Anne Lamott is one of the few non-math people I follow on Twitter. She is laugh out loud funny, and spiritually insightful. Her book, Bird by Bird is amazing, and I have loved everything of hers I've read, with plans to read the rest. So when we heard she was coming to Calvin College's Festival of Faith and Writing 2014, we put together a group to go. (Why didn't I take a picture of them?) We had good feasting together before, and good discussion of the evening heading home.
When I attend a professional seminar, I try to live tweet it. I'm a natural note taker, and it helps me to remember as well as share. If you think of Twitter as a celebrity thing, that's one side of it; the other side of it is allowing like-minded people from all over the world to find each other and form community.
So here's my tweet-guided reminiscence of the evening. She was pretty stream-of-consciousness, but built on a couple of main themes throughout. She layered reminiscences, writing advice, insights on sobriety and professional comedian level delivery of jokes and one-liners.
Turns out she had turned 60 the day before. Not a good birthday - she attended the funeral for a young man who was a friend of her son and a former Sunday School student of hers. She had notes for her talk, but at the end of an hour of riffing, she hadn't used them much. Why talk about her recent book Stitches, for which she couldn't remember the subtitle? Because...
I love this principle. Transfer of understanding, finding connections - these things lead to deep understanding.
Building on the senselessness of the funeral she attended:
We're not going to be able to figure out what's in God's head or what Her plan is (Anne flip flops pronouns for Him, regularly). We can receive Her grace. But we have so much going on in us that prevents that reception.
Later, talking about what can you do for parents at a funeral for their child, she commented:
This was a big part of her writing advice, too. Go to the desk. Write today's pages. They won't be good, mostly. But you need a first draft. How does she edit?
So how do you learn to receive the grace? She connected it to her favorite movie, a documentary called From Mao to Mozart . It records Isaac Stern (She says: I figure God either looks like Isaac Stern or Bette Midler.) on the first visit of a western musician to China in 1979.
Cycling back to the funeral, and connecting it to showing up, and then often failing...
How to deal with the young man's death with her Sunday School kids?
And again, we won't be able to figure it out.
When you're at church, or writing, or serving, you're going to be faced with your own brokenness.
It was a great night, awesome sharing. She was very present. One of her standard lines is:
And, as she hoped, we got a good spritzing.
P.S. She was definitely reaching out to anyone in need of sobriety, so I want to include this short video, which does a good job of touching on how she talked about stopping drinking and starting being a Christian.