Thursday, March 22, 2012

Book Review -- Flunking Sainthood


Flunking Sainthood: A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray, and Still Loving My Neighbor
My enjoyment rating: 4 of 5 stars
Source:  Nook
Genre:  Non-fiction; Self-help

If you had a plan to increase your spirituality over the course of a year what would you do?

Jana Riess, in her book Flunking Sainthood, decides to seek out reading ancient texts and embracing religious traditions – everything from a month of fasting to strict Sabbath day observance to rigorous daily prayer – a journey she expected to succeed at on a monthly basis.

What she realizes is that each of her endeavors are much more difficult – and need a LOT more time – to accomplish and master. At the end of her year, she feels like she has “flunked.” After the death of her father, she recognizes that even though she didn’t meet the expectation she set out for herself – she had indeed increased her spiritual strength and because of her year long journey, was able to put into practice many of the tenants she had learned, to cope with his death.

I loved this book – it was witty, honest, revelatory, and full of failure. And considering I fail on an all too regular basis – it was refreshing.

The most significant point the author makes is: to be a better Christian (or any other religious belief for that matter) takes PRACTICE. If you want to be generous – you need to practice generosity, if you want to forgive – you need to be more forgiving, if you want to be more prayerful in your everyday life – you need to pray! Duh?!   And some of these goals take months, if not a lifetime, to achieve.

One particular personal reaction I had to this book was found in her chapter on Fasting. For months now I've been struggling with my personal self worth -- without being able to pinpoint why. When I came across the following: "I'm craving community almost as much as food..." I thought I’d been sent a personal revelation. Nearly a year ago, I had a profound shift in my community, and have been in mourning ever since. In the mean time, I've been trying to fill that "craving" with food -- which has left me even more empty and community-less. I’m thankful to Ms. Riess for showing me (even though I know it wasn’t her intention!) that I can create a community without using food as a crutch – and over the next year – that is my goal.