Tag Archives: Barbara Brown Taylor

I don’t know how to slow down. You would have thought that after all these months (years? decades?) of restrictions and queueing and patiently waiting for things to get better I would have adopted a more relaxed pace of life.

But no. I haven’t.

I have got really good at noticing The Things (like this tree full of parakeets) – I just do it at breakneck speed.screenshot_20210124-1438091734059232541013366.png

I love going for a walk but I have to be told to slow down. I love yoga but I have to skip the bit at the end when you just lie on the floor. I love loose-leaf tea (because yes to reducing what I send to landfill) but I find it agonisingly painful waiting the advised 3 to 6 minutes for it to brew, even when I have nowhere to go and no place to be but 3 metres away back at the table replying to another work email. THAT’S 180 TO 360 WHOLE ACTUAL SECONDS OF MY LIFE I WON’T GET BACK compared to the zero brew time of just-stir-it-instant-tea.

And so, after a few weeks of undrinkable weak tea and despite my very best of intentions, I switched back to teabags - fairtrade obs, I haven't abandoned all my morals just yet.

img-20200924-wa00002207501893482557114.jpgI was lamenting this very great struggle of not doing the thing I wanted to do but in fact doing the very thing I didn’t want to do, when I was challenged by a good friend to see it as a spiritual practice.

BOOM. Quite possibly the only thing that could convince me to change my attitude and behaviour. You know I love a spiritual practice.

Anything can become a spiritual practice once you are willing to approach it 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’ve lost your way." Barbara Brown Taylor

And so, you'll now find me trying to use those 3 to 6 minutes to breathe slowly and remind myself that the world will keep spinning whether or not I wait these 3 to 6 minutes, that my value as a person isn’t measured by my productivity in those 3 to 6 minutes (or any other time for that matter) and that these 3 to 6 minutes are a tinsey tiny act of resistance to culture that desires me to be constantly running from one thing to the next - even if its just to check my inbox.

Grab yourself some looseleaf tea and join me?

Break the bread. Pour the wine. Walk slowly and let the tea brew.

Dear Friends, Beloved Reader,

Here we are again. How you holding up?

I've reached the 'somehow ended up watching far too many episodes of Escape to Chateau DIY and am now convinced I need to buy a rundown chateau in the south of France and spend my life fixing it' stage of the pandemic.

chateauIt's gonna be great. You can come stay and we shall sit in the orchard, under the French sun, drinking wine and eating bread and cheese.orchardorcharrd wineSo yeh, Lockdown 2 is mostly creating a Chateau moodboard. This is kinda saving my life right now.

Many years ago now, a wise old priest invited me to come speak at his church .

“What do you want me to talk about?” I asked.

"Come tell us what is saving your life right now,” he answered.

It was as if he had swept his arm across a dusty table and brushed all the formal china to the ground.

I did not have to try to say correct things that were true for everyone. I did not have to use theological language that conformed to the historical teachings of the church. All I had to do was figure out what my life depended on. All I had to do was figure out how I stayed as close to that reality as I could.” From An Altar in the World, Barbara Brown Taylor

It is the year of our Lord 2020, consider the formal china swept to the floor. What is saving your life right now?

Alongside dreaming of Chateau Life, saving mine is:

  • Lunch time walks. Still. After becoming a giant dust bowl over the summer, the common is now a massive mud pit. The ground either springs back underfoot or tries to steal your shoes. Turns out, the world is not a cold dead place.
  • Sunday morning walks – life, questions, uncertainty, hope. We walk and talk it out. Conclusions – we know far less than we thought we did. Life is way more uncertain and far more unpredictable than we like to admit. Hope is still a thing, somehow.
  • After work walks - shout out to everyone marching through the dark just to hang out with friends.
  • Less sitting, more dancing. And walking - obvs.
  • Mixed Up podcast. “Going to the hairdressers is just as stressful as some people find the dentist. You just never know if they’ll be able to handle your hair and how they’ll interpret what you ask for.” NEVER BEEN MORE SEEN IN ALL MY LIFE. Going to the hairdressers is terrifying. This is fact.
  • The calendar of good things is back (its mostly food - and walks):

Teach us to remember, God; make our minds a storehouse for past promises kept, all the good things and hope fulfilled - so that we can be a prophet to our own present, a watchman on the walls of our own still night.” Strahan Coleman

  • Spiritual direction. I offload all my messy theological questions, I get some good questions thrown back at me – somehow this is helping me find my way through.
  • This.

When it feels like the dark
Lingers longer than the night
When the shadows feel like giants
Are You chasing me down?
Tell me where could I run
From Your light, where could I hide?
Hemmed within Your precious thoughts
There's no hiding from Your love
Highs and lows
Lord, You're with me either way it goes
Should I rise or should I fall
Even so
Lord, Your mercy is an even flow
You're too good to let me go
Should I dance on the heights
Or make my bed among the depths
Your mercy waits at every end
Like You planned it from the start
Should the dawn come with wings
Or find me far-side of the sea
There Your hand still fastens me
Ever closer to Your heart
Highs and lows
Lord, You're with me either way it goes
Should I rise or should I fall
You are faithful through it all
Highs and lows
You surround me either way it goes
Should I rise or should I fall
Lord, You're with me through it all
Highs and lows
In the rhythms of Your grace, I know
You're too good to let me go

May you find a quiet place within you – deep and untouchable to the violent, raging voices of the moment – to hear God remind you ‘I am with you till the end of the age.’ Strahan

At least once  a week you’ll find me arguing with the wind:

Me: No. I will not do it. I refuse

The Wind:

Me: I have a work zoom in an hour, I’ll be wearing my work pjs, the least I can do is have hair that looks somewhat profesh and not like I’ve just lost a fight with my hairbrush.

The Wind:

Me: Leave. Me. Alone. Wash Day is 4 days away and I don’t have emotional capacity to deal with giant hair before then.

The Wind:

Me: *sighs, unclips hair, mutters obscenities*

The Wind:screenshot_20201006-214518188005253141173538.png

Yeh, so I argue with the wind – its 2020, I don't even attempt to pretend like I'm normal anymore.

Turns out, letting the wind run riot with your hair can be one of the most grounding and commonplace spiritual practises (turns out this is one of my most valuable lessons from 2019).

Anything can become a spiritual practice once you are willing to approach it 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’ve lost your way." Barbara Brown Taylor

Letting the wind run riot with my hair reminds me that, try as I might, I can't control everything so I may as well stop trying to keep the world spinning.

It reminds me the Spirit runs where it will, wild and uncontainable. So who I am to try and box it in – was I there when the foundations of the world were laid and the the morning stars sang together? Have I ever caused the dawn to rise in the East?

It forces me to b r e a t h e and then pay attention to where I am.

It lets me know I need to book a haircut. I’m thinking 2020 might be the year I go Beyonce Blonde - thoughts and prayers for this big decision much appreciated.

It asks me if I really believe that God can create a feast in the wilderness. And if I say yes, it calls me to a deeper level of trust, to throw off heaviness and walk in freedom. She who the son sets free is free indeed, right? If I say no, it reminds me that God is with me and Aslan is on the move, even when I can't see it.

And if nothing else, it makes me laugh. ANY EXCUSE TO LAUGH IS WELCOME IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD 2020.

So yeh, you’ll often find me on Tooting Common – arguing with the wind and then laughing to myself.

Have you got any everday spiritual practises that keep you grounded?

Break the bread. Pour the wine. Give thanks. LET THE WIND BLOW.

2 Comments

What is saving your life right now?

Many years ago now, a wise old priest invited me to come speak at his church in Alabama. “What do you want me to talk about?” I asked.

"Come tell us what is saving your life right now,” he answered.

It was as if he had swept his arm across a dusty table and brushed all the formal china to the ground.

I did not have to try to say correct things that were true for everyone. I did not have to use theological language that conformed to the historical teachings of the church. All I had to do was figure out what my life depended on. All I had to do was figure out how I stayed as close to that reality as I could.”

From An Altar in the World, Barbara Brown Taylor.

It is the year of our Lord 2020 DCT (During Corona Times), consider the formal china swept to the floor - because if you can’t mess up your fancy table setting DCT when can you?

What is saving your life right now? (other than staying at home, obvs)

Saving my life right now is: Sunlight. Taking photos of beautiful things on the Boris sanctioned daily exercise of lunchtime walks. Exercising wonder. Reminding myself this is just for a season.

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Abandoning all notions of being a part-time vegetarian – turns out, in times of global crisis, all I want is comfort food. Turns out, lentils are not comfort food and so, when the going gets tough, the tough eat burgers.

Psalms that lament. Psalms that praise. Psalms that start with lament and turn to praise. The clocks going forward meaning we had one less hour of this to deal with. Yoga. Cleaning everything in sight. Updates on the latest Isolationships. This painting:

The invitation to joy, peace, love, trust - life in all its fullness. By Jenedy Paige
By Jenedy Paige

Good music - praise be for the Quarantunes playlist - turning it up 11 and dancing for joy. Friends sending daily encouragement. Knowing God is present and at work even if it doesn’t feel like it. Online workouts with the gym crew. Not checking the news more than twice a day. Phonecalls with my people. Zoom calls with my people. Memes that perfectly capture life as we now know it DCT:

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The Calendar of Thanks:

Everyday we write one thing we are thankful for.
Everyday we write one thing we are thankful for.

Virtual church – much love and socially distanced hugs to all my Grace and Streatham loves. Hope that this season will pass and we will live in the glorious future of life ACT (After Corona Times). The internet. Finding the flow of new routines and creating some order within chaos:

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Knowing that, whilst they might not be the biggest issues right now, its ok to grieve the loss of: being with my people, routine, structure, any semblance of certainty, seeing horizons, the hustle and bustle of London, being angry with tourists reach the barriers before looking for their oyster cards, Easter weekend food.

Keeping track of every time a neighbour leaves their house so we can let the police know if they're not sticking to lockdown laws - we sit by the front window 8 hours a day, we see everything (shout out to No 243 who did a great job cleaning their windows on Friday).

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I beg to differ - we have top intel.

"As surely as the sun rises, as surely as it sets, we anticpate your goodness, we anticpate the rest." Interlude - Torwalt

Knowing I have enough leave-in conditioner to last a couple of months (if black women ran the goverment you know for sure black hair shops would be in the essential business category). I may or may not have stockpiled.

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Frequent phonecalls with my mum and sister – BCT (Before Corona Times) I called my mother on Sunday afternoons and my sister every few weeks. Now I talk to them most days. I don’t know why. None of us have anything interesting to say – we’ve all been sat at home.

Being extra. Yes, I put on my fancy Going Out clothes, spent the morning straightening my hair and putting on a full face of makeup just to sit in the house and order in brunch. Yes, on Wednesdays we wear pink and Fridays we wear formal business attire to the new office at home. And yes, I was the only one wearing a cocktail dress and fancy earrings for Friday Night Wine Zoom. Being extra is in my DNA and I make no apologies.

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Contemplative prayer and the Lectio365 App. Eating a Malteaser everytime someone on TV says unprecedented (am rapidly running out of Malteasers - please send supplies).

God is good all the time. All the time, God is good.

Every morning I ask for the grace for the day and every day it is given. Break the bread. Pour the wine. Give thanks.

What is saving your life right now?

I’ve just got back from a week in Portugal. I read a lot of books. I ate a lot of bread. I drank a lot of really good but really cheap wine. I went barefoot on the beach. I got ridiculous tanlines which will probs take until October to even out so I'm def not wearing a strapless dress to any weddings this summer. I saw a few stars - and even a planet! Every morning the breakfast buffet gave me a legit reason to eat double my body weight in pancakes, cereal, toast, apple danishes, pastel de nata, toast, eggs, cheese, bacon, pineapple, orange, melon, tea, orange juice, toast and sparkling wine (which is totally acceptable if you just call it Breakfast Wine). The gym is now my home.

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My first day back at work was BRUTAL. No sun. No beach. No Breakfast Wine. I’d tasted freedom and this whole 'need-to-set-an-alarm-in-order-to-get-to-work-on-time-and-then-actually-turn-up-and-do-work-and-handle-responsibility-and-be-nice-to-colleagues' thing was just too much. By the end of the day it took all my willpower to not quit my job and jump on the first plane out of Gatwick. Destination Unknown.

It turns out, despite spending the whole of 2019 learning about joy, I’d forgotten that choosing joy can be a spiritual practice too.

Anything can become a spiritual practice once you are willing to approach it 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’ve lost your way." Barbara Brown Taylor

Joy is a choice to adjust your attitude from “I can’t believe they expect me to be here” to “I get to do this.”

Joy is a choice to learn to love the liturgy of the everyday.

Joy is a choice to not focus on all the things that frustrate you but instead give thanks for the things which aren’t making you google ‘epic ways to Mic Drop hand in your resignation.'

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Given how much I LOVE sending cards this is me.

Joy is a choice to embrace the hard and holy things.

Joy is a choice to not batter the Roger at work to death with a hair straightener for talking to you about your hair AGAIN but instead take a deep breath and calmly explain that you really don't give a care about his opinion of your hair and so if he could keep his comments to himself that would be much appreciated (“but Rachel its fascinating, your hair is so versatile, it can be frizzy and then straight” – by the grace of God alone this man is still alive).

Joy is a choice to notice the wonder of sunrise from the train platform rather than lament being awake before the sun.

Joy is a choice to abide in the light and let its radiance illuminate the next right step.

Joy is choice to choose joy, even on the days you'd much rather wallow in being the Grumpiest of them all.

Break the bread. Pour the wine. Give thanks. Celebrate.

2 Comments

img_20200110_0715242802874310517312250443.jpgIt was love at first sight. And they have been my Absolute Faves ever since, faithful companions at nearly every excuse to dress up over the past nine years – weddings, nights out, Tuesdays, Christmas Day (most overdressed in church on Christmas morning? Yep, that would be The Holmes Sisters). Don't judge heels by their height as these shoes are perfect for both dancing through the night and running through Victoria station to catch the last train home. Until recently.

Now they're falling apart and just give me blisters which leave me limping for a week. My soul grieves the loss of my most beloved.

My other heels just don’t match up. Instead of confidently striding around I’m reducing to powerlessly tottering along the road at the mercy of every uneven pavement slab and gust of wind that decides to test my core strength - an incentive if ever there was to spend more time at the gym. But it turns out, wearing heels can be a spiritual practice.

Anything can become a spiritual practice once you are willing to approach it 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’ve lost your way." Barbara Brown Taylor

Quite literally unable to walk any faster, wearing heels forces me to slow down and accept my limitations - repeat after me: I will only reach my destination when my shoes allow me to. Wearing heels reminds me that I cannot control everything and instead need to trust in the One who created all the things.

Wearing heels makes me question alllllllllllllllll my decisions – because if I willingly choose shoes I know I can't walk comfortably in what other terrible life choices am I making??!!!! (THIS QUESTION IS RHETORICAL – I DO NOT WANT YOUR FEEDBACK)

Wearing heels forces me to see others as more than just obstacles taking up the pavement and hindering my journey. Maybe the weight of their burdens is more than they can carry. Maybe their snail's pace is in fact a giant victory and I should be praying for their restoration. Maybe everything isn’t all about me. Maybe.

Wearing heels at night transforms a mindless walk home from the station into an a hyper-vigilant mission where I’m aware of every stranger around me and every car that passes – it grounds me in the experiences of the thousands of women who don’t feel safe walking alone. It reminds me to pray for mercy for my sisters whose lives are marked by fear, vulnerability and powerlessness.

Wearing heels steers me away from self-reliance and reminds me that support from others isn't always such a terrible thing - because tottering along is much easier when you’ve got an arm to cling on to and people to help you stay upright on the tube.

Wearing heels reminds me that however unsuitable the footwear I chose that day, God will always give me the shoes I need for the road I’m on and the strength to match the day.

Wearing heels reassures me that however much of a sensible adult I pretend be, I'm still a ridiculous girl far more concerned with the appearance of her footwear rather than its practicality. Je ne regrette rien.

Wearing heels reminds me to be thankful for a slow, torturous walk of far more significance than me tottering home - one to a hill outside a city. A walk that didn't end with kicking your shoes off at the end of the night and a nice cup of tea on the sofa while you wait for chips to arrive.

It turns out, wearing heels can be a spiritual practice, if only we have the heart (and shoes) to find it.

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P.S. If anyone know where I can find some black, size 4 wedge heels help a sister out.