November 9, 2017—This Irish word—neart—is an odd, misspelled-looking little word for a beautiful and expansive concept. It is the idea of the spiritual energy of all living things, of the creative power of God. The ancient Celts asked God to strengthen them with the neart, and it has occurred to more than one person that “May the Force be with you,” might be an appropriate shorthand for wishing that another be blessed and made bold with their personal claim of neart.
I’ve learned this word, and others too, along with stories, poems, and prayers of the earliest Irish peoples in a weekend seminar on Celtic Christianity, presented by the engaging and wise Carl McColman. I’ve returned home reminded that God is not elsewhere, but is in my very breath, my very body, and surely in the breath and body of every atom of this earth and of this universe—how mystical is that?! And beyond that sheer euphoria, what does that mean for living a life?
A few weeks ago, I joined a group of friends from my church to watch a movie, one that would not have been a likely choice for viewing save for the fact that several scenes were filmed in our real-life sanctuary and some of our own congregation members appeared as extras in the worship scenes. The movie is Miracles from Heaven, and it tells the true story of a mom whose faith is tried, trampled, and ultimately restored as her daughter suffers through a rare incurable illness. Like many in our small audience, I came to the viewing with skepticism about the theology of the film, and there were indeed a few scenes that expressed beliefs different than my own. But overall, the story was well-told, well-acted, and well-representative of one family’s experience of making sense of the realities of this life. It was one line popularly attributed to Einstein in an impassioned speech by the mom of the story that has stayed with me since I heard it. That idea is this:
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is.”
The idea of seeing miracles everywhere, of seeing God’s presence in all places, is older than Einstein (who according to researchers likely never made that specific statement as such, but never mind) and older even than the life of Jesus; Celtic peoples converted to Christianity from a history of seeing gods in all things to seeing God in all things.
Seeing God in all things, sensing miracles everywhere, being strengthened by the creative power of God—that creates a heart full of neart. So may it be for all God’s people—AMEN!
About Ellen Gadberry:
“Let’s make something!”
From my earliest memories, I said that—to my mom and grandma, my playmates and peers, and in the quiet company of my own imagination. I’ve always been an artistic autodidact (and if you are compelled to go and look that term up, you are probably one too!) and making craft, making art, making in its forms has always been at the core of who I am.
Throughout my career in and around the classroom, my happiest and humblest moments have been when I am witness to the contemplation, insight and self-awareness that comes out of art-making, and boy, is it fun when there is great joy and laughter and delight as well—what a privilege to facilitate that!
I am currently pursuing a Certificate in Spiritual Formation at Columbia Theological Seminary, where my focus is on the intersection of spirituality and creativity. I am both a leader and a learner in workshops and retreats on crafting as a spiritual practice.
For over 20 years, the Spirituality Program at Columbia Seminary’s Center for Lifelong Learning has offered people in the pulpit, in the pew, in all denominations and stages of life, an exploration of community-grounded Christian spirituality that is rooted in scripture, theology, a history of the tradition, reading in the spiritual classics, prayer and meditation, and in skills for assisting others on a spiritual journey. Learn more about this enriching program HERE.