Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber
The Race Before Us by Bruce Matson
On the church calendar, Halloween is called All Hallow’s Eve, and the day after Halloween is celebrated as All Saints Day. In the Episcopalian church, the term “saint” is used very broadly, and includes “the whole family of God, the living and the dead, those whom we love and those whom we hurt, bound together in Christ by sacrament, prayer, and praise.”
On All Saint’s Day, we pray:
For all the saints who from their labors rest, we give you thanks, for the hundreds and thousands still in our midst who make the world bright with their love, we give you thanks. Amen.
So, this seems like a fitting day to review the two books I read in October, which both had a Christian theme.
The first book I read was Pastrix by Nadi Bolz-Weber.
I first encountered Nadia Bolz-Weber on Krista Tippet’s show, On Being, and was immediately struck by her passionate expression of the unconditional love of God. I wanted to hear more of her story-telling, so I eagerly downloaded her book.
A snippet from the summary on Amazon calls Pastrix a “messy, beautiful, prayer-and-profanity laden narrative about an unconventional life of faith.” In Pastrix, Nadia (an ordained Lutheran minister) uses real-life stories to illustrate how God is present in our every day lives, in ways that are small and profound. I think one thing that makes this book so compelling is that Nadia is telling her own story, and in so doing reveals how she has experienced God in her worst moments and in her best accomplishments. Parts of her story are laugh-out-loud funny, while others made me tingle with the mystery of the Holy Spirit. She brings the Scriptures to life, applying Jesus’ words to her own predicaments, and helped me see that we all are beloved children of God.
The second book I read, The Race Before Us by Bruce Matson, was more cerebral, but also interesting.
I was offered a copy of this book to review, and when I heard the synopsis, how could I resist?
This book recounts a personal journey of learning to run while exploring questions of faith that lead Bruce from doubt to faith and to physical as well as spiritual well-being. It’s an amazing story about being unable to run a mile to running the New York City marathon 11 months later.
I have so much in common with the author–Virginian, lawyer, parent, runner–and of course I recognized the title as being the next phrase in the Bible verse this blog’s name is taken from!
In his book, Bruce relates his journey along two parallel paths: training to run the New York City marathon and figuring out if he really is a Christian. He approaches both quests much more logically and methodically than I would have, joining a running group and following a training plan to get ready for the marathon, and sifting through historical evidence and logical arguments to answer his questions of faith. I found his analysis interesting, but not compelling. I spotted flaws in his assumptions, analysis, and conclusions, but I didn’t really expect him to be able to prove God’s existence in 192 pages. By the end of the book, Bruce had addressed most of my criticisms himself–acknowledging the weakest points of his case like most good lawyers do!
The Race Before Us is available as an audio download, audio CDs, and e-book format, as well as trade paperback. You can learn more about Bruce on his blog, where you can contact him for book talks, sermons, and other speaking engagements.
Do you celebrate Halloween?
Have you ever observed All Saints Day or Dia de Muertos?