Thursday, September 12, 2013

La Femme Nadia: Pastrix

Wednesday September 11th I walked in to church for our evening youth event, and one of the adult leaders already had a copy of Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saintin her hand. She had pre-ordered it via Amazon so she could start reading it right away.

I had a copy of it myself in my saddle bag. I had already read the first chapter, and knew it was going to be even better than I had anticipated.

Here's what Nadia excels at, and why our church (the ELCA) simply adores her: She breaks down law-gospel proclamation, a fancy title for the kind of preaching Lutherans of the ELCA variety hope to excel at, and turns it into language that makes sense to pretty much everybody. And she does so with the timing of a comedian. She's gratingly funny.

She does law-gospel preaching through a memoir. She lets her life speak.

That sounds more saccharine than I intend it. But Nadia is never saccharine. If she ever is, she smells it right away, and drops another expletive and deprecates herself. Even when she gets in the way she doesn't get in the way, because her whole story in here is about the grace extended to her in Christ in spite of the failings of the church, in spite of her own failings as a person and pastor.

There's a lot in this book that is deeply emotional. I broke into sobs on page 18, reading how her father very humbly pulled out scripture and spoke words of grace that confirmed her call to become a "pastor to her people."

I have to admit: I wish this were a book I had written. People like to say: I could have written a book like that. Usually that's not true. You don't have a book in you just waiting to be written down. To write a book, you have to write a book.

I can only imagine that Nadia has bled in the writing of this book, because it is so deeply personal, and yet so profoundly theological. Again and again, she illustrates how pastoral ministry is life in the trenches--wrestling with a biblical text until you get a blessing, blogging and being open to abuse by those who disagree with you, welcoming all kinds of people, even the people you never thought would join you, into your church.

It's one woman's testimony of how God made her life a catechism, often in spite of her, and graciously enlivened her. It's the story of a church working out what it means to be church among people who have often been hurt by the church.

Nadia also pulls off what very few authors are allowed. She swears like a sailor while proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. As a farm boy from Iowa, I find this so refreshing. Farmers swear less than sailors, but we do swear. We tend to have less tattoos. But it's good for readers to know that pastors swear also.

It's also good to know that pastors are real, that church is real, that church will let you down. And that's part of what church IS, if it is made up of people who are always simultaneously saint and sinner.

Seriously, you want to read this book, and you want to read it soon. If you are a pastor, your people will already be clamoring to read it with you. Mine already are. I've never had a book (well, maybe The Shack where so many of my own people wanted to read the book with me. Usually I'm trying to hand books to people and convince them to read it.

This book wants to be read, and people want to talk about it.

Nadia, you rock, you really rock. Thanks, Nadia, for reminding us that ultimately, it's not about us, it's not even about Nadia. It's about a gracious God. A God who prefers to hang out on the underside, on the other side of whatever line we like to draw between ourselves and others. Thank you for a life story that tells it that way. Because it's true.


  1. Oh crap, Clint. This is the review I wish I'd written and now I'm thinking I should just direct my readers to you! I, too, was moved by how Pastor Nadia reveals the gnarly reality of pastoring and more, of course!

  2. I love Nadia's sermons but haven't had a chance to read her book yet. I'm hoping that one arrives for me today.