The Red Couch: An Altar in the World introduction

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My life is small and empty right now.

I write those words and test the truth of them and yes, this is how it feels right now. Whether accurate or not, it’s how I feel.

I’m in the middle of transition. My job ended a month ago and apart from my side business, I’m not sure what’s next. I no longer have something orienting my days. No career, no husband or children. Just me, my books, my writing, and The Enneagram Coach. This is not how I envisioned my life.

Sure, I’m free for weekday coffee and last minute babysitting requests. I joke about how my friends should take advantage of my free time while repressing frets over what’s next and how the bills will be paid. There’s this feeling deep down it will all work out and I should take advantage of this free time myself but then the next moment comes and I’ll chalk it up to wishful thinking.

This is when Barbara Brown Taylor’s words come to mind.

What is saving my life right now is the conviction that there is no spiritual treasure to be found apart from the bodily experiences of human life on earth…What is saving my life now is becoming more fully human, trusting that there is no way to God apart from real life in the real world” (An Altar in the World, p. xvii.)

I can’t orient my life around jobs or family or friends or the state of my bank account. These things shift and change, even when there’s a semblance of stability. In their ordinariness and in their lack, these things bring us to God.

Each moment is a chance to fully embody our lives and to experience gift and blessing. Yes, it’s much easier to do so when life is at its best but it can also be easy to forget who gives us all good gifts. And no, this doesn’t mean hard times aren’t hard. Difficulties are difficult and bad things happen that shouldn’t and there’s no way to Jesusify them into something better.

But I have learned over the years to look for moments of grace and reprieve, no matter the hardship. An Altar in the World reminds me of this.

Toward the beginning of this year, The Red Couch team decided we’d read An Altar in the World in October. I’d already read and loved it and had no way of knowing, come October, how I’d need to reflect on BBT’s words once more.

Whether your life is steady and purposeful, vibrant and joyful, disappointing and sad, there’s something for each of us in these pages. Taylor shows us how the sacred is in the mundane, how simple practices can revolutionize our days, how to have meaningful connection with a stranger on the street.

There are altars everywhere we go and I thank God for this.

__________________

Come back Wednesday October 15 for a reflection from Cara Meredith. Our discussion post will be up Wednesday October 29  and will be led by Sarah Caldwell. Join the Facebook group to share quotes and discuss the book throughout the month. On Twitter, the official Red Couch Book Club hashtag is #redcouchbc.

The Nightstand at SheLoves Magazine

-Recommended by Kelley Nikondeha, Cara Meredith, and Sarah Caldwell

Will you be reading An Altar in the World with us?

* Disclosure : Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.

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Leigh Kramer
Leigh Kramer is on a quest; she’s living life on purpose. Her to-do list might look something like this: leave life in the Midwest for Nashville, Tennessee, followed by San Francisco, quit steady job as a social worker to chase her dreams of writing, suck the marrow out of life’s in-between places and revel in the now at every turn. Leigh shares this journey through words of transparency, heart, and just a dash of pluck at LeighKramer.com and on Twitter at @hopefulleigh.
Leigh Kramer

Latest posts by Leigh Kramer (see all)

Leigh Kramer
  • Leigh, I wish I could be there to give you the biggest hug and make you tea …

    This is powerful: “Difficulties are difficult and bad things happen that shouldn’t and there’s no way to Jesusify them into something better.”

    I love that An Altar in the World is our book this month … Thank you for leading us out.

    • Wish I could take you up on that hug and tea! Miss you, my friend.

  • One of my favourite books, you know this. But your post here to introduce it is just beautiful and I want to acknowledge your words and your place in my life. Love you, girl. xo

    • You’re making me teary! Grateful for you, friend. xo

  • Thank you for your honesty, Leigh. Prayers for you in this time of transition…. I am looking forward to reading the discussions on this book – I first read it this summer and it resonated deeply. Then, September (usually my favorite month) was filled with unexpected news and chaos. Looking forward to October and recalibrating to find those altars.

    • Thank you, Annie. Glad we’ll have you with us for this book and that it’s proving to be timely for you as well.

  • These words are honest and beautiful Leigh–simply a perfect introduction to an extraordinary book! So grateful for you and your words Leigh–this is going to be an important and wonderful book to discuss! Praying for you and your situation, and that God illuminates your life’s altars frequently and luminously. Blessings, friend!

  • Sanne Meijer

    Thank you so much for this introduction post! I didn’t know BBT before, but I already read two chapters and I’m loving it. I’ve been struggling with the fact that I have a job that doesn’t feel like I’m fulfilling my potential. I’ve been feeling sad about this… The first chapter I read was the chapter on vocation and that made me feel so much better and made me remember some of the advice I gave to myself a while ago… Looking forward to the rest and to the discussion here. 🙂

    • Love hearing this, Sanne! BBT’s words have a way of meeting us wherever we’re at.

  • Alia_Joy

    I wish we had a real red couch and a way to teleport magically so we could discuss over coffee or tea or some other refreshing beverage. There is so much to talk about with this one.

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  • Thank you for willing to be vulnerable and going first, friend.

    I love you and I love BBT. Might have to listen to the audible version of the book in this season where hands are rarely free.

    “What is saving my life right now is the conviction that there is no spiritual treasure to be found apart from the bodily experiences of human life on earth…What is saving my life now is becoming more fully human, trusting that there is no way to God apart from real life in the real world”

    Bodily experiences have turned my world upside down recently. So this preaches to the deep places of my heart.

    xoxo

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