The little farm house here at Wayward Farm is full of books. Many I’ve read. More I’m waiting to read. A few armfuls I read again and again like visiting an old friend or an essential teacher. Some with bookmarks in the middle. Some I’ve only colored a few pages in. There are bookshelves in this house. And the coffee table is piled with books and the side tables are piled with books. I remember a favorite saying of our dear brother Laird Keever, who called his stacks of books his “library of intention”. When I’ve dusted the table piles this summer, I’ve whispered, “Hang on. Sabbatical is coming!” The last time a dear friend came into the little house at Wayward Farm, he said so gently, “Have you thought any more about a Kindle?”
After supper tonight, I picked up a book from the top of one of the three stacks perched on my aunt’s little table by my cozy chair: “Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers”, by Anne Lamott. It may not be her very best book, but reading its 100 pages feels like a conversation over a pitcher of cold tea with a funny friend whose language is rough, but who leans right in when you want to talk about God stuff.
Anne Lamott has been one of my favorite followers of Jesus for a long time. Since the day I read these lines in “Travelling Mercies”: “I thought such awful thoughts that I cannot even say them out loud because they would make Jesus want to drink gin straight out of the cat dish.”
She writes about the mystery of prayer in ways that honor its mystery. That leave room for not knowing. That leave room to turn around. And in ways that feel to me to be true and clear and human and plain.
We can use help with praying in ways that are true and clear and human and plain. Can you imagine this unison prayer of confession in your sanctuary on a coming Sunday? WE’VE THOUGHT SUCH AWFUL THOUGHTS THAT WE CANNOT EVEN SAY THEM OUT LOUD BECAUSE THEY WOULD MAKE JESUS WANT TO DRINK GIN STRAIGHT OUT OF THE CAT DISH. AMEN.
Thank God for prayers that rise on beautiful poetry. Thank God for prayers that rise on the words of our ancestors. Thank God for prayers that pull on our hearts and minds and spirits and make them larger. Thank God for prayers that make us sigh. And prayers that make us wince. Thank God for prayers that are clear and human and plain and true.
—Jonna Jensen, Associate Conference Minister