Last week I discovered, rather serendipitously, a book entitled Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor. I ordered and read it immediately–a real page turner which is unusual for religious books. However, this book and its author are not ordinary. A delightful, honest, surprising, wise, witty, humorous, and beautifully written true story of one woman’s varied life experiences bounces off every page, jumps into your heart, re-arranges your predictable assumptions, and encourages your own unique Godward path.
I will not quote from this stunningly inspiring book because I’d need written permission to do so and, besides, I want you to discover its charm for yourself. If ever you longed for church to be more than it seems, if ever you yearned to find God practical and present in your daily experience, if ever you wanted to feel closer to God, then Barbara Brown Taylor’s book will take you where you’re trying to go–or at least it will set you out on a path you may not have otherwise discovered. Through candidly sharing her life experiences–which include denominational-explorer, Episcopal priest, church pastor, college professor, environmentalist, world-traveler, lover of life and all beings, speaker, wife, and celebrated writer–the author bravely (and sometimes brazenly, but always with love) conveys what is involved in finding one’s particular path to God. Moreover, she shows what it means to be human in a diviner sense–in the sense that Jesus demonstrated.
Just get Taylor’s book. She’s written over a dozen, but this is the one. It will meet your need.
Women need to read about other women’s roads to faith, freedom, peace, action, to living a genuine life.
Women also need to keep journals or diaries. They need to put down in written word what they think, see, and feel. Then, too, they need to go back and re-read these journals and see who they were and are.
Throughout my adult life I’ve kept over thirty journals–every sort, from 5 x 7-inch Chinese silk-covered ones to 12-inch books with handmade paper, to sturdy lined notebooks, to plain spiral-bound volumes, to ones I decorated with art work. They have taught me much. I pulled one out today dated 1979-1982 and read about my sons and one-year old daughter, about our unschooling trip to England and Wales, my observations of world politics, my desires for growth in understanding God, about my longing for more time to clean my house, play with my dogs, read and pray, prep for teaching, bread-baking, and for all else that needed to fit in a day.
About twelve years ago it came to me to write an autobiography (Hiraeth: Beyond My Father’s House: A Woman’s Journey Home by Gwendolyn Evans Caldwell, copyright 2013, available on Amazon) utilizing my journals along with memories. I did this not because I thought my life was particularly unique but because every woman’s life matters. I’d learned that fact teaching a women’s studies course I’d won a grant to create that included a 100-book bibliography. In fact, I required my students to keep journals for the duration of the course, knowing they would learn much about themselves, and all women, in the process.
So may I boldly suggest that along with reading Barbara Brown Taylor’s book this week, you might consider starting a journal if you haven’t already? You’ll be glad you did.
Artwork: Closer, approx.15″ x 10″, unframed, mixed media, lost. I painted this mixed media piece about thirty years ago–good thing I photographed it because somehow in all my many moves, I lost it. Maybe it will turn up one day.