I read this book in less than 24 hours. I literally could not put it down.
I’m not sure why it had such a profound effect on me, but this book grabbed me in a way a book hasn’t for awhile.
The story is a novel of sorts about a pastor who is tired and burned out. He feels like his faith is stale, that the things he used to be so sure of are now becoming wobbly. Mostly because he is leading a church that is all about programs and getting bigger simply to get bigger and be more prestigious. He melts down in the middle of a sermon and because of that, his elders give him a 2 month break. He takes this break and goes to Italy and learns about St. Francis of Assisi.
Now, here is where things get a little weird for me. Some of the history and theology of Francis I am not sure of in the book. His talking to animals and things like that seemed weird and made me wonder if they are true.
But, keep in mind, this is a novel. If you do that, the story is great. If you want a history book on St. Francis, I’d pick one up, this isn’t it.
Here are a few things that jumped out to me:
- A pilgrimage is a way of praying with your feet. You go on a pilgrimage because you know there’s something missing inside your soul, and the only way you can find it is to go to sacred places, places where God made himself known to others. In sacred places, something gets done to you that you’ve been unable to do for yourself.
- The Bible is less about ideas or doctrines than it is a story about people and their up-and-down relationships with God.
- The Bible is the story of how God gets back what was always his in the first place.
- Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible
- True holiness is so often swaddled in the simple.
- You’ll never be able to speak into their souls unless you speak the truth about your own wounds. You need to tell them what Jesus has come to mean to you in the midst of your disappointments and losses. All ministry begins at the ragged edges of our own pain.
- Churches should be places where people come to hear the story of God and to tell their own.
- Jesus draws very near at the Eucharist, and that can be unnerving. But think of it as a homecoming celebration. In the Eucharist, we’re united with God.
- The church is realizing there is an awareness of God sleeping in the basement of the postmodern imagination and they have to awaken it. The arts can do this. All beauty is subversive; it flies under the radar of people’s critical filters and points them to God. As a friend of mine says, ‘When the front door of the intellect is shut, the back door of the imagination is open.’ Our neglect of the power of beauty and the arts helps explain why so many people have lost interest in church. Our coming back to the arts will help renew that interest.
- Forgiveness is not something you do; it is something that gets done to you.
- How we live together is what attracts people to faith.
This is a book that if you find your faith is stale and not robust, or, a pastor that is tired and burned out, you should definitely pick up. I found myself relating to so much of the story from past experiences while at the same time being challenged for my faith to grow and be more and more robust.