The Red Couch: An Altar in the World introduction



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?

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