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Barbara Brown Taylor quotes (showing 1-30 of 115)

“The problem is, many of the people in need of saving are in churches, and at least part of what they need saving from is the idea that God sees the world the same way they do.”
Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith
“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, sometimes all at once and sometimes more slowly, the way dripping water changes stone. In a world where faith is often construed as a way of thinking, bodily practices remind the willing that faith is a way of life.”
Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith
“Wisdom is not gained by knowing what is right. Wisdom is gained by practicing what is right, and noticing what happens when that practice succeeds and when it fails.”
Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith
“People encounter God under shady oak trees, on riverbanks, at the tops of mountains, and in long stretches of barren wilderness. God shows up in whirlwinds, starry skies, burning bushes, and perfect strangers. When people want to know more about God, the son of God tells them to pay attention to the lilies of the field and the birds of the air, to women kneading bread and workers lining up for their pay. Whoever wrote this stuff believed that people could learn as much about the ways of God from paying attention to the world as they could from paying attention to scripture. What is true is what happens, even if what happens is not always right. People can learn as much about the ways of God from business deals gone bad or sparrows falling to the ground as they can from reciting the books of the Bible in order. They can learn as much from a love affair or a wildflower as they can from knowing the Ten Commandments by heart.”
Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith
“No one longs for what he or she already has, and yet the accumulated insight of those wise about the spiritual life suggests that the reason so many of us cannot see the red X that marks the spot is because we are standing on it. The treasure we seek requires no lengthy expedition, no expensive equipment, no superior aptitude or special company. All we lack is the willingness to imagine that we already have everything we need. The only thing missing is our consent to be where we are.”
Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith
“Every human interaction offers you the chance to make things better or to make things worse.”
Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith
“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.”
Barbara Brown Taylor, Learning to Walk in the Dark
“As a general rule, I would say that human beings never behave more badly toward one another than when they believe they are protecting God.”
Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith
“What is saving my life now is the conviction that there is no spiritual treasure to be found apart from the bodily experiences of human life on earth. My life depends on engaging the most ordinary physical activities with the most exquisite attention I can give them. My life depends on ignoring all touted distinctions between the secular and the sacred, the physical and the spiritual, the body and the soul. 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.”
Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith
“With so much effort being poured into church growth, so much press being given to the benefits of faith, and so much flexing of religious muscle in the public square, the poor in spirit have no one but Jesus to call them blessed anymore.”
Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith
“Whoever you are, you are human. Wherever you are, you live in the world, which is just waiting for you to notice the holiness in it.”
Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith
“According to the Talmud, every blade of grass has its own angel bending over it, whispering, “Grow, grow.”
Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith
“once I gave up the hunt for villains, I had little recourse but to take responsibility for my choices ...Needless to say, this is far less satisfying that nailing villains. It also turned out to be more healing in the end.”
Barbara Brown Taylor
“I know plenty of people who find God most reliably in books, in buildings, and even in other people. I have found God in all of these places too, but the most reliable meeting place for me has always been creation. Since I first became aware of the Divine Presence in that lit-up field in Kansas, I have known where to go when my own flame is guttering. To lie with my back flat on the fragrant ground is to receive a transfusion of the same power that makes the green blade rise. To remember that I am dirt and to dirt I shall return is to be given my life back again, if only for one present moment at a time. Where other people see acreage, timber, soil, and river frontage, I see God's body, or at least as much of it as I am able to see. In the only wisdom I have at my disposal, the Creator does not live apart from creation but spans and suffuses it. When I take a breath, God's Holy Spirit enters me. When a cricket speaks to me, I talk back. Like everything else on earth, I am an embodied soul, who leaps to life when I recognize my kin. If this makes me a pagan, then I am a grateful one.”
Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith
“What I noticed at Grace-Calvary is the same thing I notice whenever people aim to solve their conflicts with one another by turning to the bible: defending the dried ink marks on the page becomes more vital than defending their neighbor. As a general rule, I would say that human beings never behave more badly toward one another than when they believe they are protecting God. In the words of Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mohandas, 'People of the Book risk putting the book above people.”
Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith
“There comes a time when it is vitally important for your spiritual health to drop your clothes, look in the mirror, and say, ‘Here I am. This is the body-like-no-other that my life has shaped. I live here. This is my soul’s address”
Barbara Brown Taylor
“If churches saw their mission in the same way, there is no telling what might happen. What if people were invited to come tell what they already know of God instead of to learn what they are supposed to believe? What if they were blessed for what they are doing in the world instead of chastened for not doing more at church? What if church felt more like a way station than a destination? What if the church’s job were to move people out the door instead of trying to keep them in, by convincing them that God needed them more in the world than in the church?”
Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith
“...salvation is not something that happens only at the end of a person's life. Salvation happens every time someone with a key uses it to open a door he could lock instead.”
Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith
“I have learned to prize holy ignorance more highly than religious certainty and to seek companions who have arrived at the same place. We are a motley crew, distinguished not only by our inability to explain ourselves to those who are more certain of their beliefs than we are but in many cases by our distance from the centers of our faith communities as well.”
Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith
“...new life starts in the dark. Whether it is a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb, or Jesus in the tomb, it starts in the dark.”
Barbara Brown Taylor, Learning to Walk in the Dark
“The effort to untangle the human words from the divine seems not only futile to me but also unnecessary, since God works with what is. God uses whatever is usable in a life, both to speak and to act, and those who insist on fireworks in the sky may miss the electricity that sparks the human heart.”
Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith
“I know that the Bible is a special kind of book, but I find it as seductive as any other. If I am not careful, I can begin to mistake the words on the page for the realities they describe. I can begin to love the dried ink marks on the page more than I love the encounters that gave rise to them. If I am not careful, I can decide that I am really much happier reading my Bible than I am entering into what God is doing in my own time and place, since shutting the book to go outside will involve the very great risk of taking part in stories that are still taking shape. Neither I nor anyone else knows how these stories will turn out, since at this point they involve more blood than ink. The whole purpose of the Bible, it seems to me, is to convince people to set the written word down in order to become living words in the world for God's sake. For me, this willing conversion of ink back to blood is the full substance of faith.”
Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith
“I am not in charge of this House, and never will be. I have no say about who is in and who is out. I do not get to make the rules. Like Job, I was nowhere when God laid the foundations of the earth. I cannot bind the chains of the Pleiades or loose the cords of Orion. I do not even know when the mountain goats give birth, much less the ordinances of the heavens. I am a guest here, charged with serving other guests—even those who present themselves as my enemies. I am allowed to resist them, but as long as I trust in one God who made us all, I cannot act as if they are no kin to me. There is only one House. Human beings will either learn to live in it together or we will not survive to hear its sigh of relief when our numbered days are done.”
Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith
“The world for which you have been so carefully prepared is being taken away from you,' he said, 'by the grace of God.' (Walter Brueggemann)”
Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith
“I had done everything I knew how to do to draw as near to the heart of God as I could, only to find myself out of gas on a lonely road, filled with bitterness & self-pity. To suppose that I had ended up in such a place by the grace of God required a significant leap of faith. If I could open my hands, then all that fell from them might flower on the way down. If I could let myself fall, then I too might land in a fertile place.”
Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith
“All I am saying is that anyone can do this. Anyone can ask and anyone can bless, whether anyone has authorized you to do it or not. All I am saying is that the world needs you to do this, because there is a real shortage of people willing to kneel wherever they are and recognize the holiness holding its sometimes bony, often tender, always life-giving hand above their heads. That we are able to bless one another at all is evidence that we have been blessed, whether we can remember when or not. That we are willing to bless one another is miracle enough to stagger the very stars.”
Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith
“If I had to name my disability, I would call it an unwillingness to fall. On the one hand, this is perfectly normal. I do not know anyone who likes to fall. But, on the other hand, this reluctance signals mistrust of the central truth of the Christian gospel: life springs from death, not only at the last but also in the many little deaths along the way. When everything you count on for protection has failed, the Divine Presence does not fail. The hands are still there – not promising to rescue, not promising to intervene – promising only to hold you no matter how far you fall. Ironically, those who try hardest not to fall learn this later than those who topple more easily. The ones who find their lives are the losers, while the winners come in last.”
Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith
“In a quip that makes the rounds, Jesus preached the coming of the kingdom, but it was the church that came. All these years later, the way many of us are doing church is broken and we know it, even if we do not know what to do about it. We proclaim the priesthood of all believers while we continue with hierarchical clergy, liturgy, and architecture. We follow a Lord who challenged the religious and political institutions of his time while we fund and defend our own. We speak and sing of divine transformation while we do everything in our power to maintain our equilibrium. If redeeming things continue to happen to us in spite of these deep contradictions in our life together, then I think that is because God is faithful even when we are not.”
Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith
“Although I never found a church where I felt completely at home again, I made a new home in the world. I renewed my membership in the priesthood of all believers, who may not have as much power as we would like, but whose consolation prize is the freedome to meet God after work, well away from all centers of religious command, wherever God shows up.”
Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith
“The only real difference between Anxiety and Excitement was my willingness to let go of Fear.”
Barbara Brown Taylor, Learning to Walk in the Dark

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