, the experience of reading her handwriting ministered to my heart and soul in ways I never could have imagined.

It wasn’t the words that Mary Fletcher used that illustrated something fresh to me about discipleship. It was the ebb and flow of her journal entries among the occasions she regularly recorded over the decades. There were times in which her entries were considerably more sparse contrasted by other times in which her entries were especially numerous.

But without fail, on holy days, significant birthdays, and anniversaries, she journaled about her experiences in private prayer, public worship and the holy conversation she had with persons she knew through her ministry. Journaling was an indelible feature of Mary Fletcher’s life. Other writing projects she authored and published for the Methodist movement may have diverted her from her personal journaling at times, but I am convinced that journaling was as much a part of her discipleship as Bible study, regular Eucharist, tithing, and participating in regular class and band meetings.

The spiritual disciplines help us establish a way of living our lives for Christ. Mary Fletcher, like John Wesley, called spiritual disciplines “means of grace,” which are the regular things we do as Christians that open us up to God’s grace and the activity of the Holy Spirit in this world. Discipleship is living in those daily moments, submitting ourselves regularly to God so divine grace can make us more Christlike.

Holy fasts and holy feasts are special events which offer perspective to the ordinary everyday. Fasts and feasts ebb and flow throughout the year to help transform the everyday experience. These holidays (or holy-days) highlight our regular disciplines, transcending them from the daily fabric of our existence, which in turn gives back to the ordinariness of our lives as we grow in Christlikeness.

There are times I’ve wondered if a Lenten fast is nullified by Easter feasting. But in reading Mary Fletcher’s journals, noting the ebb and flow with which she made journal entries, I understood her seasons of profuse writing were not negated by the seasons of terseness. Nor did periods she lapsed in writing void those periods of profusion. She was consistently journaling, reflecting on God’s goodness and allowing divine grace to transform her to become a worthy example to many as she became more and more like Christ. Like a tide that ebbs and flows upon a shore, the disciplines are like waves, ever-present with the rising and falling of the water.

Discipleship is a life-long endeavor, regularly punctuated by the fasts and feasts we keep, consistently renewing and transforming us so we might be worthy vessels to offer the life-giving water of Christ to a parched and weary world.

This piece from our archives originally appeared in 2014.

Tammie Grimm ~ There I Plant My Foot: Jane Eyre, Jane Austen, and John Wesley

Jane Eyre, Jane Austen, and John Wesley:

One of these things is not like the others,                                                                

One of these things just doesn’t belong.

If you consider the three names mentioned above and come up with several possible responses, you’d be well within reason. There simply is no one definitive answer because, depending upon context, any one figure could be sorted separately from the others, e.g., Jane Eyre is a fictional figure (the creation of Charlotte Brontë), John Wesley’s life preceded the publications of the two Janes, or even that Jane Austen was a lifelong singleton compared to the two others. You may have indeed come up with different responses as the possibilities are numerous.

A fresh June morning in the English countryside. Photo: Tammie Grimm

But how are these figures all like each other? You might be wondering, except for the fact that all are British figures, is it even possible to compare the life of an eighteenth-century reformer and evangelist with that of a Regency novelist alongside a heroine from a Gothic novel? After spending the spring re-reading Jane Eyre with a student and then re-reading beloved Jane Austen novels over the summer, I think there is affinity among the three beyond the fact that each has occupied a fair amount of my reading and reflection over the past year. Indeed, I believe it is possible to argue that the three are all on the same page together when it comes to integrity of personal identity and character. Wesley may have been an evangelist and religious reformer, but the Christian worldview and faith of Brontë and Austen is evident in the characters they develop in the pages of their novels.

There is little doubt to many regular readers of this site that John Wesley’s Christian belief and faith pervades his written works, whether it be sermons, letters, tracts, or hymns. Most of us who are contributing authors discuss the many various ways that Wesley’s life and ministry reflected his passion and zeal to help persons live new lives in Christ, to become more of who they were created to be, becoming more like Christ. As much as Wesley desired converts to the faith, his desire was to help persons be sanctified, to grow ever in perfect love through the power of the Holy Spirit—to be and to do like Christ—or as Wesley frequently put it in biblical terms to have the mind that was in Christ (Philippians 2:5) as to walk as Christ also walked’ (I John 2:6).[1]

To be sure, neither Jane Austen or Jane Eyre explicitly discuss the Wesleyan way of salvation, the need for regeneration, prevenient grace, justification or entire sanctification. Yet, their stories depict characters who live out their Christian faith with wit and vivacity as well as varying degrees of pathos and faithfulness.

Haddon Hall, location for Thornfield Hall in the 2011 Jane Eyre. Photo: Tammie Grimm

Re-reading Jane Eyre after several decades, and with the benefit of a seminary education, I was struck by Jane’s abiding faith that guides her throughout the novel. It’s easy enough for a twenty-first century high school English student to recognize many of the religious references and themes present even if their significance is lost on them and their contemporary English teachers who dismiss Christian belief as quaint and anachronistic. Still, the religious experiences and convictions of Jane are plainly discussed by Brontë and integral to Jane’s development throughout the novel. It is evident to the biblically literate Christian that Jane is the living embodiment of Proverbs 2:6, “Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray.” The Christian faith and teaching instilled in her as an orphaned child raised at Lowood School (which, in concept, is not radically different from Wesley’s own Kingwood School that came into being at the start of the Industrial Age) serves her when she is faced with temptation to become Mr. Rochester’s mistress. Wesleyans might even imagine Jane holding fast to the first two General Rules (e.g. to avoid evil and do good) as she struggles with her desires. It is her conscience that guards her from regret and guides her in character during a pitched moment of crisis:

Indomitable was the reply—“I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself. I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when sane, and not mad—as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the times when there are not temptation; they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth? They have a worth—so I have always believed; and if I cannot believe it now, it is because I am insane—quite insane; with my veins running fire, and my heart beating faster than I can count its throbs. Preconceived opinions, foregone determinations, are all I have at this hour to stand by; there I plant my foot.”[2]

Haddon Hall bridge, site for Thornfield in the 2011 adaptation of Jane Eyre. Photo: Tammie Grimm

Yet, Jane’s resolve is not simply her own. In the remaining paragraphs of this pivotal chapter, Brontë writes of the presence of supernatural, likely a divine, power to prompt Jane to flee temptation completely and run away from Thornfield Hall. Towards the conclusion of the novel, in an answer to a fervent prayer, the presence of the supernatural appears again, bringing resolution to Jane and her Byronic hero Edmund Rochester. And, finally, instead of coming to a satisfying romantic denouement, the non-sequitur of the novel’s last line, “Amen; even so come, Lord Jesus!” can be as abrupt and confusing to the Christian reader as it is to the most astute Brontë scholars.

Brontë is not out to write a religious narrative in Jane Eyre, but as a daughter of a Curate in the Church of England, she has no issue with integrating her faith and everyday living in her eponymous character. Neither is Jane Austen’s intent to discuss Christian faith in her romantic novels. The daughter and sister to clergymen, Austen was granted a cathedral burial because of her support of and contributions to clerics in her neighborhood.

Mr. Collins, as played by David Bramber in the BBC Pride & Prejudice miniseries.

Austen’s most visibly representative figures of religious establishment, clerics Mr. Collins (Pride and Prejudice) and Mr. Elton (Emma), are the target of humorous satire within her works while others like Captain Wentworth’s older brother (Persuasion) is a sympathetic figure looking out for the best interests of his younger sibling. Both authors are not above pointing out the hypocrisy in the life of the clerics they portray. Whereas Austen seeks to create caricatures of her clerics, Brontë creates stern, unyielding taskmasters of Mr. Brocklehurst, the head of Lowood Institute, or of St. John Rivers, Jane’s clergy cousin who dreams of being a foreign missionary. Rather, like Brontë with Jane Eyre, it is in the lives of Austen’s heroines (and even their intended suitors) that the cultivation of virtue is the evidence of the faith that dwells within.

Pemberley gardens, located at Chatsworth. Photo: Tammie Grimm

Without a doubt, Austen does not come close to discussing religious experience in the explicit ways Brontë describes. Still, Austen’s heroines are faithful members of the established Church of England who regularly attend worship and prayer services—which proves to be as good a meeting place for plot development between suitors as any local dance or formal ball. Piety may not be the predominant virtue running throughout Austen’s novels, but each of her heroines—whether it be the Dashwood sisters or Emma Woodhouse, Anne Eliot, young Catherine Morland or even Elizabeth Bennet—are all essentially virtuous people seeking to become better persons through self-reflection and examination in light of the events that unfold. Self-examination may not happen explicitly through the lens of faith, but this penchant for self-reflection is not an exercise exclusive to her characters.

Austen wrote three prayers that have survived her death, each designed to accompany the Book of Common Prayer. Self-examination (somewhat akin to the spirit of Ignatius of Loyola and John Wesley) is evidenced in the following prayer Austen wrote, and which hangs in St. Nicholas Church, Steventon, a church where her father and brother pastored:

Give us grace, Almighty Father, so to pray, as to deserve to be heard, to address thee with our hearts, as with our lips. Thou art everywhere present, from thee no secret can be hid. May the knowledge of this teach us to fix our thoughts on thee, with reverence and devotion that we pray not in vain.

Look with mercy on the sins we have this day committed and in mercy make us feel them deeply, that our repentance may be sincere and our resolution steadfast of endeavoring against the commission of such in future. Teach us to understand the sinfulness of our own hearts, and bring to our knowledge every fault of temper and every evil habit in which we have indulged to the discomfort of our fellow-creatures, and the danger of our own souls.

May we now, and on each return of night, consider how the past day has been spent by us, what have been our prevailing thoughts, words, and actions during it, and how far we can acquit ourselves of evil. Have we thought irreverently of thee, have we disobeyed thy commandments, have we neglected any known duty, or willingly given pain to any human being? Incline us to ask our hearts these questions oh! God, and save us from deceiving ourselves by pride or vanity.

Give us a thankful sense of the blessings in which we live, of the many comforts of our lot; that we may not deserve to lose them by discontent or indifference….[3]

The Pemberley drive from the 2005 Pride & Prejudice film adaptation located at Chatsworth. Photo: Tammie Grimm

Neither Brontë nor Austen write with the religious zeal and desire to see their creations sanctified in the way Wesley

wanted for the people called Methodist. And as much as I want to see Jane Eyre as an example of discipleship in a Gothic novel, she is a solitary figure with no supportive community to support her in her daily Christian living.

Still, the novels offers insight, for those reading with a lens of Wesleyan discipleship, to the ways in which our favorite heroines (and their suitors) live into their Christian faith and teaching. Brontë and Austen do not offer escapism from the everyday, but provide a portal to consider how Christian faith helps shape the characters we love and cherish through the ages.




[1] John Wesley, ‘The Character of a Methodist,’ The Bicentennial Edition of the Works of John Wesley(Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1976- ). 9:41. See also, ‘Sermon the Mount XII,’ Works, 1:680; ‘The Case of Reason Impartially Considered,’ Works, 2:593; ‘The More Excellent Way,’ Works, 3:265; ‘The Principles of a Methodist,’ Works, 9:55; ‘The Principles of a Methodist Farther Explained,’ Works, 9:225.

[2] Brontë, Charlotte. Jane Eyre, (New York: Penguin Group, 2006), 365.

[3] Glassy, Terry and Jane Austen. The Prayers of Jane Austen (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers), 9-19.


This post originally appeared on Wesleyan Accent in 2016.

Tammie Grimm ~ Why Pilgrimage is Part of Discipleship: Discovering Lindisfarne


Nether Springs.


Holy Island.

For years I casually entertained the hopes I might visit the Northumbrian Community that produced Celtic Daily Prayer. Inquiries to the community recommended a minimum stay of two nights and three days. Required trips to the United Kingdom for PhD residency never quite afforded the wiggle room on either end to steal away for the time necessary. So, the hoped-for trip to the Northeast swath of England’s shoreline remained a will-o-wisp of the mind, never seriously contemplated, just a flirtation briefly considered for the merest of moments before the notion flitted out of my brain as effortlessly as it had entered. Even after arriving in the UK with an extended visa, I never dwelled on the thought, just placed the idea in a mental hope chest I labeled, “IF…”

Then, opportunity presented itself. The pipe dream became possible. Time and circumstances conspired so that I might travel and live among the Community. Not only was I going to go to Nether Springs, I was a registered participant on their retreat, “Celebrating the Saints.” The added dimension of being on a retreat with other Christians during All Hallow’s Eve, All Saint’s and All Soul’s Day was of such significance to me, it’s hard to describe. Suffice it to say, the pipe dream was becoming a pilgrimage.

Despite cognitively knowing every Christian is a pilgrim traveling through this world, pilgrimage, to me, is something other people do. It is teens attending a winter youth event or persons who condition themselves to walk the Camino de Santiago. Pilgrimage did not seem to me to be part and parcel of our ongoing discipleship. I understood pilgrimage to be either a nice way to spiritualize tourism or an extreme commitment that wore out the soles of one’s shoes as the interior soul was similarly stretched to its limits.

And yet I knew I was doing more than simply attending a retreat. Something deeper within me than my casual hopes and dreams had been preparing for this moment. Even though I journeyed alone, walking a mere quarter mile to the bus stop that took me across town to the train station, where I boarded an express that carried me 180 miles northward towards the coast, where I joined others who arrived at the same platform by other routes, I began to sense that this was a pilgrimage of sorts.

A quote by Canon Stephen Shipley, discovered a few weeks after I had been to Northumbria after my first opportunity to explore Lindisfarne, confirmed that I was indeed on a pilgrimage:

Pilgrimage is far more than making a physical journey, it is being prepared to allow that restlessness which is in every human soul to entice us away from our security in search of something deeper; a clearer vision of the God who calls us to His service.

Viewed this way, pilgrimage is very much a necessary part of our discipleship. Pilgrimage might describe the whole of our Christian journey in this world, but the opportunity to experience a pilgrimage offers particular, defining moments along the way. Just as a person is justified when the heart is made right with God after prevenient grace pricks and prods the soul that may produce realized faith, I found a sacred centeredness after years of ephemeral hopes swirling about me. At last, I had, like Moses, been distracted from the daily demands and tasks “to turn aside and see” the work of God in an extraordinary way (Exodus 3:1-3). Pilgrimage to the coast of the North Sea provided me with a perspective about who I am as a child of God in ways I sincerely doubt I could have ever seen otherwise.

At Nether Springs and on the tidal island of Lindisfarne I encountered God in profound ways. Daily prayer with the Community. Meals shared with others. Conversation and new friends found. Retracing the lives of Aiden, Cuthbert and other Celtic monks on the island they first populated in the 7th century. Building a memory cairn from the weather-worn rocks at the prominent tip of the island. Walking over the grassy hillocks and along the rocky shoreline to which these men brought Christianity to England, I discovered spiritual roots that allowed me to draw deeply from the wellspring that feeds the soul of every Christian.

The nourishment I received alleviated a latent thirst that had gone unacknowledged for too long. My awareness was roused to understand pilgrimage as part of the rhythm of our ongoing discipleship. Experiencing pilgrimage allows each of us an opportunity for our lives to be focused afresh on our heart’s true home as we journey further towards our destination in God.

Tammie Grimm ~ The Celtic Cross

With its distinctive orb that surrounds the intersecting arms that form the right angles of the Latin cross, most of us recognize the shape and design of the traditional Celtic cross. No matter our level of familiarity with the prayers, traditions and other customs of the medieval Celtic Christians, the iconic artwork of the cross is no ancient relic relegated to history. Numerous high standing crosses of stone that first began to dot the landscape of the British Isles in the 4th and 5th century still remain. But today the Celtic cross is more likely to be worn as jewelry or tattoo art than to be constructed as a visible landmark for all in the vicinity to guide their steps and judge their distance from one place to another.

As popular and distinctive as it might be, the origins of the Celtic cross are not necessarily exclusively Celtic. The ring that gives the cross its distinctive flair might have been first used as arches designed to support or stabilize intersecting beams. There are some who claim that, rather than a crucifix, the Celtic cross depicts a crown resting on the cross on which the prince of glory died. Or, as legend has it, it might have been a pagan symbol for the moon goddess that St. Patrick superimposed with a Latin cross, thus uniting two symbols that allowed him to evangelize more effectively. Regardless of how it came to be, the meanings inherent in the symbolism of Celtic crosses are almost as varied as the numerous knot-works and patterns that often emboss them.

For some, the circle symbolizes eternity, whether it be attributed to God, God’s love or the mystery of God. Others believe the circle highlights the eternal mystery of how the crucifixion and resurrection are united together, or the endless nature of Christ’s sacrifice upon the cross. Some even believe the circle represents the world and its creation that is merged with the crucifixion of Christ, thus merging the two into one symbol that represents life, hope and resurrection.

While some Celtic crosses are plain without any inscribed artwork, many Celtic crosses are adorned with elaborate knot work that is typically raised from the stone, metal or wood from which the cross is made. Gemstones or contrasting metals might be used in jewelry as well. Celtic knot work has always been a mainstay of the cross, though many medieval high crosses depict stories of the Christian faith. The artwork can be as plain or as simple as a Triquetra (the three interwoven leaves representing the Trinity) or a much more intricate weaving that mesmerizes in its seemingly endless complexity. Still, the design never meanders aimlessly or so convoluted that it jumbles and snarls. Always, the Celtic knots and strands twist and braid a pattern that is beautiful and elegant, at once demonstrating the complexity of God’s creativity and the simplicity or unity that marks all things as God’s creation.

For believers of any time or generation, the Celtic cross is a beloved symbol that captures our imagination and evokes the mystery and love that lies at the heart of the Christian faith. And after all, that is as it should be, for what is Christianity without the cross?

May the cross of the crucifixion tree
Upon the wounded back of Christ
Deliver me from distress,
From death and from spells.

The cross of Christ without fault,
All outstretched towards me;
O God, bless to me my lot.
Before my going out.

What harm soever may be therein
May I not take thence,
For the sake of Christ the guileless,
For the sake of the King of power.

In the name of the King of life,
In the name of the Christ of love,
In the name of the Holy Spirit,
The Triune of my strength.


Tammie Grimm ~ The Work of Our Hands: Celtic Christianity & the Way of Wesley

I am “old school.” I freely admit it. When it comes to writing, whether it be drafting a letter or revising a doctoral thesis (and I have done both in the last year) I would rather sit down with paper and pencil than a laptop or tablet. Turns out, studies indicate, I am not alone; there is something about the mind-body connection that allows for deeper processing of thought and concept. That is important for me when it comes to the creation of thought and presentation of idea, but I am not a complete throwback. There are times when sitting down and pounding out my thoughts through my fingers on the keyboard allows me to keep pace with the flow of thoughts in my brain and not to be slowed down by them as my hand struggles to keep up. When it came to making minor edits in my thesis, I was ever so grateful my doctoral thesis is stored in a cloud and could easily be corrected with a few keystrokes. So my preference for drafting with pen and paper does not mean I do not appreciate the ease and convenience of electronic writing. I suppose that makes me a “wryter”—a hybrid of writer and typist.

Writing and typing are both physical acts; words are generated onto a page. Research suggests that writing by hand allows a person to do analysis and concept mapping* that is foregone in the action of typing when the emphasis is on copying and capturing words verbatim in a streamline form. In other words, writing by hand allows our brains to operate with generative ability that is stifled when it comes to typing through a keyboard. There is something about using our hands that allows us to create in ways that are important to how we think, reason, and function as human beings.

The Celtic tradition reflects this integration of mind, body and soul. Whether it be the kneading of bread, the weaving of cloth, the shearing of sheep or the plowing of fields, there is a mind and body synergy that allows the worker to engage the craft in such a way that their work becomes a prayer. They found a richness in the rhythms of their lives as the patterns of their daily life and work formed prayers. As we’ve discussed in earlier posts, these prayers accompanied the physical labor that resulted in a lifestyle in which people sought to cooperate with God in the work that they did. A prayer the farmer offered for his livestock as he set them afield was not for his physical stamina to do the chore, but sought the welfare and protection of his herd:

Pastures smooth, long, and spreading,
Grassy meads neath your feet,
The friendship of God the Son to bring you home
To the field of the fountains,
     Field of the fountains.

Closed be every pit to you,
Smoothed be every knoll to you,
Cosy every exposure to you,
Beside the cold mountain,
     Beside the cold mountain.

The care of Peter and of Paul,
The care of James and of John,
The care of Bride fair and of Mary Virgin,
To meet you and tend you,
     Oh! the care of all the band
     To protect you and to strengthen you.

The farmer understood that his cattle, his sheep, his goats, his crops depended upon more than the elements and his steadfast caretaking, they depended on the protection of the One who created them, the Triune God of the universe. He knew that his family’s welfare depended upon a successful and bountiful harvest whether his fields helped stock the stalls of the butcher, the weaver, the tailor or the baker.

Considering the ways of the Celtic Christian is not some nostalgia for old ways of doing things, nor is it meant to demean our contemporary culture and the modern conveniences that come with it. Electronic innovation allow us to enjoy hands-free mobile devices and voice-activated technologies in every space of our lives. But in the temptation to reach new high scoring quotas to one-up our competition, whether they be adversaries or friends, many of us engage in mindless busy work at the expense of our souls. Though Dilbert, Office Space and The Office are designed to entertain us and make us laugh, how many of us truly ask for God’s help in our daily work—and not just as a desperate prayer to get us through a mandatory meeting or a looming deadline?  How many of us have a definitive line that separates our work and career from our personal life, rarely mixing the two together? I wonder if, as sophisticated twenty-first century people, we really envision our lives as contributing to a tapestry that is woven together and endlessly creative as opposed to a cog in a machine that endlessly spins and turns until enough widgets have been produced.

Many prayers of the Celtic Christian sought God’s blessing upon their labour. Each prayer, whether it was said by the woman who started the fire or churned the butter, or the man who laid the bricks or tended the fields, were a unique expression of the Psalmist who prays, “May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands” (Psalm 90:7). Collectively, their prayers are mindful that their work is not theirs alone but that their work is given to them by God so that they might contribute back to the whole of creation.

No doubt, the modern day labor force is varied and defies simple classification no matter what color collar that represents a chosen field. It is highly unlikely that one single Celtic prayer will necessarily encompass all the possible workplaces we might inhabit. But it is entering into and going about our daily work that draws us together. The following Celtic prayer, traditionally said upon rising in the morning, elaborates the cry of the Psalmist and reminds the worker that their work is done in the presence of God and for the whole of creation. How might it change your work day if prayed before you started your shift? Before you entered that meeting? Before you met with that client? Before you tackled a mountain of paperwork?

Let us go forth,
In the goodness of our merciful Father,
In the gentleness of our brother Jesus,
In the radiance of his Holy Spirit,
In the faith of the apostles,
In the joyful praise of the angels,
In the holiness of the saints,
In the courage of the martyrs.

Let us go forth,
In the wisdom of our all-seeing Father,
In the patience of our all-loving brother,
In the truth of our all-knowing Spirit,
In the learning of the apostles,
In the gracious guidance of the angels,
In the patience of the saints,
In the self-control of the martyrs,

Such is the path for all servants of Christ,
The path from death to life.


*[1] Pam A. Mueller and Daniel M. Oppenheimer, “The Pen is Mightier than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking” Psychological Science 25, April 23, 2014: 1159-1168.

Celtic Clues to Feeding Body and Soul

“What’s for dinner?” It might be the most dreaded daily question an adult can be asked. If only there was a simple answer that did not hinge on a barrage of underlying questions: Who’s making dinner? What time are we eating? How many for dinner? Will there be any dislikes or allergies represented at the table? What’s in the cupboard? Is the shopping done? What will be done with leftovers? What’s quick and easy to make? How long since we had that meal? Should we do take-out? And after all the responses are in and the meal is hopefully declared a success, the questions are all relevant again the next day and the next and the next. Menu planning, shopping and meal prep require a tenacity that can try even the most creative and skilled among us.

Enter the meal delivery kit or boxed meal services. Begun in Sweden in 2008, companies such as Blue Apron, HelloFresh, and Purple Carrot don’t just answer the age-old question but deliver fresh ingredients and detailed recipes to the subscriber’s kitchen door each week. All that is needed is dinner preparation, or as one company calls itself, Just Add Cooking. Designed for working couples and their households, food industry consultants predict this booming market has the potential to become a five billion dollar business before the decade’s end.

What’s the attraction? I asked a few friends who are subscribers, “why go with the meal service and not just do take-out?” Their answers were revealing. Beyond the simplicity of having the decision made about menus and the convenience of having everything delivered with no worries about how to use leftover exotic ingredients is the fun, enjoyment and satisfaction gained from preparing and eating a home-cooked meal. Though often tired at the end of a long work day, people reported that they found satisfaction in sharpening – and in several cases, learning – culinary skills in order to make the labeled and pre-measured ingredients become a tasty, nutritious meal for the whole family. And even though food prep could sometimes be longer than if they made a standby from their normal rotation of meals, they found the preparation and cooking to be valuable time spent with their spouse and families. What had been a thankless job was something they now found enjoyable thanks to their meal delivery service.

But can satisfaction with menu-planning and food preparation only be found through a meal delivery service? Of course not. Though for many families already subject to the demands of extended work hours, exhausting commutes and the conflicting competing schedules of all the various family members, the idea of cooking together, let alone sitting down to eat as a family is more likely to be a well-intentioned thought than an actual lived event.

I doubt the medieval Celtic woman found daily meal preparation to be a complete joy that she eagerly looked forward to either. But for her, and yes, I am being gender-specific per the time period, food preparation constituted much of her regular work. Bread and butter weren’t staples she conveniently picked up at the market, but laborious, time consuming tasks that required her regular attention if she was going to provide the basics for her family. Baking the bread not only required kneading and proofing the dough for each individual loaf, but also keeping the starter from going rancid to provide the family with a regular supply of bread. Churning the butter meant an hour or two of physical labor that had been preceded by carefully skimming the cream off the milk which sat for a day or two previously in order to separate. She had to be as strategic as any of her contemporary equivalents are today—just at very different tasks, ones we often consider to be old-fashioned and obsolete as a result of technological advances.

But how did she do it without losing her religion?

By understanding her chores as part of the wholeness and fabric of life. Specifically, by inviting God to be a part of her daily work. She understood her efforts provided the essential food and nourishment on which her family depended and she asked God’s blessing upon it. The sign of the cross was slashed into the top of bread loaves and a traditional prayer that accompanied her butter churning chore actually sought its success so she might help sustain those less fortunate, as represented by St Peter in the following refrain:

Come butter come

Come butter come

Peter stands at the gate

Waiting for a buttered cake

The plea and blessing she sought from God wasn’t just hers alone. Guests and visitors who arrived to a home in which the daily chores were being tended greeted their hosts with the Gaelic blessing Bail o Dhia which translates to, ‘God’s blessing on the work!’ The declaration of such a blessing expressed the implicit knowledge that the monotonous backbreaking work was not simply the laborer’s alone but a joint effort blessed by God upon which all of society depended. Daily food preparation was streamlined into the weekly chores that made up everyday life.

Inviting God into her work wasn’t some magical incantation that made the work any less onerous, mundane or exhausting. But inviting God’s blessing and receiving the encouragement of others kept her tasks in perspective – it was done for the glory of God, as an act of love for God that showed God’s love to others. How many of us have that kind of awareness today when we face the daily task of dinner preparation? Or are we blinded from seeing how we participate in the greater good for all, simply because we are confounded and frustrated in figuring out what to serve our own families for dinner?

Despite the fact that most of contemporary society is freed from the backbreaking daily chores of food growth, harvest, storage and food preparation, there is a deep disconnection we have from our food and the source that provides it. Food is an easily accessible resource, stocked on shelves in grocery stores with plenty of reserves in warehouses ready to re-fill the shelves even before they are fully emptied. We take food for granted and our frustration with daily dinner prep might stem from the fact that we have too much choice. We want things made simple—but not so simple we must give up the conveniences of modern life.

Ultimately, I believe, we yearn for the connection experienced by early Celtic Christians: to their food, to its sources and to God who is the source of all food and nourishment—physical and spiritual.

So is it necessary to subscribe to a meal kit delivery system to understand the many connections and the community that goes into preparing our meals? No – though for some families, it is a step towards simplicity and in coming to a greater awareness that the meal they are able to make and enjoy with their family is because someone has helped them prep the meal. Regardless of whether your meal is made from scratch or assembled with some pre-made ingredients, it can be an eye-opening exercise for the whole family to consider the preparation that has gone into making the food on the dinner plate.

Being mindful our of meal and its greater purpose is just one initial step to recapturing the spirit of Celtic Christianity in our cooking and dining. Retrieving the practice of saying grace before each meal is a simple and concrete way of understanding the many ways in which we are nourished at mealtime. One advantage to keeping a prayer book with short simple graces handy at the table is that it allows anyone, even a guest, to choose a grace to say before the meal. Thanking God for the hands that have helped make the meal and to bless those who receive it, we begin to practice our awareness of just how far our dinner table extends. And as a recent video celebrating the 150 years of confederation of Canada suggests, overcoming the challenges of eating dinner in our insular homes might be worth it as we begin to know our neighbors and enjoy the community with which God has surrounded us.

Dinnertime dilemmas will not likely go away anytime soon, but practicing an awareness of how God has blessed us and intends us to bless others might be one way in helping make a thankless job something for which we are truly thankful.

A Traditional Celtic Grace

Bless, O Lord, this food we are about to eat; and we pray you, O God, that it may be good for our body and soul; and if there is any poor creature hungry or thirsty walking the road, may God send them in to us so that we can share the food with them, just as Christ shares His gifts with all of us.  Amen. 


Resources for Saying Grace:

Blease, Kathleen. Mealtime Blessings: Prayers, Blessings, and Meditations for Saying Grace. Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2012.

Kelly, Marcia M and Jack Kelly. 100 Graces: Mealtime Blessings Harmony Publishing, 1997.

McElwain, Sarah. Saying Grace: Blessings for the Family Table. Chronicle Books, 2003.

Faith and Worship

Daily Prayer Ministries

Living Prayers: Contemporary Prayers for Today prayer_for_food.html


Featured image courtesy Vicky Ng on Unsplash.

Tammie Grimm ~ A Flame of Love: Celtic Christianity Within Reach


This post is part of a series on integrating the values and practices of Celtic Christianity into our lives.

On a cold winter’s evening, whether to toast marshmallows, chat with friends or curl up and read a book, many of us might enjoy the opportunity to cozy up to a brightly burning fire in the hearth. But how many of us depend upon a fireplace—excepting in dire emergencies—to heat up our homes? The reality is, despite whatever scouting skills may still be lurking in your back pocket, most of us need only rely on a switch or a button to raise the temperature on the thermostat. And those of us with smart phone and security cameras can adjust our homes as needed from remote locations. With effortless ease, our homes are kept comfortable with the flick of our wrist or the point of our finger.

Not so the medieval Celtic woman. She had to be skilled in the art of fire tending: how to keep the fire from smoldering and filling the house with smoke, yet not use too much peat as to waste the precious resource that had been cut from the bogs months before and dragged to the home where it dried before burning. Physical labor, often dusty and dirty work, was also necessary—to haul the peat, shovel the cinders and keep the flue clean and safe from chimney fires. The fire she lit each morning in the hearth of her home was the fire she depended on to heat the home, cook her family’s food, and be a ready source of flame to ignite a splint that would light a trimmed wick from which to see; the fire depended upon how well she “smoored” or banked down the fire the previous night. In the midst of this manual labor, a prayer to the Trinity such as the following accompanied the nightly ritual which involved spreading embers into a raised heap before it was divided into three sections on which peat was laid.

The sacred Three

To save,

To shield,

To surround,

The hearth,

The house,

The household,

This eve,

This night,

Oh! this eve,

This night,

And every night,

Each single night. Amen.

The next morning, as she stirred the ashes and coaxed a flame from the coals, she prayed again. And just as she prayed the evening before, her prayer was more than a simple wish for the fire to light; it was a prayer that her day’s labor would be guided by the one who is the source of all Light.

I will kindle my fire this morning,
in the presence of the holy angels of heaven,
in the presence of Ariel of the loveliest form,
in the presence of Uriel of the myriad charms,
Without malice, without jealousy, without envy,
Without fear, without terror of any one under the sun,
But the Holy Son of God to shield me,
Without malice, without jealousy, without envy,
Without fear, without terror, of any one under the sun,
But the Holy Son of God to shield me.

God, kindle Thou in my heart within

A flame of love to my neighbor,
To my foe, to my friend, to my kindred all,
to the brave, to the knave, to the thrall,
O Son of the loveliest Mary,
From the lowliest thing that liveth,

To the Name that is highest of all,
O Son of the loveliest Mary,
From the lowliest thing that liveth,
To the name that is highest of all.

I wonder how many of us pray when we adjust the thermostat? Sure, we may pray the furnace keeps heating and the lights stay on as we prepare for an ice storm, blizzard or other wicked weather. And the exclamation, “Thank God!” when power has been restored after a power outage is not exactly the prayer of gratitude to which I refer.

Do we regularly stop and consider all the ways in which God is present in our lives and has provided so our homes have electricity, power and running water? Do we pray as diligently and as intentionally as the Celtic woman’s kindling prayer for the basics of life? I confess I do not, and I am willing to wager that I am not alone. I suspect one reason we do not pray for the utilities that supply our homes is that we have come to expect them as a consequence of modern-day first-world living.

And underlying our expectation that electricity, heat and hot water are effortlessly a part of contemporary life is our very disassociation from the basic necessities of life and the constant need to attend to them. Unlike the fire in the fireplace or the wick in the oil lamp, our modern-day conveniences do not require the regular tending – except to pay our monthly bills in a timely manner.

But if we pay attention to the Celtic woman’s kindling prayer, we realize what she prays for is more than a comfortable home. She asks God to kindle a flame of love within her heart that will reach out beyond herself to include her neighbors. As she attends to the basic needs of her home, she is also looking beyond her family to take care of the needs of others. Her kindling prayer reflects the nature of the Triune Godhead who is whole, complete and integrated as its own self, yet bothers to invite humanity to share in the gift of divine love.

The kindling prayer teaches us that once ignited, the flame of love needs regular tending. Our relationship with God and our relationship with others is not an on-again, off-again event that can be controlled by the flip of a switch or the turn of a spigot.

Our cues from the kindling prayers invite us to attend to the relationships that sustain us, to understand we depend upon God and one another. In many respects, the kindling prayer reminds us that relationship is as basic a necessity to life as heat and light. The kindling prayer considers the plight of our neighbor, both the ones we like and the ones we do not. How many of us know all the neighbors on our block? In our apartment complex? For too many of us, it is not until the power goes out and stays out for more than a few hours that neighbors begin to pool their resources and check in on one another. And despite the inconvenience of doing without power for a day or two, a sense of community can be cultivated and experienced as folks band together to survive the black-out. But once the power is restored, it is easy to lapse back into our homes and the creature comforts we enjoy in our private domain, neglecting to regularly attend to and nurture the community in which we live but have no part.

So what’s a twenty-first century person to do to capture the spirit of Celtic Christianity? Jettison the modern conveniences of life? Go live in a cabin in the woods? Could it be something as simple and as mindful as praying the kindling prayer? Can we be like the Celtic woman, as diligent and as intentional to check in on our neighbors even when there isn’t an emergency?

This week, I invite you to pray the kindling prayer as part of your morning routine and the evening ‘smooring’ prayer, intentionally placing yourself before God at least twice a day.

Don’t simply adjust the thermostat in your home—or even check it, especially since it might be pre-programmed—without asking God to ignite the flame of love within your heart for your neighbor.

Be willing to allow God to use you as kindling in your community, to spark a flame that attracts others to its glow and spread the Light of the world into the dark shadows that oppress your neighborhood.

May the God of peace bring peace to your home,

May the Son of peace bring peace to your home,
May the Spirit of peace bring peace to your home,

This day, this night and evermore. Amen.

Tammie Grimm ~ The Trinity: A Woven Mystery of Beauty

For my shield this day

A mighty power:
The Holy Trinity!

Affirming threeness,

Confessing oneness,
In the making of all

Through love…

The breastplate of St. Patrick features this refrain at both the beginning and the end of its poem. St. Patrick’s invocation of the Trinitarian Godhead—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—is emblematic of Celtic Christianity. St. Patrick may be famously remembered for using the shamrock to explain the Trinity (even though his analogy and other ones are derided by the Irish twins  Donall and Conall on YouTube), but his attraction to Trinitarian language and symbolism is shared by many other Celts. What can be more holistic and integrated than to invoke the name of the Trinity, the fullness of God?  Addressing each member of the Godhead—the one who creates, the one who redeems and the ones who sustains—is a natural part of Celtic prayer, weaving each member into prayers, both the ones spoken in corporate worship or the ones prayed privately by individuals.

For many contemporary Christians, to pray in the Celtic tradition can seem very “Catholic,” especially modern-day converts who are taught a prayer has no real merit unless it includes the phrase “in the name of Jesus.” Truly, I have had more than one conversation with students about the efficacy of prayers I offer because I did not invoke that exact phrase! To which I have pointed out (as a previous professor pointed out to me once before) that to depend solely on this usage is to reduce the “power, power, wonderworking power in the blood” of Jesus and negate the fullness of the Trinity. There is power in the name of Jesus, but to cut it off from membership it shares with the the co-equal, co-eternal, co-existent persons of the creating Father and sustaining Holy Spirit is to ask Jesus to work with two hands tied behind his back. Sure, he can do it, but not in the fullness or totality that is the divine nature of God. After all, each member of the Godhead, the Father, Son, and Spirit, share equally in divinity, power, and love. All distinctive, yet participating so closely with one another and infused so deeply with one another, that they are one.  We might call it a divine dance of love in which each participant gives of their self to the others so wholly and completely that they live and act as one being. They are one entity. As a divine entity, they are complete and whole unto their self in no need of anything else. It needs nothing else. Not even humanity, not even the world.

God’s love is so complete in the Godhead that nothing else is needed. But, it is not all that God desires. God’s love desires to include more, not because God needs to, but because God wants to. God did not give into a whim in the act of creation.

Creation is the result of God deliberately acting out of love to share love with others beyond God’s self in the Trinity. Redemption is what God did in Jesus by deliberately acting out of love to rescue what rejected him but still desires to accept divine love and be saved. Sustenance is what God continually does to care for, guide and nurture persons in their ongoing relationship with God and one another—but never are these actions done apart from one another. Basic to Wesleyan understanding and theology is that the love of God flows through Jesus Christ to us by grace and in combination with Holy Spirit, and we are able to find new life and faith through Holy Spirit who sustains, comforts, and empowers us to offer ourselves to God through the work of Christ.

The Celtic understanding of the threeness that is oneness and the oneness that is threeness  is more than a celebration of the power of three. Sure, scoring hat-tricks in futball (think American soccer) and hockey are great, and getting a trifecta is special, but the Trinity is far more than the accidental occurrence of three particular events. The Trinity is the essence and nature of God, not only to be invoked in prayers, but symbolized in artwork.

The Triquetra, or Celtic knot, three leaves without beginning or end, is a Trinitarian symbol long associated with the Celts, but now popular in many other forums. With a circle entwined around it, the infinite mystery of God, without beginning and without end offers the artist and the viewer exquisite beauty that can be represented in infinite variations.

As predominant as the Trinity is within Celtic Christianity, Trinitarian thinking is not the exclusive purview of the Celts. John Wesley illustrated the entwined nature of the Trinity within Christianity when he preached, “knowledge of the Three-One God is interwoven in all true Christian faith with all vital religion” (On the Trinity 2:385). His prayers, his brother’s hymnody, the liturgy of the early Methodists—and even those who claim to be his modern-day descendants—seek the fullness and the richness of the Trinity in corporate worship.

Yet artwork, hymnody, liturgy and prayer are not the only ways the Trinity can be represented. To take another phrase from the Wesleys, Christian disciples are living, breathing “transcripts of the Trinity.” Created, redeemed and sustained by God, we are empowered by the Trinitarian God of the universe to be in relationship with the rest of creation—to share the infinite love of the Trinity with others. This requires relationship. And within that relationship there is cooperation with the divine, discipline by the divine, practice. It takes dedication, desire and commitment to participate with the divine actions of God in this world.

That is what it means to be a disciple of Christ: to be willing to dedicate ourselves to God, submit ourselves to Christ’s teaching, and be directed by the Holy Spirit in all that we do. And just as the Godhead is not comprised of a simple single deity, but lives in Trinitarian communion, we as God’s creation are meant for connection and community—to live with and among one another for the fullness, goodness and the advancement of God’s kingdom here on earth.

So what’s a contemporary Christian to do to recover the Celtic tradition of Trinitarian prayer?

As a way to begin, I suggest it is possible to think about the actions and events that occur in the ordinary everydayness of life and appeal to the Godhead in prayer.

In what ways do we create, whether it be making meals, making decisions about schedules, which bills must be paid, making judgments about whether your child needs correction or nurture? When do you find yourself being an intermediary, a conduit of communication for others, appealing on the behalf of a friend, a spouse, a sibling, a parent, or a co-worker to another? How are you seeking to sustain yourself as well as family members or friends, looking to guide others in their decision-making processes, to nurture yourself and the relationships that sustain you? Chances are, if you are like me, life and love are as complicated as they are simple. Any one action involves a host of motivations, needs and desires as we seek to act in faithful obedience to God and one another.

As you go about your week, consider the myriad actions and roles you play in your life. Consider how they intersect with one another and bring a fullness to your life. Ask God, in the fullness of the Trinity, to guide you, prompt you and create within you a life of fullness and wholeness that is integrated and reflects the goodness and glory of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

For my shield this day

A mighty power:
The Holy Trinity!

Affirming threeness,

Confessing oneness,
In the making of all

Through love…

Tammie Grimm ~ Celtic Christianity and the Coloring Craze

Chances are, you or someone you know gave or received a coloring book for adults in the last year. With titles as catchy as “Color Me Stress Free” or “The Art of Relaxation,” the coloring craze has swept the nation. Whether the book contains images of floral gardens, mandalas or other graphic patterns, the idea behind coloring therapy is to find “inner peace” or your Zen through selecting a desired pencil and shading in a printed design.

Coloring reportedly helps reduce stress in adults as it requires the brain, nervous system and muscles to use fine motor skills and therefore engages the participant in a creative action. An added benefit is that it is a skill learned in childhood, so the simplicity of what was once work for a young child is now a pleasant pastime. Regardless of any nostalgia coloring may evoke, the action of coloring allows the mind to rest from the myriad of helter-skelter activities of modern-first-world-living that keep it occupied otherwise.

Together, the right brain and left brain coordinate in the simple repetitive action of moving the pencil to dapple, daub, dot, fleck, or steadily tint the page with pigmentation with infinitely creative possibilities. No matter how many copies of the same pre-printed image are made available, each person who sits down to color expresses their own creative autonomy with the colors they choose, the techniques they use and whether or not they chose to stay within or even create outside the lines.

I wonder if coloring hasn’t become our contemporary culture’s expressed need for connection and integration. Living in a society in which so much is mechanized and automated, we lose track of who we are, how we function and who we are meant to be as human beings. Think about it: for many of us, eating and drinking – a basic human necessity- is something we access through cardboard boxes and cellophane wrappers. Yes, it is convenient to use the drive-thru line to get our Starbucks or use an app to place our to-go order ahead of time to use the handy carry-out parking space at Applebee’s or Panera’s. Such conveniences and technological assists allow us to be super productive in our overcrowded schedule. Yet, whether we like it or not, a sense of alienation begins to creep into our lives, disconnecting us from a life of intentionality, a life of integration, a life of wholeness that is a hallmark of Celtic Christianity.

Celtic Christianity, through its prayers and practices, grounds participants in the fundamentals of who we are as human beings – creatures of God, our lives connected to the earth and related to the world – even the world beyond our tangible senses.

In similar ways, the act of coloring connects us in a fundamental way to who we are as human beings, unified creatures made in the image of God who created us. Our mind, heart, and will are united in creative endeavor and that prods our soul and awakens it into consciousness – integrating our whole being. Instead of continually living a distracted existence that imperceptibly fractures our sense of self and belonging in the world, coloring is a simple, easily accessed and a typically pleasant pastime for many. Coloring allows a person’s mind, heart, and energies to become focused and provides rest and rejuvenation from the rat race that otherwise consumes us.

No wonder coloring has become a fashionable entry point for prayer and meditation. But coloring is no substitution for living a life of intentionality and integrity that is Christian. Even coloring a series of Celtic knots and designs does not make one practiced in the ways of Celtic Christianity – ancient or contemporary. It might be a start, but it is only the initial steps of a lifelong and all-encompassing journey of intentional whole-life discipleship.

In a series of several posts, I plan to explore the heart of Celtic Christianity, what such a life of integration and integrity looks like for a contemporary Christian and why such a life is authentic to our Wesleyan heritage. Each post will consider aspects of everyday life that threaten to distract and distort us from living full lives that seek the sacred and find connection with the endlessly creative Triune God who created the universe.

For those of you interested in taking this journey with me, try your hand at coloring once or twice in the next week. It need not be a Celtic design, but if a Celtic knot will help inspire or ground you in this experience a few links to some free on-line artwork are provided below.

As you color, consider the things you notice about the activity…what sorts of things are conducive to coloring? What distracts you from coloring? Do you enjoy coloring with others or do you prefer doing it by yourself? There are no right or wrong answers, but taking stock of the activity may lead to further insights about what Celtic Christianity might look like in our contemporary culture.

Until then – may this traditional Celtic blessing accompany you on your journey and serve as a benediction.

May you have –

Walls for the wind

And a roof for the rain,

And drinks bedside the fire

Laughter to cheer you

And those you love near you,

And all that your heart may desire.