Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People

I got behind on several of my book club’s selections and this is one of them that I’m catching up on.  Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz-Weber was highly discussed and recommended by my fellow book clubbers and I’m happy that I can now share in their enthusiasm, having just finished it last night.

AccidentalThe buzz around the book and the author is that Ms. Bolz-Weber isn’t your typical ELCA pastor.  She’s tattoed, swears, and drops truth bombs like no other.  While I haven’t met her, just from her prose alone I can tell that this isn’t a show.  It comes across that she is herself, for good and bad, and that’s what’s attracted all of the accidental saints to her church.  Beyond all the outward distracting features, she has a heart for ministry.  She’s open to sharing her doubts, fears, and questions with her congregation (and her readers), she struggles to be like Jesus in every moment, but she loves with a heart of gold.

One of the most moving moments in this book was when she discussed how her church dealt with the shootings at New Town, CT.  The shooting occurred around the Christmas season and Ms. Bolz-Weber felt like their church community couldn’t ignore the shootings and plow through the uplifting Christmas liturgy.  Instead, they decided to look at the Christmas story, but include a discussion of the killing of the innocent children by King Herod.  I’m familiar with this part of the Nativity story, but I honestly can’t remember the last time I’ve ever heard a pastor bring it up around Christmas.  As Ms. Bolz-Weber points out though, to ignore this tragic event is to ignore the crux of the Nativity itself.  Jesus was born into a world that killing innocent children.  Christianity shouldn’t be a wall that its believers hide behind when tragedies like the New Town shooting happen.  Instead, they should mourn and connect with the people around them.  Which is really the heart of Ms. Bolz-Weber’s ministry–to accept the people around her and treat them as Jesus would.

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12 Things to Try While You’re Still Mortal

12 Things to Try While You’re Still Mortal by Roy Ice is a book about living a more purposeful life, i.e. making your life count for something.  Mr. Ice was my college chaplain and the book came out the year I graduated so I felt it was something I should purchase and take with me into grad school.  Sad to say it’s taken almost nine years for me to crack the cover and actually read what he had to say.

12Based on Christian principles of living a good life, such as letting God handle the stresses in life and focusing on love others rather than judging others, I think those who aren’t into religion may find this read interesting.  Some of the chapters are very much rooted in the Bible, but there are also more “universal” principles that can apply to anyone regardless of religion or creed.

One of “things to try” that I think we can all work on is stress.  There are some many things that cause us stress in life and the majority of the time it’s over matters that we have no control over.  I myself have learned to only control those things I can and take everything one step at a time.

Another stand-out “thing to try” was loving versus judging others.  Mr. Ice relates an account that happened to him on an airplane where the flight attendant and the passenger next to Mr. Ice had a disagreement.  The flight attendant assumed the passenger wasn’t paying attention to the safety instructions and as they were seated in the emergency exit row, the flight attendant needed the passenger to be paying attention.  But the flight attendant’s anger was making the passenger nervous and anxious which made the flight attendant feel that the man wasn’t capable of handling being in the emergency exit and ultimately moved the passenger into the back of the plane.  The takeaway from this was that we sometimes we sum people up before we get the true story of what’s causing their behavior.  And sometimes we are the cause of someone’s behavior.

While I appreciated what Mr. Ice had to say, it was too brief for me.  I feel like this was an introduction rather than an actual how-to.  So if you’re looking for more of brief guide to living a more purposeful life than I recommend this book.