Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott
Study Guide by Fr. Ian Burch
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church
I was raised by my parents to believe that you had a moral obligation to save the world. p. 5
+What kind of mega-rules were you given as a child? What were you taught to believe?
+What does it mean to “save the world?”
+Did your family teach you that you had a moral obligation to do something?
Looking back on the God my friend believed in, he seems a little erratic, not entirely unlike her father–God as borderline personality. p. 7
+What traits of God did you learn as a child?
+What came up in you when you learned about this perfect Catholic family with abuse at its core?
This God could be loving and reassuring one minute,… p. 8
+Do you find that you have a consistent impression of God?
+What in your life colors how you understand God to act in this world? What personal experiences of God do you have that give you insight into God’s personality, for lack of a better word?
None of the adults in our circle believed. Believing meant that you were stupid. Ignorant people believed, uncouth people believed, and we were heavily couth. p. 9
+Have you experienced the connection between faith in God and ignorance? Where/when?
+What does it mean to have an inquiring mind but to also have faith in an ineffable God?
I bowed my head in bed and prayed,…like that one ridiculous palm. p. 10
+Have you found yourself praying like the author prays in this passage? How/when?
+Do you suppose we are taught to pray, or do you suppose it’s something that is born within us?
At my house, no one had passed out on the floor, but my mom was scared and Dad was bored and my little brother…. And she would pray for us all. p. 13
+Have you ever prayed for a situation that seemed so big it required supernatural help?
+What was prayer like in your home growing up?
But I believed in Lee,…and Lee would whisper me to sleep. p. 15
+Who was the person in your life as a child who reflected consistency and grace?
+Why is it that the metaphor of God as parent is so beguiling? How is it that we find parents when we weren’t given ones that could care for us like we needed caring for?
+Talk about the kind of longing that the author evokes when talking about Lee.
Pammy and I worked around it. She had other mothers, like I did, and inside herself she grew the mother she had needed all those years. p. 19
+Who were your “other mothers?” Who are they now?
I don’t know how else to put it or how and why I actively made, if not exactly a leap of faith, a lurch of faith. p. 28
+Describe a time when you’ve had a “lurch” of faith.
I still prayed but was no longer sure anyone heard. I called a suicide hot line two days later, but hung up when someone answered. Heaven forbid someone should think I needed help. I was a Lamott–Lamotts give help. p. 41
+Can you related to the author in this passage? What are the mechanics of receiving vs giving care?
He was the first Christian I ever met whom I could stand to be in the same room with. p. 43
+Why do you suppose Christians can have a reputation for being difficult to be around?
The radical old women of the congregation….But it was the singing that pulled me in and split me wide open. p. 47
+When have you been split wide open by something at church? Something secular?
+How do you relate God and music in your life?
And I was appalled. I thought….I turned to the wall and said out loud, “I would rather die.” p. 49
+Reflect on this passage.
“You could let me out now. This is my church, and I can always find my way home from here.” p. 55
+Describe your relationship to your church.
+Can you find your way home from St. Mark’s?