Well, we all flunk at something….
I am sitting on my aunt and uncle’s couch in Wildwood MI after an afternoon of wine tasting, olive oil and vinegar tasting, farmer’s market shopping, and jean trying-on… I feel very content and privileged.
It’s a good day.
On such a day when I feel pretty happy and lucky to have such wonderful people in my life, I also am grateful to have such wonderful books in my possession. My latest and greatest print indulgence is by Jana Riess, entitled Flunking Sainthood.
I quite admire people such as Jana and Ben Franklin (yes, I place them both in the same category, hold on you’ll understand). They are both people who value self-improvement and world betterment. Ben Franklin actually inspired my husband to work on chosen attributes. These values would include cleanliness, discipline, compassion, wisdom, and other such admirable attributes. According to Dennis, Ol’ Ben would focus on one specific value per week until he mastered it, then moved on to the next one, and so on and so forth until he got till the end of his list. Then he would begin all over again, always having something to work on.
Talk about a model of self-improvement! But Ben seems a bit intimidating to me, a more flighty, artsy, eclectic kind of gal.
This is why Jana appeals to my taste a bit more.
Jana’s book, which I fortunately received from my lovely sister Mary Margaret as a Christmas gift this past year (Thanks sis!), is similar to Ben’s way of dividing up some admirable values, but she has a bit of a “Jesus-flair” to her practice.
In Flunking Sainthood, Jana decided she needed to work on her spiritual life and relationship with Christ, so she devoted a full year to revamping her faith by working on one spiritual practice per month. She assigned herself reading from books by modern and ancient theologians, including the writings of saints and monks. It’s great for readers who want a survey of spiritual books and I guarantee that, upon reading this book, you’ll have yet another book list written up.
Some of these spiritual practices include finding God in mundane tasks, fasting, the Jesus prayer, lecto divinia (more on this topic later), and living simply by not coveting anything materialistic or buying new things (a hard task to do during mother’s day).
I won’t give away too much, but the biggest thing I love about Jana’s book is that she finds so much grace and beauty in failing. She tells her book and blog readers that one should never set out to fail, but in the process of working on such a variety of spiritual diciplines, she found herself screwing up more often than she wished or expected.
With devoting only one month to each of these very in-depth and sacrificial practices, I’m not too surprised that she didn’t succeed in all of them. In fact, she might intimidate me if she was triumphant in all of these complex little lifestyles.
But in all her failings, she finds herself all the more dependent on her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, keeping her identity placed in Him and not in how well (or not well) she did in her monthly discipline.
If you are looking for a book that will challenge you to read more, work harder, but also that promotes grace and encourages, I highly recommend Flunking Sainthood where you’ll discover the art of failing and the great gift of grace.