My husband bought a gift for me last week, one of the few Anne Lamott books I have not yet read. It is her book about prayer, Help, Thanks, Wow. Our library has a waiting list for it, and he knew I would be too
cheap frugal to buy it for myself, so he offered it as a gift. Thank you so much, Honey. I revel in my time spent reading Anne.
What follows is not so much the Readers' Digest condensed version of this beautiful book, but some of my favorite a-has as I turned the pages, slowly, to make it last a little longer. My reflections are interjected here and there, so to set Anne's words apart from mine, her quotes will be highlighted in red.
THE THREE ESSENTIAL PRAYERS
"My three prayers are variations on Help, Thanks, Wow. That's all I ever need, besides the silence, the pain, and the pause sufficient for me to stop, close my eyes, and turn inward."
No one prays the prayer of the desperate more than I. Help me. Bless them. Heal him. Comfort her. We need you.
Help. Help. Help. I am the beggarliest beggar. Anne wrote this prayer that she says will do in a pinch:
"Hi, God. I am just a mess. It is all hopeless. What else is new? I would be sick of me, if I were You, but miraculously You are not. I know I have no control over other people's lives, and I hate this. Yet I believe that if I accept this and surrender, You will meet me wherever I am. Wow. Can this be true? If so, how is this afternoon---say, two-ish? Thank You in advance for Your company and blessings. You have never once let me down. Amen."
As I write this, it is spring in Utah. Spring means rain (the farmers hope), and it means wind. Lots and lots of wind. I just have to share what Anne wrote about the wind because it made me laugh. My stepdad shares Anne's animosity for wind, and her words made me think of him. Forgive the language; it still makes me laugh.
"Another damn wind. I hate wind so much. It can make you feel hopeless, even in world-class beauty.
So I prayed: Help me not be such an ass." (This is actually the fourth great prayer, which perhaps we will address at another time.)"
"The movement of grace toward gratitude brings us from the package of self-obsessed madness to a spiritual awakening. Gratitude is peace."
Thank You for everything...my amazing husband, our happy, healthy kids and grandson, enough money to pay the bills, that the MacBook was under warranty and will last me awhile longer, and that Chuck's camera survived its fall on the cement. Thank yous are easy for me. There is so much to be grateful for, everywhere I look.
"The movement of grace from hard to soft, distracted to awake, mean to gentle again, is mysterious but essential. As a tiny little control freak, I want to understand the power of Wow, so I can organize and control it, and up its rate and frequency. But I can't. I can only feel it, and acknowledge that it is here once again. Wow."
I need to step up my game in the WOW department. It's not just being amazed at God's creations, or recognizing his unfathomable gift of grace to us all. I need to stop and reflect more.
Wow, that is one amazing sunset. Wow, You outdid yourself with the night sky. Wow, I feel great today. Wow, You accept me as I am, and you love me.
One of the times when Anne seemed to look into my soul, and talk just to me, she was talking about those times we may be feeling "buggy." She says we need to step outside and look up, and say "Wow." She talks about going to 7-Eleven to buy a large Hershey's bar with almonds,
"to shovel in, to go into a trance, to mood-alter, but you remember the first prayer, Help, because you so don't want the shame or the bloat."
"So you do the wildest, craziest thing: you change your mind, walk across the street to the health food store, and buy a basket of blackberries, because the answer to your prayer is to remember that you're not hungry for food. You're hungry for peace of mind, for a memory. You're not hungry for cocoa butter. You're hungry for safety, for a moment when the net of life holds and there is an occasional sense of the world's benevolent order."
Sigh. Yeah. I need to remember what it is I'm hungry for. I need to remember to ask for help, to say thanks when it comes, and to say wow when I realize I made it through my moment of need with God's help.
"The Amen is only as good as the attitude. If you are trying to finish up quickly so you can check your cell phone messages, you are missing the chance to spend quiet moments with the giver of life and the eternal, which means you may reap continued feelings of life racing along without you. So as Samuel Beckett admonished us to fail again, and fail better, we try to pray again, and pray better, for slightly longer and with slightly more honesty, breathing more, deeper, and with more attention."
Amen, and amen, and amen.