Tag Archives: Anne Lamott

Simple Prayers

12 Aug
Photo via Flickr user Ashley Rose

Photo via Flickr user Ashley Rose

Praying can be intimidating because, well, God can be intimidating. If we have not established a regular prayer practice, that first prayer in a while can feel forced, awkward, inauthentic, or riddled with guilt. Whatever do we say to God? Where do we start?

I usually start by remembering that prayer does not have to be talking, on my knees with my head bowed and my hands crossed. Enjoying things we love–really good reading, music, food, company, exercise etc–can be prayer. Basking in creation is prayer. Action is prayer. Our lives are a prayer to God. I also try to remember that prayer goes better for me when I start not with talking, but with listening. To learn to pray, we must first learn to listen.

Yet, at some point, finding words in prayer is meaningful for me. Speaking words of prayer change my spirit and overflow to my life. Maybe God knows my words before I speak them, but the act of speaking is a way of showing up in God’s presence. Lately, I have circled back to Anne Lamott’s simple words of prayer: Help, Thanks, Wow. It is a helpful framework, a good start that invokes vulnerability, gratitude and awe, three things I want to cultivate in my life. If you find your prayer life is at a loss for word, give it a try.


My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
2 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.
3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the one Israel praises.
4 In you our ancestors put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.
5 To you they cried out and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
11 Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.
–Psalm 22:1-7,11
I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
22 The stone that the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
25 Save us, we beseech you, O Lord!
O Lord, we beseech you, give us success!
26 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
We bless you from the house of the Lord.
27 The Lord is God,
and he has given us light.
Bind the festal procession with branches,
up to the horns of the altar.
28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
you are my God, I will extol you.
29 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
–Psalm 118:21-29
For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. –Eph 3:14-21


6 May

Photo via Flickr user Theresa Huse

A student of mine wrote the following and asked for my response:

I am fully starting to grapple with being a feminist Catholic, and am personally finding this to be somewhat of an existential crisis. I cannot remove my heightened sensitivity to anything gendered away from me– especially in the faith that I hold so dear and want so badly to participate fully in.

There are no easy answers, but here is part of my living, breathing response. Mary Hess, a Catholic feminist I deeply respect, long ago introduced me to the architectural term tensegrity. It is a word describing tensional integrity. When multiple things are held in tension, it makes the structure stronger. In my being, Catholic and feminist are so often in tension with each other inside my body. I do believe, although the tension can be uncomfortable and even painful, ultimately it makes me stronger.

I lean on the writing of other feminist Catholics, and other feminist women of faith like Dorothy Day, Joan Chitister, Anne Lamott, Marie Howe, Kathleen Norris, Karen Armstrong, Elizabeth Johnson, Rachel Held Evans and Dorothee Solle, to name a few. I welcome their voices, their truth into my head and heart. I lean on the strength of the nuns, the liberation theologians, the lovers of Christ, the feminists who are living for peace day in and day out, quietly or not so quietly transforming our communities. I study the history of dual anthropology and mind-body dualism. I read our creation stories, where I am created in the image of God, very good. I read about the women in the gospel who actually got it, and Jesus’ radical way of seeing them. I read the Bible from the perspective of the women and wonder who they were.

I remind myself that women are the ones who have presided over the table since the beginning of time. I meditate on the power my body has to bear a child and breastfeed that child and how that is a real, powerful, gorgeous iteration of love. I understand, in a small way, the phrase, “Here is my body, broken for you.”

I believe institutions must be moved from the inside. I hold onto my jurisdiction and teach equity where I have earned trust, where my voice is valued. When my Lutheran and Presbyterian friends invite me to preach, I say yes.

I write. And teach. And write some more. After all this, it still hurts. It’s still not always enough. Humans are broken. We draw lines that God does not see. As a feminist Catholic, my heart is continually disappointed. If we stay awake to our gender and our faith, it doesn’t get easier.

I wake up, and try again. I live in the tension, tall and strong. And this is faith.


A Single Leaf or Everywhere

26 Jun
Photo via Flickr user Matt Newfield

Photo via Flickr user Matt Newfield

Look at the two extremes. Maybe you find truth in Samuel Beckett– that we’re very much alone and it’s scary and annoying and it smells like dirty feet and the most you can hope for is that periodically someone will offer a hand or a rag or a tiny word of encouragement just when you’re going under. The redemption in Beckett is so small: in the second act of Waiting for Godot, the barren dying twig of a tree has put out a leaf. Just one leaf. It’s not much…Or maybe truth as you understand it is 180 degrees away– that God is everywhere and we are all where we’re supposed to be and more will be revealed one day. –Anne Lamott

I imagine that for most of us truth is experienced both ways at different times in our life. Some days all we have to grasp onto is that one singular leaf on a dying tree branch. Other days it seems that the joy is almost too much to bear as it pulses all around us. One of my students wrote a gorgeous Villanelle about her grandmother that holds both truths in tension. Two of the repeating lines are “All this and heaven too, she said” and “She tries so hard to get out of bed.”

I’m living in a season of abundance. Day by day I am struck by the overwhelming beauty of my child, the flowers, the sunshine. I am in love with my partner and my work. I am present in the moment, and I see God all around me. My heart is at peace. All this and heaven too, she said.

I imagine there are many people, though, in Charleston right now who can barely fathom the existence of the singular leaf. There is real, overwhelming grief, loss, pain, anger, confusion, and distrust crowding the view. Where is God? Why were they seemingly in the wrong place at the wrong time? Why? She tries so hard to get out of bed.

The singular leaf and swimming in God’s abundant goodness are both truth. Both views of the world are real. Many of us will live with both at different points in life. They both carry with them the hope of God. Anne Lamott also offers that both views help us

stay in the present moment. And that moment is home.

Dwelling in Metaphor

4 Jun
Photo via Flickr user Jose Maria Cuellar

Photo via Flickr user Jose Maria Cuellar

My family loves to be outside. We look forward to walks, hikes, and simply exploring our backyard. When I am playing inside with our son, I find myself assessing the value of our activity. As soon as we step outside, that assessing stops. The inherent goodness of just being outside takes over, and I can feel that goodness in the deep contentment of my baby. We’ve started to plant more and notice the micro changes in our yard day by day through the observant wonderment of a child.

It’s makes sense to me, then, that one of our creations stories takes place in a garden. It is the perfect setting to think about creation. The garden is an ideal metaphor for life. The garden is a perfect paradise for us to learn about God:

…the garden is about life and beauty and the impermanence of all living things. The garden is about feeding your children, providing food for the tribe…And what a wonderful relief every so often to know who your enemy is–because in the garden, the enemy is everything: the aphids, the weather, time. And so you pour yourself into it, care so much, and see up close so much birth and growth and beauty and danger and triumph–and then everything dies anyway, right? But you just keep doing it.   –Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

I feel this. Simply dwelling in my garden helps me feel human. There is no learning activity needed. God is all around us, and we can just breathe and be still. When we do act, when we do weed and plant and trim and water, I do not feel the urgent need to talk through my motion with my baby. “This is earth. This is life. This is food. This is beauty.” He watches intently and does not need an explanation. He gets it, and the joy, wonder and curiosity on his face is pure.

Pablo Neruda, in his poem “Keeping Quiet” reminds us that the earth has something to teach us:

If we were not so single-minded

about keeping our lives moving,

and for once could do nothing,

perhaps a huge silence

might interrupt this sadness

of never understanding ourselves

and of threatening ourselves with death.

Perhaps the earth can teach us

as when everything seems dead

and later proves to be alive.

Yes, everything that is bursting with life will all go away, but then what seems dead will later prove to be alive. We’ll do it again next year. And we’ll keep doing it, and we’ll keep sitting quietly in the garden. We’ll keep creating a mini paradise for our family to dwell in. It will be our own little metaphor, God’s classroom.

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