For my birthday this year, I was given a glorious little piece of technology and have officially joined the e-reader world. As a book-lover, I was reluctant to give up the physical, page-turning, to-have-and-to-hold, relationship of a paper book, but there are several things you get in the trade-off. One of the first books I felt led to read was Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott, a Donald Miller recommendation. I’m not sure what I’d expected, but this book wasn’t it. Should you venture to pick up this book from a non-cyber book store, it will be an easy one to spot if shelved among its Christian contemporaries. Just look for the book with an unapologetic cigarette hanging from its mouth, dropping an f-bomb quite casually, looking a little confused at times, quite self-aware, yet scratching itself indiscreetly wherever it might happen to itch. A little rough around the edges. But even though it made my spirit squirm in a few places, I found her raw honesty appealing. It seemed authentic. And I would much rather read authentic tales from the heart of someone seeking Jesus as opposed to a semi-true, but polished, piece of vanity. On the one hand, I do believe that perhaps some things are better left unsaid, but on the other, true transparency–exposing our darkness to the light–is one way we grow and learn from our common human experience.
And I learned a lot from this book. There were a lot of really good nuggets of Truth, including quotes from non-Christians. After all, if it’s truly true, then it’s God’s Truth, right? Truth is Truth. There isn’t one thing that’s true for a Buddhist that isn’t true for a follower of Jesus. Now there might be assumed truths that don’t line up… but I’m talking about true Truth. Maybe if we start with our common ground to build relationships, we might have more opportunities to share God’s truth along the way.
So in the interest of Truth, using my new little gadget’s highlight feature, I thought I’d share the things that really struck me from this book (in bold) and what God said to me.
From Traveling Mercies, by Anne Lamott:
God isn’t there to take away our suffering or our pain but to fill it with his or her presence.
I’m not equipped to dive into the gender of God, so I’ll leave that alone, but I do love the sentiment of this statement. It reminded me of a quote from Khalil Gibran’s, The Prophet: “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.”
Augustine: To look for God is to find him.
Absolutely true, in my experience. And I suspect yours too.
A woman I know says, for her morning prayer, “Whatever,” and then for the evening, “Oh, well,” but has conceded that these prayers are more palatable for people without children.
This made me chuckle, but it’s also worth exploring. I kinda like the opening prayer of “Whatever,” depending on whether it comes with a defeated, sarcastic tone. I like the thought of… “Whatever you have planned today, Lord. I’m up for it!” Of course, judging by the closing prayer, I’m guessing this woman was feeling defeated by her life. Then again, maybe she meant “Oh well, wasn’t what I’d hoped for, but Your will be done.” Just goes to show that the attitude/heart behind our words is hugely important.
I always thought that was heroic of her, that it spoke of such integrity to refuse to pretend that you’re doing well just to help other people deal with the fact that sometimes we face an impossible loss.
This was referring to a story about a lady who started losing her sight at age 80 and pulled away from the church. I can relate. I remember attending church for the first time after miscarrying. We only told close friends and family, so most people had no idea that I was hurting. I don’t like putting on a happy face when I’m anything but. I also didn’t want to evoke sympathy or needlessly draw mere acquaintances into something that had nothing to do with them, so I would try to force a smile and quickly avert my eyes. I remember feeling like I was dying inside and wanting to R.U.N. But I don’t think running or hiding from others when you’re in pain is heroic. Perhaps it does show “integrity to refuse to pretend,” but I think the real tragedy is when we don’t call on others in our times of trial for fear of being a downer or a burden. That’s what the body of Christ is for. Not that we want to take everyone down with us or always be that “woe is me” person looking for attention, but when we hurt, I think it’s okay to say so. I also don’t think being “in Christ” is synonymous with being “in Vince Able” (whoever he is). Jesus wept. We weep. We have spiritual armor available, true, but every now and again, we’re probably going to take a hit. I’m trying really hard to resist the urge to answer that everything is “fine” when fine actually means, “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad.” But I believe it’s also key to know that God is bigger than any temporary pain we’re facing and that we’re trusting Him to pull us through.
I saw something once from the Jewish Theological Seminary that said, “A human life is like a single letter of the alphabet. It can be meaningless. Or it can be a part of a great meaning.”
This is so great and very close to my heart right now. I want to be a letter in a word in a sentence in a paragraph in a chapter of God’s amazing story. This doesn’t make us insignificant. Change one letter and you change the whole thing.
We are not punished for the sin but by the sin.
I think people so often project their experiences or notions of imperfect human parenting on God. The bible says, “The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.” I think believers often fall in one of two camps of thought: God of Wrath or God as Giant Teddybear. I don’t believe God is out to strike us down with lightening bolts just for kicks, but I do believe, in His holy perfection and omniscience, God allows us to suffer the consequences of our actions (or those of others), knowing what will produce the greatest growth in us and what will draw us near to Him. Yes, Jesus rescued us from the eternal consequences of our actions, but His grace doesn’t shield us from temporal suffering. He is not a Helicopter Mom, waiting to swoop down and prevent us from ever getting hurt. How about we stop trying to blame bad things that happen in our lives on God or others. Sin is the problem. Sin has consequences. Sin tows punishment in its wake, causing ramifications for generations. Atheists often say they can’t reconcile the thought of a God that allows so much suffering, but those who love Him know that the picture is so much bigger than any temporary pain and He is indeed weaving a tapestry of ultimate goodness out of all of it. (Romans 8:28)
God is for giving, and that we are here for giving too.
Love this. We’re not only here for giving, but forgiving. I’d never noticed the connection between the words, but it actually works. When we forgive, we are for (in favor of) giving (bestowing, extending) the grace God has given us to others.
God loves us exactly the way we are, and God loves us too much to let us stay like this. I do not at all understand the mystery of grace only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.
This goes hand-in-hand with the trippy, spiritual truth that we are “becoming who we are.”
But if the fortune of the [young] girl is in the newness, in being the bud, and the fortune of the crone is in the freedom, the lack of attachment or clinging, where does that leave a youngish middle-aged American woman like me? Maybe it leaves me needing to consider how wealthy I am in the knowledge that the girl of my past is still in me while a marvelous dreadlocked crone is in the future–and that I hold both of these females inside. …I realize that I want what the crones have: time for all those long deep breaths, time to watch more closely, time to learn to enjoy what I’ve always been afraid of–the sag and the invisibility, the ease of understanding the life is not about doing. The crones understand this, and it gives them all kinds of time–time to get much less done, time for all these holy moments. So I’ve been thinking about how, realistically, I am probably not going to lose five pounds before I see the guy I like again, or have a little canopy above my eyes snipped off. And how what I am going to do instead is to begin practicing cronehood as soon as possible: to watch, smile, dance.
Watch. Smile. Dance. This makes me sigh a happy sigh.
Pablo Picasso said: “Everything is a miracle. It is a miracle that one does not dissolve in one’s bath like a lump of sugar.”
People say miracles don’t happen any more. I think we so often miss everyday miracles, we just need to be more creative in our contemplation of the miraculous. Picasso apparently also thought it was a miracle that each human face comes arranged in an orderly fashion.
The thing about light is that it really isn’t yours, it’s what you gather and shine back. And it gets more power from reflectiveness; if you sit still and take it in, it fills your cup, and then you can give it off yourself. So I sat still.
Hooray for sitting still… one of the lost pleasures of our harried culture.
But courage is fear that has said its prayers, and so I prayed.
But. Even. If. My favorite fear prayer/elixir.
Let the beauty we love be what we do; there are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground. ~ Rumi
I don’t know much about Rumi, but again, accept truth as God’s where I find it. Worship… all. day. long. Beauty truly is everywhere.
Then he said that as far as the car was concerned, if you have a problem you can solve by throwing money at it, you don’t have a very interesting problem.
I’m not sure whether ranking problems by their “interest” level is the best method, as if our goal is to come up with a more “newsworthy” promise. But I do like how this puts things in a lighter perspective. Our culture gives money much more time and thought than it deserves.
She loves God in the guise of kindness and nature, although she calls God Howard, as in Our Father, who art in heaven, Howard be thy name.
I’m picturing a god named Howard. Maybe a Jewish guy. Maybe a guy like Mr. C on Happy Days. People can have so many confusing ideas about God and who He really is. We love to try and humanize Him, which with Jesus is possible to the extent of His life on earth… but try as we might, we cannot pin God down or box Him in. And when we do, we cheat ourselves of a God of mystery that is way beyond our idea of way beyond. Just when you think you get to know Him, He shows you another secret and you’re reminded that He is ALL… but that is not all. Oh no, that is not all.