St. Anne Lamott

When I discovered Glennon Melton and her Momastery, she spoke of Anne Lamott referring to her as St. Anne. I thought, at the time, that it was a bit far fetched but was intrigued so I picked up Bird by Bird. As I was not set on becoming a writer, the book did not do much for a potential future career but I really liked her honesty and humor. So I went on and picked up Operating Instructions – and I was hooked. I had read so many “mothering” books, none of them so raw, true, touching me to my very core. And I had been a mother for a while when I read it.  There was no advice in it about the food we should feed our kids, how many hours they should sleep or how important breastfeeding is.  This was a book that soothed my soul and helped me feel like I was ok as a first time, out of my mind young mother.

I spent one night with Anne, breathing in Some Assembly Required, listening to her talk about the birth and story of her grandson and I let St. Anne teach me the most honest and efficient prayers of my life: Help! Thanks! Wow!

I listen to Anne talk to Oprah or Anne Patchet and her voice and calm and certainty about things even she confesses to not feel that certain about are a balm to my heart. I could go to sleep listening to St. Anne but, even more importantly, she makes me feel loved and ok, just the way that I am.

I picked up her latest book, Almost Everything, and … I keep trying to find the words to describe it. It’s something between a raw, contemporary psalm and a good friend offering me a cup of tea and stroking my hair. The chapter called “Jah” is the most honest, closest to my heart and hallelujah invoking description of God. Here is an excerpt:

“The God with who, you are having problems, or whom you hate or ridicule, is not the God we are talking about.   When we talk about goodness, an animating intelligence in the universe and in our hearts or a pervasive positive unity and presence, we are not talking about a bearded guy in the sky, Parvati or a Jewish Palestinian baby.  We are talking about a higher power, that might be called Not Me, a kindness, a patience, a hope, which is everywhere, even in our annoying, self-centered, fraudulent selves. 

The lower powers – greed, hatred, addiction, ignorance – are easy to connect with and describe, but a higher power can’t be easily defined.  It cannot be controlled, manipulated or appropriated.   It opens us and heals us and brings us together and turns hearts of stone into human hearts.  Anytime you are experiencing love, you are experiencing the God we are talking about.  But as novelist David James Duncan says, ‘God’ is the ‘worst nickname ever.’

So what is a good nickname for a positive force greater than ourselves, bigger than we can imagine, way bigger than we are comfortable with, better than we can hope for, deeper than where we can fall, beyond mind and awe, where we can still also believe in geology, evolution, astronomy?

The best name ever is Gitchi Manitou, which means ‘Great Spirit’ in several Native American languages. ‘Jah’ is beautiful because reggae is percussive with hope.

Over the decades, I’ve suggested many names –  Ed, Bubbe, Little Tree. I’ve already shared most of my God thoughts, as there are only a few: Not Me, Look up. Be kind.”

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