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An Altar in the World
Cover of An Altar in the World
An Altar in the World
A Geography of Faith
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In the New York Times bestseller An Altar in the World, acclaimed author Barbara Brown Taylor continues her spiritual journey by building upon where she left off in Leaving Church. With the honesty of Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) and the spiritual depth of Anne Lamott (Grace, Eventually), Taylor shares how she learned to find God beyond the church walls by embracing the sacred as a natural part of everyday life. In An Altar in the World, Taylor shows us how to discover altars everywhere we go and in nearly everything we do as we learn to live with purpose, pay attention, slow down, and revere the world we live in.

The eBook includes a special excerpt from Barbara Brown Taylor's Learning to Walk in the Dark.

In the New York Times bestseller An Altar in the World, acclaimed author Barbara Brown Taylor continues her spiritual journey by building upon where she left off in Leaving Church. With the honesty of Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) and the spiritual depth of Anne Lamott (Grace, Eventually), Taylor shares how she learned to find God beyond the church walls by embracing the sacred as a natural part of everyday life. In An Altar in the World, Taylor shows us how to discover altars everywhere we go and in nearly everything we do as we learn to live with purpose, pay attention, slow down, and revere the world we live in.

The eBook includes a special excerpt from Barbara Brown Taylor's Learning to Walk in the Dark.

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Excerpts-
  • Chapter One

    The Practice of Waking Up to God

    Vision

    The day of my spiritual awakening was the day I saw—and knew I saw—all things in God and God in all things.

    Mechtild of Magdeburg

    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 earth on the face of the earth, with a nearby volcano still making new earth even as I walked. In my experience, every place has its own spirit, its own character and depth. If I had grown up in the Arizona desert, I would be a different person than the one who grew up in a leafy suburb of Atlanta. If I lived by the ocean even now, my senses would be tuned to an entirely different key than the one I use in the foothills of the Appalachians.

    On the big island of Hawaii, I could feel the adolescent energy of the lava rock under my feet. The spirit of that land was ebullient, unrefined, entirely pleased with itself. Its divinity had not yet suffered from the imposition of shopping malls, beach homes, or luxury hotels. I caught its youthfulness and walked farther that day than I thought I could, ending up at a small tidal pool on the far southwestern tip of the island.

    After the crashing of the waves, the sanctuary of the still pool hit me with the sound of sheer silence. The calm water lay so green and cool before me that it calmed me too. Nothing stirred the face of the water save the breeze coming off the ocean, which caused it to wrinkle from time to time. Walking around the pool, I came to three stones set upright near the edge where the water was deepest. All three were shaped like fat baguettes, with the tallest one in the middle. The other two were set snug up against it, the same grey color as humpbacked whales. All together, they announced that something significant had happened in that place. I was not the first person to be affected by it. Whoever had come before me had set up an altar, and though I might never know what that person had encountered there, I knew the name of the place: Bethel, House of God.

    At least that is what Jacob called the place where he encountered God—not on a gorgeous island but in a rocky wilderness—where he saw something that changed his life forever. The first time I read Jacob's story in the Bible, I knew it was true whether it ever happened or not. There he was, still a young man, running away from home because his whole screwy family had finally imploded. His father was dying. He and his twin brother, Esau, had both wanted their father's blessing. Jacob's mother had colluded with him to get it, and though his scheme worked, it enraged his brother to the point that Jacob fled for his life. He and his brother were not identical twins. Esau could have squashed him like a bug. So Jacob left with little more than the clothes on his back, and when he had walked as far as he could, he looked around for a stone he could use for a pillow.

    When he had found one the right size, Jacob lay down to sleep, turning his cheek against the stone that was still warm from the sun. Maybe the dream was in the stone, or maybe it fell out of the sky. Wherever the dream came from, it was vivid: a ladder set up on the earth, with the top of it reaching to heaven and the angels of God ascending and descending it like bright-winged ants. Then...

About the Author-
  • Barbara Brown Taylor is the author of thirteen books, including the New York Times bestseller An Altar in the World and Leaving Church, which received an Author of the Year award from the Georgia Writers Association. Taylor is the Butman Professor of Religion at Piedmont College, where she has taught since 1998. She lives on a working farm in rural northeast Georgia with her husband, Ed.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from January 12, 2009
    Author of an acclaimed memoir (Leaving Church
    ) and a gifted preacher, Taylor is one of those rare people who truly can see the holy in everything. Since everyone should know such a person, those who don't can—no, must—read this book, with its friendly reminders of everyday sacred. Taylor's 12 chapters mine the potentially sacred meaning of simple daily activities and conditions, like walking, paying attention, saying no to work one Sabbath day each week. Hanging laundry is setting up a prayer flag, for God's sake. Since Taylor, an Episcopal priest, no longer pastors a church, she can “do church” everywhere: in line at the grocery store interacting with the cashier, walking a moonlit path with her husband. Her candor is another of the book's virtues: she is a failure at prayer, and cannot explain why or how it is, or isn't, answered (“I do not know any way to talk about answered prayer without sounding like a huckster or a honeymooner”). Savor this book.

  • Phyllis Tickle, author of The Great Emergence

    "This is the most completely beautiful book in religion that I have read in a very long time. Gentle, humbly crafted, lyrical, and deeply wise, Altar is Barbara Brown Taylor as she was meant to be, a pastor who understands that knowing God occurs in a place beyond theology."

  • Kate Campbell, singer-songwriter

    "This book is the most practical but everyday mystical book I have read on spiritual practices."

  • Marcus Borg, author of Jesus

    "Elegant, wise, and insightful, this book is also sacramental: it mediates the life it describes."

  • Nora Gallagher, author of Things Seen and Unseen and Changing Light

    "An Altar in the World is about how faith can be both practical and sensuous.In Barbara Brown Taylor's hands, the old division between heaven and earth is healed and both come alive. Your mind, your body and your soul will be well fed by this wonderful book."

  • Library Journal

    "Taylor writes fluently, with an eye and ear for the striking image and memorable phrase. Many readers, especially the vast numbers of the "unchurched" but "spiritual," will find support and useful counsel."

  • National Catholic Reporter

    "Taylor's spiritual reflections are original, bringing fresh air to her topics because her spirituality is steeped in everyday life while illuminated by the ancient Christian spiritual tradition."

  • Kansas City Star

    "The author seems simply incapable of writing a bad book. . . . Taylor is a great gift to the Christian church. And this volume, which focuses on spiritual practices, simply adds to her growing reputation."

  • Publishers Weekly (starred review)

    "Taylor is one of those rare people who truly can see the holy in everything. . . . Savor this book."

  • Read the Spirit

    "She's deliberately exploring the turf where our feet hit the floorboards each morning - and where the day takes us into the world. Even if you're not a Christian, you'll find a wise friend in Barbara's book."

  • America Magazine

    "An Altar in the World is a delight to the eyes, mind and heart, a book I will certainly return to again at a later time, if only to remind myself of the spirituality of everyday living."

  • Atlanta Journal-Constitution

    "Taylor serves up beefy soul food.. . . Though she did not write the book to speak to the economic crash, those suffering from lost jobs, homes and status will find plenty to feed thought and faith."

  • ExploreFaith

    "A marvelous book. Barbara Brown Taylor's honesty is so fantastic, and she writes with such wit, that this book is a delight to read and a profound experience ."

  • Dallas Morning News

    "Leaving Church settled it for me that Taylor, as thinker and stylist, ranks with the best. The new book confirms that. . . . This book is not a page-turner. It's a page-lingerer. I wore out a highlighter marking passages I want to read again."

  • --U.S. Catholic

    "Without denigrating altars in churches, Brown helps us discover and honor all the 'altars in the world'--the red Xs that mark the spot, but that we cannot see because we are standing on them. She does so with a depth that readers will appreciate and savor."

  • Read the Spirit

    "...[H]er honest elegance... express[es] truths that throw open windows in our everyday lives--allowing fresh perspectives on life. You'll finish her book with dozens of pages folded over or marked in some other fashion so you can find and re-read favorite lines again."

  • Raleigh News and Observer

    "Barbara Brown Taylor is a favorite among church members who struggle to connect the sacred and secular, the heavenly and the earthly. These readers appreciate the candor with which she writes about it."

  • ChristianityToday.com

    "Overall... if one can read Taylor's insights reflectively, with an eye toward Scripture, Altar will serve as a refreshing reminder that the physical world is designed to help us experience the spiritual one."

  • The Congregationalist

    "Barbara Brown Taylor penetrates the religious clutter. She comforts. She revives our spirits. With lovely words she finds 'alters in our world.'"

  • Christian Science Monitor

    "While I don't like long books, this one could have been 500 pages longer with no complaints from me."

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A Geography of Faith
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