Tag Archives: Barbara Brown Taylor

‘Learning to Walk in the Dark’ by Barbara Brown Taylor

Learning to Walk in the Darkstarstarstarstar“I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so that there is really only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light.”

This is the latest book by Barbara Brown Taylor, Episcopal priest and author of An Altar in the World, her best book by far and not one to miss. Click on the title to see my post on it.

This is such a good one too. It is a study of darkness, both the physical kind (with all the lights out) and the psychological and spiritual kind (living with loss and losing hope). This is not a how-to book, but if it was it would simply advise us to do what the author did–be curious about the dark and our own experience of it–have the courage to explore something that we have resisted and avoided for most of our lives because of a fear built up by our culture. We think faith is all about walking in the light, but there can be plenty of blessings that come when we, in our broken world, inevitably find ourselves stumbling in the dark. Darkness is actually something essential to our health because we need sleep. It is a natural part of our circadian rhythm–walking in the light and resting in the dark. How have we come to fear it so?

In this book the author looks to the phases of the moon to understand our relationship with God, which also naturally waxes and wanes. “…sometimes bright, sometimes faint, sometimes full on, and sometimes just a mere sliver peaking from behind a cloud…” With the darkness when there is no moon, it is important to realize that the light is coming. And when it is bright, enjoy it…because the darkness will return. Embrace these rhythms and learn from them. The invention of the light bulb has given us the false security that we can always be in the light, always in control, never having doubts or fears or times when we do not know the way.

Barbara Brown Taylor is honest and wise. Her writing is marked by humble elegant insights into life, love, and faith which are rooted and earthy but also divine. For her it is more about asking the right questions than having all of the answers. Her books are full of small personal moments that speak volumes.

‘An Altar in the World: Finding the Sacred Beneath our Feet’ by Barbara Brown Taylor

An Altar in the WorldstarstarstarstarstarBarbara Brown Taylor is an episcopal priest, author, teacher, and theologian. Despite making Time’s 100 most influential people in the world list, she is one of the most honest, humble, and down-to-earth preachers ever. The American subtitle for the book is ‘A Geography of Faith’ but I’ve included the UK subtitle because it best describes the book and underscores her main message: God can be found as we walk, rest, play and work in the world, not just in church on Sunday. In fact, as important as community and communion with other Christians is, church and religion may even get in the way of the spiritual for some. Faith is a way of life and it can be recovered in the grit, grind and glory of God’s presence in the world.  If you like Anne Lamott and Annie Dillard, you’ll love Barbara Brown Taylor.

Taylor says this, “In a world of too much information about almost everything, bodily practices can provide great relief. To make bread or love, to dig in the earth, to feed an animal or cook for a stranger–these activities require no extensive commentary, no lucid theology. All they require is someone willing to bend, reach, chop, stir. Most of these tasks are so full of pleasure that there is no need to complicate things by calling them holy. And yet these are the same activities that change lives.”

With chapter headings that choose everyday practices rather than doctrine (“waking up to God,” “paying attention,” “wearing skin,” “walking on the earth,” “getting lost,” “encountering others,” “living with purpose,” “saying No,” “carrying water,” “feeling pain,” “pronouncing blessing”), Brown articulates a perspective that I found refreshing and wise.  Matter matters to God and finding Him in the physical world is designed to help us experience the spiritual one. “God has no hands but ours, no bread but the bread we bake, no prayers but the ones we make.”

There are not many books on my re-read list, but this one will take its place  alongside What’s So Amazing About Grace and Man’s Search for Meaning. Taylor has a new book out this year (Learning to Walk in the Dark) which has some surprising things to say about darkness. The short excerpt I read of that one has me hooked already.

Here’s a short sermon from earlier this year entitled Sacred Downtime (25 min) which is worth listening to, perhaps while ironing or doing the dishes! 🙂