Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Lamott and Lewis In the Time of Tragedy

I write this as my community of Chico-Paradise continues to be hit by the devastation of the Camp Fire. (Incidentally, this is also the "Month of St. Clive," i.e., Clive Staples Lewis, and November 22, is the day he died.)

From a few different fronts, I've been asked to offer my insights on the Camp Fire. Right now, to be honest, I'm struggling with what to write. I'm not sure I have the words that meet this moment. All I seem to have is impressions. And so I turn to two others.

In trying to grasp that key virtue of hope in this time, I’ve been reading Anne Lamott’s 
Almost Everything: Notes on Hopeand I loved this from her because it’s my experience right now in Chico, 
“The forty-three people who died in the catastrophic fires in Santa Rosa, California, in 2017 lost everything. The survivors lost almost as much: their homes, gardens, friends, property, pets. But they had one another. They had life. And they had us—shabby, busy us. The fire was a sword that cut away all the comfort and treasure in life, the illusion of the solidity of objects, which turns out not to be so solid after all. We saw devastation, of course, but we also witnessed holiness in the burned world and what was left standing—a fireplace, a heavily laden persimmon tree, pallets of bottled water from out of state, the sky. We saw humanity. Don’t get me wrong—it sucked. I believe I would grieve and wail forever if this happened to me. But I would be mistaken. I would come through, via friends, community, love, grace, relief efforts. We are flattened, we come through.” Anne Lamott
Giving thanks
I’ve learned that the tragedy is profound and devastating, but human compassion (as a gift God gives us to give to others) is powerful.

Secondly, in addition to hope, I also know that giving thanks is key. And really, that's where Lamott's reflections lead me. As I've said in other places, science has taught us that  gratitude is good for us. Which shouldn't surprise Christians who are reminded, "Give thanks in all circumstances" (1 Thessalonians 5:18). That's how God made us.

Ok, back to St. Clive. Something C.S. Lewis wrote has also recently come to mind. He reminded us about praise—and we could extend this to thanksgiving:
“Praise is inner health made audible.” C. S. Lewis

Even in times of tragedy, let’s be audible with our praise and thanks, as well as our hope. It's good for us and for those who need our care.

A question, an offer

I'm working on my list of subscribers who'd like to hear more from me about how to flourish in faith and life in our contemporary technological and scientific age. If you send your email to, I’ll send you my book on spiritual discernment, A Time for Yes: Enjoying What’s Best in Life, Work, and Love.

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