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Flunking sainthood

Paraclete Press

2011, $25.95

Reviewed by Wendy Scott, Kenmore Uniting Church.

THIS book's subtitle, "A year of breaking the sabbath, forgetting to pray, and still loving my neighbour", says it all.

Reiss, a pastor, author, editor, speaker, wife and mother, attempts a year of focusing on just one spiritual practice per month, and the book is a diary of this attempt to deepen her spiritual life.

January was spent deciding on the spiritual practises for each month and reading material for guidance with them.

She "flunks" her way through each month, as she is easily distracted and very human like the rest of us – and it all makes for unexpectedly encouraging and uplifting reading.

In June, for example, focusing on centring prayer, she meditates on her failure thus: "If demons attack only those who think they are experts at spirituality … When my assigned demons see that I am hardly about to get cocky about the Jesus Prayer, they'll yawn and wander off and play poker."

And when, in April, practising lectio divination, intense repetitive study of the bible, she reads that "lifelong exposure to God's word is more like a marathon than a sprint", she sighs, "I am more interested in merely jogging once round the block".

But the best part is that by the end of her year of failing at all of her chosen monthly practices, she finds she has achieved her goal of renewal anyway.

This approachable book could be read from beginning to end to share the story of Reiss's journey, or just as rewardingly for its individual chapters that give an excellent introduction to each of the practices. Sections of further reading and notes in the back pages will serve the reader well either way.