Friday, January 3, 2014

"Stitches": A Comfort for the New Year

In my younger years, I would not have bought Anne Lamott's Stitches:  A Handbook of Meaning, Hope, and Repair.  I love Anne Lamott, but I would have not spent money on a hardcover that's only 96 pages.

But I was creating an Amazon order, and the book was cheap, so I decided to take a chance.  I'm glad I did.

It's a book that's full of nuggets of comfort and happiness.  It's not the kind of book that offers deep theology that changes the way I think about God.  But I don't need for every book to be that way.

As its title suggests, the book explores how we can best support each other and how our care of each other might point us towards God.  Along the way, we get some interesting images, like this one:  "Embedded in quilts and jazz are clues to escape and strength, sanctuary and warmth.  The world is always going to be dangerous, and people get badly banged up, but how can there be more meaning that helping one another stand up in a wind and stay warm" (72).

I love her stories of people coping and making a way out of no way.  I found them very inspiring.  Likewise, I've always liked her view of God:  "I mean 'God' ash shorthand for the Good, for the animating energy of love; for Life, for the light that radiates from within people and from above; in the energies of nature, even in our rough, messy selves" (p. 8).

I know that some folks will see the influence of other religions (Buddhism?) in her definition.  Some will see it as too pantheistic.  But I like it.

She reminds us of the value of small actions:  "Every time we choose the good action or response, the decent, the valuable, it builds, incrementally, to renewal, resurrection, the place of newness, freedom, justice.  The equation is:  life, death, resurrection, hope.  The horror is real, and so you make casseroles for your neighbor, organize an overseas clothing drive, and do your laundry.  You can also offer to do other people's laundry, if they have recently had any random babies or surgeries" (p. 13).

She says we live "stitch by stitch" (p. 13) and the passage above reminds us that not every stitch needs to be huge.  Casseroles and laundry can be as important as clothing drives.

Her reminder that we need to be kind to each other, to everyone we meet, even to those in distant lands we do not know--that seems a message that we need now, more than ever.  It's timeless, yes, but she says it in ways that don't seem so worn out.

Or maybe I'm partial to her metaphors of sewing and patching. 

In my younger years, the shortness of the book would have irritated me.  But now, I find myself searching out books that won't be such a time commitment.  I dipped in and out of this book over several weeks, and that was fine.  I like a book that is gentle in its expectations.

So, if you need a New Years reading, try this book.  I suspect you'll like it more than you think you might.

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