I have typically been an Anne Lamott fan from other people’s books. What I mean is that so many people quote her that I really didn’t feel like I needed to read her myself. Often though, as is always the case, when we quote people it is usually from the parts that only speak to us and so get skewed in the translation.
Recently I was reading a book on the soul, it took a bit of getting in to, but it was still good (by the end). In this book they quoted from Anne Lamott’s “Help, Thanks Wow” so I decided to read it. I guess if you want this review wrapped up in one sentence it would be thus: Not much “help,” undirected “thanks,” and “wow” I hope my life is deeper than this book.
I know, as is always the case, people will get mad at me for not loving everything Anne Lamott, but please stop before you write something nasty to me and remember, I am not judging her heart, just the words in this book. The words of the book I found devoid of any passion and simply words for words sake.
At the outset it seems as though she tries to placate everyone from every manner of “faith,” accept for Christians who she likes to poke in the eye and claim they are all self-righteous for believing in something fixed and unchanging. I know Lamott would call herself a believer, and while I believe at times Christians need to be called out for their stupidity, we also need to speak of where the goodness is as well. Lamott seems to go out of her way to always reference God as “she” for no real purpose that I can discern (other than to try to win points with those who dislike a “Father” view of God).
She writes this book for those who have any manner of faith, from those who worship mountains, to old chairs, to themselves. It seems as though the book doesn’t give a second thought to the reason so many prayers sound and feel so flat (other than we need to pray more), but what if the deeper issue is that we are talking to things either unworthy of worship or non-sentient…and if that is the case of course your prayers will ring hollow. Much of the book seems very “self” focused, I want to be loved, I want to cry out, I want…whatever; this is the problem with placing ourselves at the center of God’s world, we think God must worship us.
Any time we seek to make God out to be less than He is it doesn’t hurt Him, it hurts us. We were made for glory, but that glory has been bestowed upon us, yet we constantly take that glory and think that we have created it ourselves and are deserving of it. To me, this seems the course of Lamott’s book, sort of an American Kabala-ism that ceases to focus on the true-ness of God and instead elevates the reasoning of man.
There is a reason why the Old Testament word for GLORY came from the word for WEIGHT and SIGNIFICANCE. Because God is the one who has weight, we are weightless without Him. He is fixed, His glory forever shines, and we are the ones who fail to notice or see it. We cry for glory all the while overlooking the steadfast glory of the one who made us.
Maybe, just maybe, I feel the way I do about Help Thanks Wow because I just came off reading Timothy Keller’s book on Prayer (Experiencing the Awe and Intimacy of God) and Lamott’s book seemed so colorless in comparison. Either way, I give it 2 stars, maybe it’s better than I thought…but I doubt it.
I have been a little introspective lately. I tend to be affected by books I read the same way I am affected by people, slowly but deeply. When I read a book (or meet people for that matter) I usually scrutinize and dismiss much of it for the first half, then it slowly sinks in and I actually start to think about it on a much deeper level.
Recently I have been reading a few books on prayer and the nature of the soul. Everyone has opinion about the soul and prayer (and you know what they say about opinions). I have been taking some time to actually think about, more deeply, what I think about the soul, prayer, humanity, and how God intended it all to fit together. It will all probably end up in a sermon some day (probably an Easter message), but for now I think I would like to share some thoughts.
The word soul, and it’s derivatives (given the most license on interpretation possible) appears over 850 times…yes, 850 (according to one author 856 to be precise). The Bible is a book about Jesus; He said all the scriptures point to Him (Luke 24:27), but it also is a book about our souls and connection with Jesus.
We are called living beings, that God breathed into us (In Gen 2:7) and we became living creatures…but the word used is nephesh, which literally means SOUL. It seems, in the scriptures, that the word soul is used a lot to encompass all of us (mind, body, and will). The soul is what holds, or integrates, us all together (it is why some commentators have called “integrity” a soul word).
When our souls are surrendered to God our lives begin to align in a way that our will, our minds, and our body line up. When our lives “line up” true and real life is produced in and through us. Our souls were meant to be found IN Christ, but apart from Him we will always be fractured and disintegrated because we are not whole. We all have dependence upon Him whether we will admit it or not, we can see this in people’s lives every day who are always searching for the “wholeness” that can only be found in Jesus.
Part of how we are to live our lives as followers of Jesus is as an “integrated whole.” We begin to understand this better as we pray and surrender our wills to the calling of Christ. We pray and live in relationship with God. Tim Keller’s book on prayer (Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy With God) is amazing and delves very deeply into the ways and modes of prayer; while Anne Lamott’s book on prayer (Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers) is like the paper plate version compared to Keller’s fine China. While I whole-heartedly recommend Keller’s book, Lamotte’s, if not read with a deep understanding of Jesus, might be confusing. My point is, by referencing these two books, that prayer is indispensable and will most likely change the more we mature. We may start out like a Lamotte, but (hopefully) become more like a Keller as we grow.
Prayer is essential in our soul’s communion with God, it is vital for our soul’s growth to mature into lives that are whole.
As I said, I am still processing this, but my prayer for you is that you would begin to understand that your soul craves wholeness and that wholeness will only be found in what your soul was made for, to glorify and live in relationship with God. Everything in our world today seems designed to pull you away from the fact that YOU were MADE for Him, only when we fully embrace the fact that we were made for HIM will our souls find the rest and wholeness they crave.
Periodically this year (2015) I have been taking some of statistics from 2014 and commenting on them as we go through this New Year. I came across this statistic and thought it was just fascinating that many young adults are questioning the value of a college degree.
For people growing up in previous generations the prospect of college was something many in their families were never able to obtain. There are stories of how certain kids are the first ones ever in their family to attend college, but when 2015 rolls around all of that has now changed. It is now EXPECTED that kids will go to college, get a degree, and then use that degree to further themselves in life. I have personally spoken to kids who feel so much pressure to pick a major it actually gives them nightmares.
Barna points out that, “The traditional commencement speech platitudes that welcome students into the opportunities of adulthood—“the whole world is before you”; you just have to “follow your dreams” to “make a difference”—now ring hollow to many young adults…” Why is this? I think trying to blame it on the poor economy is a copout, I think it is deeper and much more profound.
Sure, 4/10 twentysomethings would say they need their college degree for their current job (42%), but that same number wish they’d chosen a different major altogether. Barna 2014 research has pointed out that “fewer than half of Millennials (47%) would strongly agree their degree was worth the cost and time.” How can this be? Isn’t this all that the American dream was meant to be?
Besides the truth that many people enjoy working outside or with their hands, and vocation schools (mechanics, welding, construction) would be better suited for a lot of kids, we today make them feel like that is less than desirable. I have a fear today that we are going to run out of good plumbers, electricians, and garbage men because we have demeaned those jobs. We must allow kids to flourish AND fail so they can grow into those who trust Jesus and not their own intellect or effort. That their salvation rests in a person and not a piece of paper handed out by a university. That redemption is a gift of grace and bestowed NOT by our own works or what we have attained.
Many people, Christian and non-Christian, like to quote the verse in Proverbs (29:18) that says, “where there is no vision the people perish,” but the actual rendering in the original language is, “where there is no PROPHETIC vision.” The word “prophetic” doesn’t mean some hokus pokus future horoscope foretelling, it means GOD’S message of the truth. Our culture is very quickly becoming disillusioned with our own dreams and visions of the future because they are so small. All of our efforts at bringing about our own view of what would fulfill ourselves is too little. It is God’s vision that is bigger and greater than anything we could imagine, it is His vision we must begin to live for.
Is college a good thing? Yes. Is it the best for everyone? No. How can you know if it is right for you or your children? That is the much harder question. I would say that no matter what age your kids are, instill in them NOW the value of a good work ethic. That God Himself works and if we are to be imitators of Him (Ephesians 5:1) we should work as well. Remind them that God’s love is not predicated on our work, but when we imitate Jesus we will find value in what we do. Ask your kids their dreams and then help them devise a plan to get there. Sometimes it will work out and sometimes it won’t, but God stands above it all and that is what we trust in.
May you be reminded of God’s goodness, that His vision for us is deeper and more nuanced than we could ever imagine, and that though our dreams do not always work out the way we want, Jesus weaves it all together with His unstoppable grace.