Friday, August 11, 2006

Friday Review -- Traveling Mercies

For my first Friday review, I picked an oldie -- Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott. I avoided this book for years. I was an English major in the early '80's, and I developed an allergy to a certain type of liberal, female academic. Now, don't get me wrong. I am female, I'm relatively moderate in most political areas (which in Oklahoma makes me a flaming liberal), and I used to be an academic. It was just a certain type that I was allergic to. Anyway, I was sure that if I read this book I would break out in hives.

The book converted me early when the author wrote:

. . . I knew beyond any doubt that it was Jesus. I felt him as surely as I feel my dog lying nearby as I write this.

And I was appalled. I thought about my life and my brilliant hilarious progressive friends, I thought about what everyone would think of me if I became a Christian, and it seemed an utterly impossible thing that simply could not be allowed to happen. I turned to the wall and said out loud, "I would rather die."

I know people who feel that way. People whose view of Christianity has been etched by televangelists and parents who get in screaming fights over evolution at school board meetings. How does God reach such people, people who would rather die. . . ?

Lamott writes with real authority of a life of alcohol, drugs and sex that left her emptier and more broken than when she started. She writes of the church she stumbled into. She writes of an elderly church goer who saved up baggies of dimes to give her when times were particularly tough, and she writes of joy and forgiveness and fresh starts.

More importantly, she writes as a Presbyterian elder in a church this denomination desperately needs. A church whose members are, or have been, so broken themselves that the most desperate of God's children can find comfort there. Most Presbyterian churches exude wealth, prosperity and respectability. They don't whisper, "Addicts, come sit in back and let us love you."

I broke down and read this book when it was chosen by a group I am in at church. We used a study guide on the publisher's web page. It is short, but we found it useful.

This book has been out forever. I know a lot of people who cross this page will have read it. So, I will start by linking to Cheesehead in Paradise's blog. She listed this book last week as one that changed her life. If you haven't been by her blog lately, drop in and offer prayers. She, and her church, are having an unspeakable time.

So, anybody else?



Cat. said...

this book. I can't read it very often because I sob all the way through, with sadness and with laughter.

The scene that stays with me most is her conversion, with Jesus following her like a dog.

Cat. said...

Oh, and welcome.

Anonymous said...

I had bought most of Lamott's books and when I decided to go to seminary, I tossed them in the trunk of the car for the long drive west. As I read more and more I discovered she lived in California, she lived in the same county I has headed, she was a Presbyterian, she was an elder. And so sometime that fall, I wandered down to St. Andrew. What a relief from the whiteness most of Marin county was. It is a church that church is supposed to be. All are welcome: rich, poor, sober, high, children, grown ups, white, black. She is exactly as she is in the book: honest and irreverent, trusting in God. What a gift. I recommend Operating Instructions for all new parents.

Kelly said...

As many of you know, the "sequel" to "Traveling Mercies: Thoughts on Faith" was published last year and recently went to paperback. It is entitled "Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith" and,if possible,it might even be more wonderful than the first. I adore her books and had the privilege of hearing her speak in person this year. She has some STRONG opinions (a mild understatement!) but absolutely melts you with her love for Jesus. I always warn my more politically conservative friends to just breathe deeply when she starts ranting about Bush, but don't quit reading! They are always glad they stuck with her. Noone makes me laugh or cry like Anne Lamott!

Kelly said...

Also, earlier today I listed Taveling Mercies and Plan B in a post on my blog under the heading "books that make me laugh" and "book that I would take to a deserted island." I just read your other entry about how we might respond to your book reviews and I am really good at following directions :-)

Thanks for taking Fridays!!

jim said...

Great Book. I read Lamott's book on a whim during my first semester of seminary knowing nothing about it.

I remember thinking "wow, here's a liberal with a genuine experience of Jesus." (I didn't know that was possible...) Needless to say the book blew the doors of my conservatism wide open.

It was truly a transformative expereince for me and a foundational book for my new life as a post-evangelical christian.

JusticeSeeker said...

Jim's comment, "Wow, here's a liberal with a genuine experience with Jesus." rang a chord with Search the Sea on Friday August 18, 2006 ("Rambling Around").
Search the Sea