Processing "Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith"

While gallivanting in Boulder last month, my husband and I visited the local Borders to grab new reading material when I stumbled across Anne Lamott's book Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith. I had heard about Lamott via a Don Miller book and had decided that I wanted to read something form her. So--I bought the book and it has occupied my nightstand and the desk in my classroom for a month. Usually it doesn't take me this long to read a book--but this book was different. I would go through moments where I couldn't put the book down and then moments where I had to put it down. The book was very unsettling to me.

My writing friend Erica and I had a short conversation on Facebook tonight about the book, and I mentioned that Lamott is an incredible writer who has the ability to engage, entertain, provoke deep thought, and write in a way that is honest---an honesty that stings a bit like peroxide on a scraped knee. Though the peroxide analogy may seem weird, it works for me because even though it stung like crazy when my mom put peroxide on my scraped elbows and knees, I knew that it was good for me--it was purifying. And that's how Lamott's book is---parts of it sting, parts of it makes me feel uncomfortable, but it's good for me to be pushed to think and reflect on how/if this book fits in with my belief system.

In a nutshell, the book is a bold account of Lamott's struggles with addictions, family, self-image, relationships, etc. and how she finds faith in God through it all. No doubt about it: she invites everyone--no matter their backgrounds--to experience her faith. I'm certainly no Bible scholar, but I think this is what Jesus wanted--to have everyone--even the least of these--to experience His father.

At the bottom of the book cover is a quote from the San Francisco Examiner and Chronicle, "Anne Lamott is walking proof that a person can be both reverent and irreverent in the same lifetime. Sometimes even in the same breath." In some instances, this is what I struggled with--the mix of reverence and irreverence within a page or even a sentence. Innumerable swear words, leftist political ideologies, and at times a wishy-washy view of God caused me to close the book. Because of this, I think that many conservative Evangelical Christians would dismiss this book as garbage. But her incredible way of crafting sentences, her pure honesty, and the way this book challenged me to question her theology and examine my beliefs always drew me to pick up where I left off.

All in all, I'm glad I read the book, and I'd recommend it to people who have an open mind--it's not for the faint of heart. If you're interested in reading another--more professional and much better written--review of an Anne Lamott book, check out the following link.

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