Thursday, March 31, 2011


Consumer culture...explains why, although actual cooking and cleaning may be in decline, home organization and elaborate decorating are in the ascendancy. The current mania for de-cluttering offers the flattering fantasy that, via empowered consumer choice, individuals can create a system to transcend once and for all the messiness of life--a spirit akin to all the great, and failed, utopian ideologies.

Caroline Langston
"Housekeeping" from The Other Journal

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

To love...

If someone told me to write a book on morality, it would have a hundred pages and ninety-nine of them would be blank. On the last page I would write, "I recognize only one duty and that is to love." And as far as everything else is concerned, I say no.

Albert Camus


These things feed my faith, epiphanies of beauty in nature, sunbursts of grace and forgiveness, the portrait of God I get in Jesus, stirring encounters with people who truly live out their faith. And these feed my doubts: God’s baffling tolerance of history’s atrocities, my unanswered prayers, sustained periods of God’s seeming absence. Meetings with God may included ecstasy and joy, or withdrawal and silence: always they include mystery.

To come to terms with this unpredictability I tell myself that every friendship has a misty side, that all relationships sometimes reveal and sometimes conceal. When I wonder why God doesn’t simply ‘show up’, I recall that when God did, especially in t Old Testament days, the appearance hardly enhanced communication: usually the person fell to the ground, flattened by blinding light. In any event, I console myself, all relationships go through hot and cold spells. Sometimes communication is verbal, sometimes silent, sometimes close, sometimes, distant. Usually, these lectures to myself fail to convince. I am left with the unsettling truth that God, not I, has ultimate control over the relationship.

Philip Yancey in Prayer: does it make any difference, page 42.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


In a market culture we commodify everything: including time. The risk of losing this fundamental rhythm is a-rhythmia.. inability to rest, loss of an essential center, and an increasing drive to find self in our acts rather than in the gift of God. But if we lose the ability to rest, we lose the ability to offer a restful place for others. We lose a listening and attentive heart. As Bonhoeffer put it, “let him who cannot be alone beware of being in community.”

Len Hjalmarson: pace, sabbath, fragmentation

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Unanswered prayer

We often complain about unanswered prayer. But if sometimes God doesn’t listen, or doesn’t hear, or doesn’t answer, we ought to be relieved. The Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind – and Job was lucky to survive the ordeal. Nothing is more terrifying than the prospect of an answered prayer. ‘For the sleeping god may wake some day and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return’ (Annie Dillard).

Ben Myers - On Prayer: 14 Theses

The ideology of the cancer cell

The ability of the industrial economy to provide jobs and homes depends on prosperity, and on a very shaky kind of prosperity too. It depends on "growth" of the wrong things, such as roads and dumps and poisons--on what Edward Abbey called "the ideology of the cancer cell"--and on greed with purchasing power. In the absence of growth, greed, and affluence, the dependents of an industrial economy too easily suffer the consequences of having no land: joblessness, homelessness, and want. This is not a theory. We have seen it happen.

Wendell Berry
"The Agrarian Standard" in The Essential Agrarian Reader

Saturday, March 19, 2011


The daily practice of incarnation--of being in the body with full confidence that God speaks the language of flesh--is to discover a pedagogy that is as old as the gospels. Why else did Jesus spend his last night on earth teaching his disciples to wash feet and share supper?

Barbara Brown Taylor
An Altar in the World

Friday, March 18, 2011


In an age of information overload, when a vast variety of media delivers news faster than most of us can digest--when many of us have at least two e-mail addresses, two telephone numbers, and one fax number--the last thing any of us needs is more information about God. We need the practice of incarnation, by which God saves the lives of those whose intellectual assent has turned dry as dust, who have run frighteningly low on the bread of life, who are dying to know more God in their bodies. Not more about God. More God.

Barbara Brown Taylor
An Altar in the World

Photo: Steve Garfield

Thursday, March 17, 2011


It says something profound about what we were meant to be that death, what it is and what it does, seems so outrageous, so unnatural, this destruction of our bodies, this severing of all ties with loved ones, this removal from the stage of the living. We recoil from death, we shrink from dying. And rightly so. Those who argue that death is just a natural part of life must not be acquainted with death. Death takes a human life, something that was created good and made in the image of the Holy Trinity, death destroys that life. Death takes a person, capable of love, capable of good, capable of astonishing acts of fantastic cooking (!), death reduces that person to nothing. Death erases, so that she who once was so alive and so present and so here, she is now no more. The voice that called or laughed or sung is silenced. The hand that helped or touched or caressed moves no more. The eyes that looked in wonder or wept tears of sadness or crinkled in a smile are closed never to open again. Death has taken my mom. Her voice I’ll never hear again. Her hand I’ll never hold. Her eyes I’ll never look into and wonder what she’s thinking.

No monuments. No highways named after her. No books or scholarly papers to achieve immortality in libraries and online databases. No companies that bear her name.

The only thing my mom appears to have left behind are a few lives, lives whose hearts have been touched, lives whose character has been influenced, lives who shared a laugh or enjoyed a meal or experienced something good. But given the fact that monuments will crumble, and accumulated treasure will waste away, given that nothing most people pour themselves into will last or be remembered, it could be that touching a few lives may turn out to be by far the most important thing.

Thanks, mom. Memory eternal.

Joseph Black, writing in a blog post on the death of his mother on the 16th March, 2011

No disembodied bodies!

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.

Barbara Brown Taylor
An Altar in the World

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Protecting ourselves

When the safety net has split, when the resources are gone, when the way ahead is not clear, the sudden exposure can be both frightening and revealing. We spend so much of our time protecting ourselves from this exposure that a weird kind of relief can result when we fail. To lie flat on the ground with the breath knocked out of you is to find a solid resting place. This is as low as you can go. You told yourself you would die if it ever came to this, but here you are. You cannot help yourself and yet you live. Barbara Brown Taylor
An Altar in the World

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Spiritual practices

Anything can become a spiritual practice once you are willing to approach it in that way--once you let it bring you to your knees and show you what is real, including who you really are, who other people are, and how near God can be when you have lost your way.

Barbara Brown Taylor
An Altar in the World

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Just a body?

To suggest in the early goings of grief that a body is “just” anything rings as tinny in its attempt to minimalize it as it would if we were to say it was “just” a bad hair day when the girl went bald from her chemotherapy. Or that our hope for heaven on her behalf was based on the belief that Christ raised “just” a body from the dead. What if, rather than crucifixion, he’d opted for suffering low self-esteem for the remission of sins? What if, rather than “just a shell,” he’d raised his personality, or The Idea of Himself? Do you think they’d have changed the calendar for that? Done the Crusades? Burned witches?

Thomas Lynch
The Undertaking

Tuesday, March 08, 2011


Most of us spend so much time thinking about where we have been or where we are supposed to be going that we have a hard time recognizing where we actually are. When someone asks us where we want to be in our lives, the last thing that occurs to us is to look down at our feet and say, "Here, I guess, since this is where I am."

Barbara Brown Taylor
An Altar in the World

Thursday, March 03, 2011


Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbours worthy if anything can.

Thomas Merton
Letter to Dorothy Day, qtd. in Catholic Voices in a World on Fire

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Where your treasure is...

No one longs for what he or she already has, and yet the accumulated insight of those wise about the spiritual life suggests that the reason so many of us cannot see the red X that marks the spot is because we are standing on it. The treasure we seek requires no lengthy expedition, no expensive equipment, no superior aptitude or special company. All we lack is the willingness to imagine that we already have everything we need. The only thing missing is our consent to be where we are.

Barbara Brown Taylor
An Altar in the World