Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith

I thought I was doing a good job of sharing, via this blog, the books I've read. Recently, however, I've been looking for my thoughts on books I've read, and those thoughts are not to be found. Either my blog is eating them, leaving no trace (which, admittedly, is unlikely); or I have put off sharing the books until they've completely fallen off my radar.

So, I'm going to quickly share two books I've just finished, before they disappear into the ether that is my brain - one in this post, the other in a post that I hope will be written... soon.

Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith describes, in a series of essays, Lamott's path to God. There was nothing earth-shattering or deeply profound, but I enjoyed her writing, her stark experience, her insights.

At one point, she describes why she (a single mother) makes her son go to church with her, and I think this describes her own reasons for going:
The main reason is that I want to give him what I found in the world, which is to say a path and a little light to see by. Most of the people I know who have what I want - which is to say, purpose, heart, balance, gratitude, joy - are people with a deep sense of spirituality. They are people in community, who pray, or practice their faith; they are Buddhists, Jews, Christians - people banding together to work on themselves and for human rights. They follow a brighter light than the glimmer of their own candle; they are part of something beautiful. 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."
She talks about things breaking - "hearts, health, confidence" - and shares words from her preacher:
Our preacher Veronica said recently that this is life's nature: that lives and hearts get broken - those of people we love, those of people we'll never meet. She said that the world sometimes feels like the waiting room of the emergency ward and that we who are more or less OK for now need to take the tenderest possible care of the more wounded people in the waiting room, until the healer comes. You sit with people, she said, you bring them juice and graham crackers
(which made me think of Alma's teaching that we be willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light, and that we be willing to mourn with those that mourn, and willing to comfort those that stand in need of comfort).

Lamott shares Raymond Carver's poem, Late Fragment, in her chapter on belonging to a community:
And did you get what
you wanted from this life even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.
We take many paths to find our community, and our God, and I don't think one is more right than another. Lamott writes about the many mistakes and bad choices she's made in life, and about the losses she's experienced. And then she celebrates, not just being beloved by her community of faith, but by her God:
The mystery of God's love as I understand it is that God loves the man who was being mean to his dog just as much as he loves babies; God loves Susan Smith, who drowned her two sons, as much as he loves Desmond Tutu. And he loved her just as much while she was releasing the handbrake of her car that sent her boys into the river as he did when she first nursed them. So of course he loves old ordinary me, even or especially at my most scared and petty and mean and obsessive. Loves me; chooses me.
The title of her book comes from what the old people at her church said when anyone left for a while: "Traveling mercies: love the journey, God is with you, come home safe and sound." Her book, really, describes her journey, which leads her, finally, home, safe and sound.

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