Friday, February 18, 2011

An Altar in the World

I’ve been getting a lot of reading in lately… for me that is one of the blessings of winter and cold yucky days. I love reading, but often don’t have (or give myself) the time to sit down and read, but snow-days give me permission to take a day off from the regular routine and read.

I’ve also been on a bit of non-fiction kick lately, normally I mix-up the fiction and non-fiction more. Several of the books I have recently finished have left me wanting to re-read them and discuss them with others. They’ve been so rich, that I’m left hungry for more, wanting to dig deeper. One of those books is “A Geography of Faith; An Altar in the World” by Barbara Brown Taylor

I received the book as a gift this past Christmas… to truly be honest, I actually picked it our myself and had my husband give it to me. The cover was the first thing to catch my eye as we were browsing through the bookstore. Next I found the title just as interesting, “An Altar in the World; A Geography of Faith”… An Altar in the World, not of the World or for the World, but in the World. Then the author’s name attracted my attention; Barbara Brown Taylor, author of "Leaving Church", a book my husband read and has suggested that I read it too (which I haven’t yet done). Finally what really hooked me was the first few lines in Chapter one, The Practice of Waking Up to God:

Many years ago now I went for a long walk on the big island of Hawaii, using an old trail that runs along the lava cliffs at the edge of the sea. More than once the waves drenched me, slamming into the cliffs and shooting twenty feet into the air. More than once I saw double rainbows in the drops that fell back into the sea. The island had already won my heart. Part of it was the sheer gorgeousness of the place, but the ground also felt different under my feet. I was aware of how young it was; the newest of earth on the face of the earth, with a nearby volcano still making new earth as I walked.

… I was hooked, I knew I needed to read this book! And I was not disappointed. The author takes you through twelve spiritual disciplines,

1.    The Practice of Waking-up to God – Vision
2.    The Practice of Paying Attention – Reverence
3.    The Practice of Wearing Skin – Incarnation
4.    The Practice of Walking on the Earth – Groundedness
5.    The Practice of Getting Lost – Wilderness
6.    The Practice of Encountering Others – Community
7.    The Practice of Living with Purpose – Vocation
8.    The Practice of Saying No – Sabbath
9.    The Practice of Carrying Water - Physical labor
10. The Practice of Feeling Pain – Breakthrough
11. The Practice of Being Present to God – Prayer
12. The Practice of Pronouncing Blessings – Benediction

Barbara Brown Taylor meshes the practical with the mystical and it is because she does that so well, I find myself needing to peel back the layers of her writing and slowly and purposely re-examine what she is saying. I’ve often found that doing that kind of reading is more fruitful (as well as challenging) with others.

“We need others (a community) to save us from the temptation of believing in our own self-sufficiency.” 
(paraphrased from the chapter, The Practice of Encountering Others)

I’m hoping I will be able to get a small group of others, willing to take the time to read and discuss this book along with me… naturally the challenge is always finding the time to do just that. I’m also looking at other ways we could do that, maybe an on-line discussion? The downside of that is the intimacy of meeting and sharing is lost... the very thing essential to spiritual growth. Ideas anyone?

Peace <><

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