Traveling Mercies, Some Thoughts on Faith
Pantheon Books, a division of Random House, 1999
This is Anne Lamott’s quirky and sometimes irreverent take on spirituality and God and her life. I’ve provided some quotes from each chapter to whet your appetite!
Overture: Lily Pads – My coming to faith did not start with a leap but rather a series of staggers from what seemed like one safe place to another. Like lily pads, round and green, these places summoned and then held me up while I grew. Each prepared me for the next leaf on which I would land, and in this way I moved across the swamp of doubt and fear. . . . each step brought me closer to the verdant pad of faith on which I somehow stay afloat today. Pg 3
Chapter One – Mountain, Valley, Sky – (on a bad plane ride) We’re going down, I thought. I know that a basic tenet of the Christian faith is that death is really just a major change of address, but I had to close my eyes to squinch back tears of terror and loss. Pg 63
Chapter Two – Church, People, Steeple – Traveling mercies: love the journey, God is with you, come home safe and sound. Pg 106
Chapter Three – Tribe – But the way I see things, God loves you the same whether you’re being elegant or not. It feels much better when you are, but even when you can’t fake it, God still listens to your prayers. Pg 120
Chapter Four – Kids, some sick – As I’ve said before, I believe that when all is said and done, all you can do is show up for someone in crisis, which seems so inadequate. But when you do, it can radically change everything. Your there-ness, your stepping into a sacred parent’s live of vision, can be life giving, because so often everyone else is in hiding—especially, in the beginning, the parents. So you come to keep them company when it feels like the whole world is falling apart, and your being there says that just for this moment, this one tiny piece of the world is OK, or it as least better. Pg 163-164
Chapter Five – Body and Soul – Then this little-kid voice, this Tweety-bird voice, said, “We need to pray.” I sighed again. Eventually I lowered my face into the palms of my hands. I know you have bigger fish to fry, I said to God, but I need a little help with this stupidity. Pg 172
Chapter Six – Fambly – I tell you, families are definitely the training ground for forgiveness. At some point you pardon the people in your family for being stuck together in all their weirdness, and when you can do that, you can learn to pardon anyone. Pg 219-220
Chapter Seven – Shore and Ground – I myself am a bit more into blame and revenge; also, I’ve found that self-righteousness is very comforting. But Jesus is quite clear on this point. He does not mince words. He says you even have to love the whiners, the bullies, and the people who think they’re better than you. And you have to stick up for the innocent. Pg 250-251
I enjoy reading Anne Lamott’s nonfiction books. (If you want to write or even if you already do write, read Bird by Bird. Excellent. It is a meditation on writing. That one gets 5 out of 5 paws!) She writes novels as well but I’ve not read any of them. She has a breezy, devil-may-care writing style but is deadly serious when it comes to Truth. Interspersed with her personal story are subtle spiritual truths that are easy to overlook but worth digging for. In my case, as I read I always keep a marker like a post it note nearby so when I run across something that lights even a teensy tiny spark inside, I mark it so I can go back and read it again and glean the hidden-in-plain-sight wisdom from it. She is honest, self-deprecating and full of humor (and tears).
Rating: 4 out of 5 paws because we will be reading this one again and because her honesty encourages us to be both honest in our writing and with ourselves!
According to Wikipedia:
- Hard Laughter. Viking Press. 1980. ISBN 0-670-36140-2.
- Rosie. Viking Press. 1983. ISBN 0-670-60828-9.
- Joe Jones. North Point Press. 1985. ISBN 0-86547-209-2.
- All New People. North Point Press. 1989. ISBN 0-86547-394-3.
- Crooked Little Heart. Pantheon Books. 1997. ISBN 0-679-43521-2.
- Blue Shoe. Riverhead Books. 2002. ISBN 1-57322-226-7.
- Imperfect Birds. Riverhead Books. 2010. ISBN 1-59448-751-0.
- Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year. Pantheon Books. 1993. ISBN 978-0-679-42091-0.
- Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Pantheon Books. 1994. ISBN 978-0-679-43520-4.
- Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith. Pantheon Books. 1999. ISBN 978-0-679-44240-0.
- Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith. Riverhead Books. 2005. ISBN 978-1-57322-299-0.
- Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith. Riverhead Books. 2007. ISBN 978-1-59448-942-6.
- Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son’s First Son. Riverhead Books. 2012. ISBN 978-1-59448-841-2. (with Sam Lamott)
- Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers. Riverhead Books. 2012. ISBN 978-1-59463-129-0.
- Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair. Riverhead Books. 2013. ISBN 978-1-59463-258-7.
- Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace. Riverhead Books. 2014. ISBN 978-1-59448-629-6.