Prayer is talking to something or anything with which we seek union, even if we are bitter or insane or broken. (In fact, these are probably the best possible conditions under which to pray.) Prayer is taking a chance that against all odds and past history, we are loved and chosen, and do not have to get it together before we show up. The opposite may be true: We may not be able to get it together until after we show up in such miserable shape.

— Anne Lamott, Help Thanks Wow, p. 5-6

What’s Wrong With Verbal Abuse

No matter how overt or covert the abuser is, all abusers do one thing universally. That one thing is this: abusers define their partners as if they were living within them and knew their inner world: what they are, their motives, thoughts, feelings, and so forth.

Abusers behave as though they were their partner, child, friend, or acquaintance. That is, abusers act as if they know what another person is, thinks, needs, feels, wants, and is doing, did, and should do.

In summary, when someone defines you in any way, tells you what you are (“too sensitive,” “stupid,” “hopeless.”), or actually tells you your motives (for example, “You’re trying to start a fight,” “You want to win,” “You want to have the last word”), he or she is behaving as if he or she were you, or were God!

In normal discourse among people, if you criticize someone, you are usually quick to apologize when you realize that you have no right (unless invited) to critique the other.

If verbal abuse has slammed into your consciousness with assaults that attempt to erase your own awareness of who you are and how you perceive yourself and even your existence, then verbal abuse may brainwash you into believing that you actually are a person who is too sensitive.

This is what is wrong with verbal abuse and why I support your victory over it.

— Patricia Evans, Victory Over Verbal Abuse, p. 36

Sharing Books

People share books they love. They want to spread to friends and family the goodness that they felt when reading the book or the ideas they found in the pages. In sharing a loved book, a reader is trying to share the same excitement, pleasure, chills, and thrills of reading that they themselves experienced. Why else share? Sharing a love of books and of one particular book is a good thing. But it is also a tricky maneuver, for both sides. The giver of the book is not exactly ripping open her soul for a free look, but when she hands over the book with the comment that it is one of her favorites, such an admission is very close to the baring of the soul. We are what we love to read, and when we admit to loving a book, we admit that the book represents some aspect of ourselves truly, whether it is that we are suckers for romance or pining for adventure or secretly fascinated by crime.

— Nina Sankovitch, Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, p. 101


Allowing ourselves the luxury of becoming what God intended is so much more peaceful than trying to force situations whose time has not come. The freedom to let life simply be whatever it will be in this moment gives us a lot of extra time to smile at strangers, to lend a helping hand to others, to watch children running down the street, and to appreciate the birds chirping as we take that early morning walk.

Allowing life to simply be doesn’t mean we stand idly by. On the contrary, it means we honor those directions we feel God is sending us. We listen to those words of guidance we feel are directing our way, making sure that no matter what we do in any given moment, we are not causing harm to someone else. Letting go of our attachment to how our life should unfold is a wonderful gift to give ourselves.

— Karen Casey, Let Go Now, p. 100

Bathed in Light

In prayer, I see the suffering bathed in light. In God, there is no darkness. I see God’s light permeate them, soak into them, guide their feet. I want to tell God what to do: “Look, Pal, this is a catastrophe. You have got to shape up.” But it wouldn’t work. So I pray for people who are hurting, that they be filled with air and light. Air and light heal; they somehow get into those dark, musty places, like spiritual antibiotics.

— Anne Lamott, Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers, p. 16

Rich Complexity

If Jesus were a magic prayer machine, he’d have healed this woman’s daughter instantly, and we would not have discovered her feisty, creative spirit. Likewise, Jesus’ ambiguity with us creates the space not only for him to emerge but us as well. If the miracle comes too quickly, there is no room for discovery, for relationship. With both this woman and us, Jesus is engaged in a divine romance, wooing us to himself.

The waiting that is the essence of faith provides the context for relationship. Faith and relationship are interwoven in dance. Everyone talks about how prayer is relationship, but often what people mean is having warm fuzzies with God. Nothing wrong with warm fuzzies, but relationships are far richer and more complex.

— Paul E. Miller, A Praying Life, p. 190-191

Answered Prayer

When we turn to God in faith, we release anxiety. We remind ourselves that God knows the desires of our hearts and knows, too, what is best for us. No prayer goes unanswered. No request goes unfulfilled — although the answer may not come in the form that we think we desire. God knows everything that we need upon our spiritual path. Knowing this, we do well not to let ourselves be too concerned by our prayers not being answered the way we think they should be. We should affirm that God is answering our prayers even when no answer is immediately apparent to us. God’s timing and our timing may differ. We do well to defer to God who has in mind the harmony of the whole of which we are a part. There is no limit to the good that God can accomplish.

— Julia Cameron, Faith and Will, p. 219-220

Imaginative Love

I have spent literal years of my life lovingly absorbed in the thoughts and perceptions of — who knows it better than I? — people who do not exist. And, just as writers are engrossed in the making of them, readers are profoundly moved and also influenced by the nonexistent, that great clan whose numbers increase prodigiously with every publishing season. I think fiction may be, whatever else, an exercise in the capacity for imaginative love, or sympathy, or identification.

I love the writers of my thousand books. It pleases me to think how astonished old Homer, whoever he was, would be to find his epics on the shelf of such an unimaginable being as myself, in the middle of an unrumored continent. I love the large minority of the writers on my shelves who have struggled with words and thoughts and, by my lights, have lost the struggle. All together they are my community, the creators of the very idea of books, poetry, and extended narratives, and of the amazing human conversation that has taken place across millennia, through weal and woe, over the heads of interest and utility.

— Marilynne Robinson, When I Was a Child I Read Books, p. 21

Two Kinds of Forgiveness

Poor September! How much easier, to be hard and bright and heartless. Instead, a very adult thing was happening in that green, new heart. For there are two kinds of forgiveness in the world: the one you practice because everything really is all right, and what went before is mended. The other kind of forgiveness you practice because someone needs desperately to be forgiven, or because you need just as badly to forgive them, for a heart can grab hold of old wounds and go sour as milk over them. You, being sharp and clever, will have noticed that I used “practice.” Forgiveness always takes practice to get right, and September was very new at it. She had none of the first sort in her.

— Catherynne M. Valente, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, p. 200