Monday, 2 April 2007

The Muddling Glory of God

Anne Lamott was in town this past weekend so Jeri, her sis Cheri, and I met up at a downtown church to hear Anne talk about none other than her thoughts on faith during her latest book peddling, Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith. I hadn't met Jeri before but as is the case with reading the musings of other fellow bloggers, I felt as though I had.

In any event, I really enjoyed Lamott's talk. Much more so than the reading of her latest work, actually. There were easily 1,000 people who packed the church to hear her speak, and yet strangely, it seemed as intimate to me as a small salon gathering. Her soft-spoken nature surprised me. She comes across kind of spacey and unassuming - sort of a cross between the witty and wise Diane Keaton and an adorable, cutsie Melanie Griffith - I wondered at one point if all those drugs from her former addict lifestyle hadn't perchance gotten the best of her. And yet her thoughts on faith are lucid and anything but spacey.

What's refreshing is how irreverently reverent she is about her Christian faith. She's not praise the Lord! preachy but rather, unabashedly honest, questioning and grateful. "The opposite of faith," she claims, "is certainty." This may be the only thing she knows for sure about this quest called God.

Apart from the fact that she knows she hates process. "There must be an easier way," she laments, than the mistake-ridden path of living, learning and passing it on. "If I were God," she says, "I'd have a completely different system." It would be more like a kitchen drawer organizer and there would be a definite out-box corresponding to the God box system she utiliizes. God box?

Yup. She admits to having a physical box where she stashes notes and prayer requests to God. Think Wailing Wall on a local scale. She's unabashed in her praise of this system. It works, she insists, eventually, which is another thing she hates. It's part of the reason she thinks God is so clever. Her prayers are always answered....somehow, somewhere...they just seldom resemble the original request.

Lamott read a couple of excerpts from her new book, a loose collection of commentaries about grace and the notion of forgivishness, as she calls it. One of the tales she read is about the estrangement of a friendship since partially mended, while the other is the riveting account of an assisted suicide she facilitated years ago. In both cases, grace was a change agent for her.

She believes strongly in the power of grace, even if it does seem as though it isn't an immediate process. Grace, she notes, "often buys me a few minutes," whether this be in matters of Sunday school discipline, parenting a teenager, writing a book or radical self-care, as she calls it.

She took some time to address the process of writing, as detailed in her book Bird by Bird, and then stayed to sign books. I lined up to get my book signed, something I haven't done since waiting to get Eric Estrada's autograph at a car show. Thankfully, the line-up was only a ten minute wait. I decided to buy Bird by Bird, so titled to describe the process and reality of what she dubs "shitty" first drafts (my blogs in a nutshell).

Which is metaphoric, really, of this journey through life we are all in together and of the "muddling glory of God" and eventual grace that abounds, if only we would but pay attention.


EbNflo said...

How wonderful that you were able to hear her speak. I love your description of her and wonder if there isn't a little of that spacey-ness in all writers... in some shape or form.
I laughed out loud about Erik Estrada. I already knew this but it still made me laugh... in comparisons. He's not just a CHP; he plays a real cop on TV. Man, talk about yer crazy full circle jerk.
Hail Holy full of Grace...

Anonymous said...

Holy, why is it that I can so see you becoming a religous author yourself? You speak of so many others; I know it is a passion. Someday I expect a book out of this. Just thinking of you today. I walked down the candy aisle and found myself looking for the little star candies. Still none, but so many more!

Hope said...

This is very interesting.. I will have to look for some of her books..
wanted to ask if I can add your link over at Mondays Stories..
hope your day is soft..
hugs Hope

Becca said...

She sounds like a very interesting lady. I would have loved to have heard her speak

Jeri said...

I bought Bird by Bird this week too, at a used bookstore in Friday Harbor... along with a translation of some of Rumi's work, since I've seen it referenced so many times lately.

The book that I THOUGHT was hers... and instead was more focused on free writing... is Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones. I do have that.

It was great meeting you, and I totally understand the odd dichotomy of meeting someone for the first time in person that you feel you know so well already... here's to many more interesting adventures!

Anonymous said...

Now I want a copy of the book. So much more profound than the latest "Shopaholic" novels I've been reading lately. Thanks for the suggestion!

Anonymous said...

Hello Schmidt! I found you. I wanted to thank you for giving me a heads up on that book - teacher man. I haven't read it but it looked interesting on google, and his comments about it, so I've ordered it from the bookshop, ty.

Anonymous said...

YOu need to write your own book. It would be great. You might even compile many of your blog entries. The more recent post does not let me leave a message but you have sold that book. I am trying to adhere to a strict book budget...LOL Anyway I will buy it next week. It is about self discipline. I buy from Amazon. When I looked your site connects to Amazon. I will buy it from your site instead of going directly to Amazon.


Anonymous said...

I nearly heard Lamott in Portland last week, but passed for more studying. Definitely should have taken up the opportunity to hear here instead. I haven't read any of her newer stuff and it's been awhile. I think she's going back on my "to read" list. A list that is beyond out of control really.

Holy Thought of the Week

"To live fully is to let go and die with each passing moment, and to be reborn in each new one."

~ Jack Kornfield ~