Friday, May 23, 2008

Anne Lamott

"Anne Lamott is walking proof that a person can be both
reverent and irreverent in the same lifetime.
Sometimes even in the same breath."
-San Franciso Chronicle

I'm reading Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith. It's allowing me to see a lot of things in a new light. Have you seen the website Lost in Translation? You type an English phrase, it translates the phrase directly to several other languages and then back to English, with no allowances for nuance or context. The results can be quite funny, a lot like the Telephone game I played as a kid (or was it called Gossip Chain? Maybe that was the Sunday-School-Moral-of-the-Story version).

Reading anything by Anne Lammot is a lot like that game. She writes about topics that are familiar to me (church, spirituality, Bible, Jesus) but her descriptions are so "foreign" to me, I feel like I'm reading about new subjects entirely. Her life experiences are so far removed from my life experiences as a home schooled church-girl that my conclusions are challenged at every turn. I pick up the book with my own ideas on forgiveness, prayer, love, doubt, grief and self-image. When filtered through the "translation" of Lamott's writing, the result is almost unrecognizable.

I find this enormously refreshing.

I've become so sick of my version of Christianity, how I understand faith, and what's required of a person who claims to be spiritual, that I've ducked out of it altogether. Like being at a party where I'm forced to face people I'd rather not interact with, talk about subjects that are unimportant to me and exude a general social-good-naturedness, I've made enough excuses to slip out the back door unnoticed, go home early, and skip the whole uncomfortable thing.

But Anne Lamott is making me reconsider. She describes a believable Jesus. And I don't necessarily mean A Jesus I Can Put My Faith In, I just mean Jesus as a person I can accept as having actually existed. Maybe even, given the right circumstances, someone I might consider hanging out with. And that's saying a lot because Jesus As I Imagine Him is not so appealing. Childhood make-believe, bedtime stories, and Bible verses are all so intertwined that it's hard not to view God as a phase to grow out of. Biblical truths via flannel graph rank right alongside building forts out of couch cushions or flooding my old sandbox with the garden hose: fun at the time, but no longer relevant, no longer enjoyable.

Now I've discovered this adult woman who writes about faith like she means it. The Chicago Sun-Times describes her as
"the religious queen of crankiness; she's Christianity's Howard Stern - a swearing spiritual pundit who prays for redemption but brags about her offenses."
That doesn't sound like child's play.

I'm going to go read.


  1. As a children's ministry director I take this statement very seriously "Biblical truths via flannel graph rank right alongside building forts out of couch cushions or flooding my old sandbox with the garden hose: fun at the time, but no longer relevant, no longer enjoyable."

    I think this is a thought that I think of constantly when evaluating how to reach children of today with a faith that they will eventually one day own on thier own.

    Would you mind if I used it as a "quote" in a training manual I am putting together while on maternity leave???

  2. Hey Em. I love this "personal response/review" and can relate in a lot of ways. I feel the same way when reading Anne Lamott. A mixture of awe and wonder comes when seeing that she can write with such brutal honesty and doubt and "crankiness" AND still be a God loving, real, Christian. Something that I am still getting used to is that fact that God craves honesty over perfection.
    Also, it's exciting reading about her experiences in this raw and unfamiliar coarseness that I was never exposed to.
    I almost feel jealous that she has "the luxury" of experiencing God and Church and Spirituality in her later years, in her own, personal search. It almost seems more real to her than it does to me and you, the home schooled, sheltered, flannel graph victims, because all our lives, "God's love. God's mercy. God's one and only son..." has been drilled into our minds like the alphabet or the multiplication table.
    Refreshing is exactly the word. She offers a new, refreshing perspective that helps remind me why I'm in love with Jesus.

  3. Heyo Embo-
    If you haven't read traveling mercies, that is also a wonderful book on faith. I've been reading Lamott's books since high school, its really cool to see how many people I know now that can enjoy her writing as much as me.

  4. I just put in a request at the library. I've never heard of her and am so excited to read the book. Thank you!!!