Yesterday I was told a story about a young pastor visited at home by an older pastor. The older man told the younger man that every table in his house should be an altar. By this, he didn't mean the young pastor should have a chalice and a silver platter of communion wafers on his bedside table and TV trays. Instead, he was preaching a kind of mindfulness. Pay attention, he was saying. Keep God in mind whatever you do.
This story appeals to both my love of order and my love of beauty. I believe God also loves order and beauty, and it is nice to be in accord with God from time to time, instead of always lifting my eyes to the Heavens and saying, "Huh?" or "Do I have to?"
(I will say, after my initial positive response to the story of the young pastor and the old pastor, an irritable thought nudged its way into my brain, whispering, This way madness lies! What if it starts with tables and ends up with sinks? Who could make an altar out of sink? Think of the globs of toothpaste, think of all those little hairs!)
So when I came home, I worked on turning my tables into altars. I straightened my sewing table and the coffee table. I neatened up the dining room table, which is currently being used for quilt-making. I never quite got to the kitchen table, but I eyeballed it a lot and thought about how un-altar-like it was, covered up by recycling and library books.
Looking around as I write this, I see that some of my tables have been re-cluttered, and so I must go make altars out of them again. I suspect making altars out of tables is a daily practice. But here's the funny thing: once you make your little altar, you look at it differently. An altar, after all, is a place for communion with God. And here's one right in your living room! There's one over there where you put your coffee cup while you're reading the morning paper.
Little altars all over your house. Like maybe God lived there or something.
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