Just One Thought: Help.


I ran a 5K on Saturday; and my house, this past week, was full of vomit, lice, and jackhammers; I was going to write about one of those things for this post. But the events in Newtown on Friday gave me--and all of us, I'm betting--a massive reality check.

I was lucky enough to have a few lice-free, puke-free, quiet moments this weekend, and used them to sit down with Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers, Anne Lamott's new sliver of a book that is wise and funny and so relatable. I am a huge AL fan, and as I was reading this passage, which takes the personal and broadens it to the universal and horrifically current, I had to share. I know it makes a ton of sense to me as I contemplate how I will continue to process the lives lost and the devastation felt by all the affected families, including those of the victims and the accused. I hope it will to you too.

I am very aware that that running and politics don't really mix, and running and religion aren't the best bedfellows either. But Lamott has a way of writing about prayer that is far from preachy. That said, I completely understand if you're not thrilled with this choice of a post; if that's the case, I respectfully ask you to refrain from commenting and come back for our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow. Thanks.

[When I pray] I ask for help for this planet, and for her poor, and for the suffering people in my little galaxy. I know even as I pray for help that there wil be tremendous compassion, mercy, generosity, companionship, and laughter from other people in the world, and from friends, doctors, nurses, hospice people. I also know that life can be devastating, and it's still okay to be pissed off at God. Mercy, schmercy. I always want the kid to live.

I can picture God saying, "Okay, hon, I'll be here when you're done with your list." Then He goes back to knitting new forests or helping less pissy people until I hit rock bottom. And when I finally do, there may be hope.

There's freedom in hitting bottom, in seeing that you won't be able to save or rescue your daughter, her spouse, his parents, or your career, relief in admitting you've reaching the place of great unknowing. This is where restoration can begin, because when you're still in the state of trying to fix the unfixable, everything bad is engaged: the chatter of your mind, the tension of your physiology, all the trunks and wheel-ons you carry from the past. It's exhausting, crazy-making.

Help. Help us walk through this. Help us come through.

It is the first great prayer.

I don't pray for God to do this or that, or for God's sake to knock it off, or for specific outcomes. Well, okay, maybe a little...Help. Hold my friends in Your light.

There are no words for the broken hearts of people losing people, so I ask God, with me in tow, to respond to them with graciousness and encouragement enough for the day.  Everyone we love and for whom we pray with such passion will die, which is the one real fly in the ointment so we pray for miracles--please help this friend live, please help that friend die gracefully--and we pray for the survivors to somehow come through...Please help this town bounce back. Please help those parents come through, please help these kids come through...Help.

59 responses to “Just One Thought: Help.

  1. I love AL, I purchased this book for my MIL for Christmas, but am going to have to pick up a copy for myself. Thanks for the post!

  2. LOVE that. This also hit home…
    Twas’ 11 days before Christmas, around 9:38 when 20 beautiful children stormed through heaven’s gate. Their smiles were contagious, their laughter filled the air. They could hardly believe all the beauty they saw there. They were filled with such joy; they didn’t know what to say. They remembered nothing of what had happened earlier that day. “where are we?” asked a little girl, as quiet as a mouse. “This is heaven” declared a small boy. “We’re spending Christmas at God’s house”. When what to their wondering eyes did appear, but Jesus, their savior, the children gathered near. He looked at them and smiled, and they smiled just the same. Then He opened His arms and He called them by name. And in that moment was joy, that only heaven can bring those children all flew into the arms of their King and as they lingered in the warmth of His embrace, one small girl turned and looked at Jesus’ face. And as if He could read all the questions she had He gently whispered to her, “I’ll take care of mom and dad. “then He looked down on earth, the world far below He saw all of the hurt, the sorrow, and woe, then He closed His eyes and He outstretched His hand, “Let My power and presence re-enter this land! “May this country be delivered from the hands of fools” “I’m taking back my nation. I’m taking back my schools! “Then He and the children stood up without a sound. “Come now my children let me show you around. “Excitement filled the space, some skipped and some ran. All displaying enthusiasm that only a small child can. And I heard Him proclaim as He walked out of sight, “in the midst of this darkness,” I AM STILL THE LIGHT.”

  3. Lovely. Part of the problem is that we ARE losing God in our society. I too agree that running and God/Faith go hand in hand. I often reflect and pray while I’m running. Thank you for this post. …and in the end when these prayers of Hope, Helping, Understanding, Strength, Love and Peace are heard–we will Praise! Again, thank you for addressing this.

  4. Running is where I work out much of my heartache. No one passing by can tell whether my face is dripping with sweat or tears, and I find solace in telling God my woes while I admire his handiwork all around me. Thank you, Dimity, for posting.

    1. I so totally agree with Laura’s comment “running is where I work out much of my heartache”. And yes, there is solace and spirituality in running – one of the many reasons I have considered running not an optional, but a mandatory part of my life.

  5. Ditto what’s already been said: Anne Lamott has a wonderfully inclusive way of writing about spirituality. I’ll put this on my to-read list (I’ve been working through her fiction at the moment).

  6. Well said Dimity. Friday’s events made all the everyday stuff (we had lice last week too) seem so trivial. I have prayed all weekend and am now looking forward to reading this book. I agree with many of the others who talk about running and God. For me, when I am by myself on the road, that is when I pray the most….Thank you for a wonderful post.

    1. Good times with the lice, right? The way that Sarah, who has also deloused her kids, put it to me: it’s good bonding time. Always a way to spin it…hope you’ve killed all the vermin. 🙂

  7. Amen. Today’s run was one spent with God. Praying for the families, praying for the babies that witnessed this tragic event, praying for my own to babies at school. I was thankful for the rain I ran in this morning, it washed my tears and cleansed my soul.

  8. I love Anne Lamott, and I love her book Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith. I haven’t read the new one on prayer yet, but I certainly will. For me, running and faith are different sides of the same coin. I pray and mediate during most of my runs. I am dedicating my next marathon (Newport, OR 6.1.2013) to the 26 innocent people killed inside Sandy Hook Elementary. 26 people. 26 miles. Instead of writing pacing splits on my arm, I will write 26 names. And after I cross the finish line, I will walk two more miles (I will run them if I can); one for the shooter, and one for his mother. I invite all marathoners to do the same.

  9. Thank you, Dimity. I think so many times we all cry out for help, whether consciously or unconsciously. Like every other mother, I am so heartbroken, but I take great comfort in knowing where my help comes from. Psalm 121:1-2 says my help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. And Psalm 46:1 says God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. I pray His peace and comfort on these families and our nation, and on the family of the accused as they are also grieving.

  10. As a mother, this line struck me: “because when you’re still in the state of trying to fix the unfixable, everything bad is engaged”. It can’t be fixed so I’ll ask for help to come through. Thank you Dimity.

    1. Me, too! I hit that bottom, and with some runs and prayer and church and an awesome Christmas concert, I am ready to heal. Still sad, but ready to stop trying to fix the unfixable. Didn’t realize it until I read this. Thanks so much for this post, Dimity.

  11. Oh Dimity. Once again, you say the perfect thing. I am an Anne Lamott fan also, and have been reading her book to help get through this time. Are you ‘friends’ with her on Facebook? She always has amazing, enlightening and encouraging things to say.

  12. Thank you for posting. I use AL’s prayers a lot and this is the only prayer I have been able to think of this weekend. I, like most of the moms here am reeling and feel thankful to know that I’m not the only one. I’ve turned most media off and have been careful not to read most things (I’m not sure why I allowed myself to read this one) because I find myself overwhelmed with grief. Sending my kids on the bus this morning sucked the air out of my lungs, like I can’t breathe in or out. The only thing I can say is helpmehelmehelme.

  13. Running and faith go hand in hand. Without God, how could we run? Thank you for these words today. I pray your household finds health this week. And that all can find comfort in the Prince of Peace after this tragedy.

  14. You (via Anne Lamott) have found words that have bring strength, comfort, and courage to help us move forward into the world. Thank you.

  15. This was beautiful. I actually running and faith go hand in hand with me. When I run I often talk to God and loved ones who have departed from this Earth. Somehow the two combined make me feel so happy, calm and fulfilled.

    1. I totally agree. Running and faith are tightly connected for me, as well. Together they help me through a lot of rough stuff.

    2. I agree that faith and running go hand in hand. God helps me get out there, get through my run and ready for the next one. If it weren’t for him, I’d be nothing. I pray during my runs and sometimes during most of it. This is a great blog and I am glad you posted it.

    3. Amen to this. I pray almost all the time I am running. God is still God and God is still good. He will hear and He will help.

      1. I agree. Sunday morning runs are sometimes my church because being in Creation and breathing meditatively make me feel close to God.

        Thanks for sharing this post.

  16. Thank you, as a mother and a teacher this weekend I tried to post words yesterday as well. This is wonderful. Thank you for sharing, and I am adding a new book to my list. Hugs to you and yours.

  17. Love her work and love you for posting this. As a teacher and wife of a police officer, prayers such as these are so needed in my life. Thank you for the reminder.

  18. I say prayers with my 6 year old twins every night. I’m adding “Help. Help us walk through this. Help us come through” to my thoughts when I become overwhelmed with grief and sadness. I’ve been up for a few hours… It’s just before 7am on the east coast. I want to keep my first graders home today. I don’t want to let go of them when their bus comes to pick them up. I needed these words Dimity. Thank you very much for sharing them.

  19. I really admire Anne Lamott and have turned to her writings (and Brene Brown) this weekend to try to process the unthinkable tragedy in CT. I don’t think it’s political to be devastated by what happened and to want to do something, anything to make it better, to make sense of it somehow. I appreciate you sharing that passage.

  20. Thank you for this! I am going straight to Barnes tomorrow to buy this book. I have two boys ages 5/6 and I’m having such a hard time coming to terms with what happened. I don’t know how to get to a place of understanding. Two good runs and going to church seemed to help but I’m just rocked by all of this. Can a whole society have PTSD???

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