I am a terrible and lazy Christian. I do not believe that the Bible is the literal word of God. I just skip about a third of it. I love the parts I love so much, but I find a lot of it just appalling. When a right-wing person quotes a passage in order to attack and stigmatize another person—or group of people—I just roll my eyes. I find most famous Christians to be full of themselves and of prejudice and self-loathing, masquerading as devout religious belief. I find all fundamentalism to be terrifying and very destructive. Anne Lamott, Friends Journal (interview with Jana Llewellyn)
Anne Lamott is such an admired author I wish I could be fully interested in all of her stuff—her nonfiction books on topics related to faith included. (For some background, see my previous post on Bird By Bird as well as one on perfectionism.)
At least her stuff about God and such is not of standard fare. Because of this and because she’s so honest and down to earth and funny, I’m more than okay with directing certain readers—you’ll know who you are—to two of her most recent books, small companion presentations on prayer (Help, Thanks, Wow) and on “meaning, hope, and repair” (Stitches).
I. Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers (2012)
Jana Llewellyn, Friends Journal, describes this highly popular volume as follows:
Help, Thanks, Wow focuses on the simplicity and importance of three prayers we all find ourselves saying from time to time: the prayer for when we feel desperate or hopeless (Help!), the prayer for when we feel fulfilled (Thanks!), and the prayer for when we feel awed by the beauty around us (Wow!)…(T)here is something to be said for the moments when we utter—perhaps on purpose or by accident—a word or phrase that helps us find a deepening, an opening, the ability to go on.
Not to mention her fourth prayer, “Help me not be such an ass,” though she doesn’t elaborate on this one. Maybe someday, she says.
Publishers Weekly says of Help, Thanks, Wow: “Equal parts 12 Step meeting in the church basement and walks on the beach, it’s a prayer manual for people who wouldn’t be caught dead reading prayer manuals…(A)nybody who gets it as a holiday gift will likely just say, ‘Thanks. Wow.'”
Anne Lamott, by the way, does happen to be openly in recovery. As quoted on the site Big Think: “…I became a Christian before I got sober. So I was a drunk, bulimic Christian…” before finding generally healthier ways.
Some Quotes from Help, Thanks, Wow:
A sober friend from Texas said once that the three things I cannot change are the past, the truth, and you. I hate this insight so much.
If I were going to begin practicing the presence of God for the first time today, it would help to begin by admitting the three most terrible truths of our existence: that we are so ruined, and so loved, and in charge of so little.
People always told me, “You’ve got to get a thicker skin,” like now they might say, jovially, “Let go and let God.” Believe me, if I could, I would, and in the meantime I feel like stabbing you in the forehead.
Below, Anne Lamott shares a few words with Oprah regarding prayer:
II. Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair (2013)
Caroline Leavittville interviewed Lamott about the title’s concept of “living stitch by stitch”:
When we have a huge change, or loss, empty nest or divorce, or a public catastrophe, like Newtown, it’s so daunting. It leaves us stunned, raw, speechless, feeling like little children. It seems hopeless. Our minds tell us that we can’t get over this, or make peace with that, or have a big rich trusting life again; let alone joy and laughter.
But all around us are people who can and do help, who rush to our sides, like white blood cells. I love that Mr. Rogers’ mother told him when he was a boy that after a tragedy, he should look towards the helpers–that’s where we’ll see the miracles. And all around us are people who did lose their spouses to death or divorce or Alzheimer’s, who did resurrect, over time and with infusions of grace, and the revelation of life’s difficult, gorgeous truths. And one of these truths is that we just have to make a knot in a piece of thread, and make one stitch, in fabric that will hold a knot, and then figure out one place on the other side of the torn fabric, that will hold one stitch. How can that POSSIBLY be enough? I just know that it is.
“Lamott’s…most insightful book yet, Stitches offers plenty of her characteristic witty wisdom…this slim, readable volume [is] a lens on life, widening and narrowing, encouraging each reader to reflect on what it is, after all, that really matters,” says People.
Publishers Weekly calls it “vintage Lamott: funny, brilliantly self-deprecating, and insightful.”
Stocking stuffers, anyone?