An Altar in the World

Barbara Brown Taylor's book, An Altar in the World (A Geography of Faith), is a rich, beautiful book.

In it, she relates twelve answers to a question asked of her long ago: "What is saving your life right now?" She says in the introduction,
What is saving my life now is the conviction that there is no spiritual treasure to be found apart from the bodily experiences of human life on earth....trusting that there is no way to God apart from real life in the real world.
Thus, she offers twelve spiritual practices, exercises "in being human that requires a body as well as a soul," and each of which she says helps her live with her "longing for More." The chapters are:
The Practice of Waking Up to God (Vision)
The Practice of Paying Attention (Reverence)
The Practice of Wearing Skin (Incarnation)
The Practice of Walking on the Earth (Groundedness)
The Practice of Getting Lost (Wilderness)
The Practice of Encountering Others (Community)
The Practice of Living with Purpose (Vocation)
The Practice of Saying No (Sabbath)
The Practice of Carrying Water (Physical Labor)
The Practice of Feeling Pain (Breakthrough)
The Practice of Being Present to God (Prayer)
The Practice of Pronouncing Blessings (Benediction)
An Altar in the World has already begun to influence me. For example, on the way home today from a meeting, I took a new way, an unknown way, in a conscious effort to make the journey a sacramental experience. The chapters about those practices that are already a part of my spiritual practice (prayer and Sabbath, for example) were no less interesting and helpful, as they also encouraged and enriched me in those experiences.

Some of the portions I highlighted:
Many of the people in need of saving are in churches, and at least part of what they need saving from is the idea that God sees the world the same way they do (pp. 6-7).

All good things cast shadows. Do we build God a house so that we can choose when to go see GOd? Do we build God a house in lieu of having God stay at ours? Plus, what happens to the rest of the world when we build four walls--even four gorgeous walls--cap them with a steepled roof, and designate that the house of God? What happens to the riverbanks, the mountaintops, the deserts, and the trees? What happens to the people who never show up in our houses of God? (p. 9)

In biblical terms, it is wisdom we need to live together in this world. Wisdom is not gained by knowing what is right. Wisdom is gained by practicing what is right (p. 14).

I have an easier time loving humankind than I do loving particular human beings (p. 27).

Reverence can be a pain (p. 32).

Deep suffering makes theologians of us all (p. 42).

This is the central claim of the incarnation--that God trusted flesh and blood to bring divine love to earth (p. 48).

God loves bodies. I mean that in some way that defies all understanding. God means to welcome risen bodies and not just disembodied souls to heaven's banquet table. The resurrection of the dead is the radical insistence that matter matters to God (p. 62).

While many of [Jesus'] present-day admirers pay close attention to what he said and did, they pay less attention to the pace at which he did it (p. 66).

I learned to pray the way a wolf howls (p. 110).

According to the rabbis, those who observe Sabbath observe all the other commandments. Practicing it over and over again they become accomplished at saying no, which is how they gradually become able to resist the culture's killing rhythms of drivenness and depletion, compulsion and collapse (p. 134).

The most ordinary things are drenched in divine possibility (p. 201).
As I said, a beautiful book. I'm glad I read it. I highly recommend it.

No comments:

Post a Comment