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Vintage Saints and Sinners: 25 Christians Who Transformed My Faith

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Saints are people too. The word saint conjures up images of superstar Christians revered for their spectacular acts and otherworldly piety. But when we take a closer look at the lives of these spiritual heavyweights, we learn that they also experienced struggle, doubt, and heartache. In fact, we learn that in many ways they're not all that different from you and me. Narrat Saints are people too. The word saint conjures up images of superstar Christians revered for their spectacular acts and otherworldly piety. But when we take a closer look at the lives of these spiritual heavyweights, we learn that they also experienced struggle, doubt, and heartache. In fact, we learn that in many ways they're not all that different from you and me. Narrating her own winding pilgrimage through faith, Karen Marsh reveals surprising lessons in everyday spirituality from these "saints"--folks who lived and breathed, and failed and followed God. Told with humor and vulnerability, Vintage Saints and Sinners introduces us afresh to twenty-five brothers and sisters who challenge and inspire us with their honest faith. Join Karen on her journey with the likes of Augustine, Brother Lawrence, and Saint Francis, as well as Amanda Berry Smith, Soren Kierkegaard, Dorothy Day, Howard Thurman, Flannery O'Conner, and many more. Let their lives and their wisdom be an invitation to authentic life in Christ.


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Saints are people too. The word saint conjures up images of superstar Christians revered for their spectacular acts and otherworldly piety. But when we take a closer look at the lives of these spiritual heavyweights, we learn that they also experienced struggle, doubt, and heartache. In fact, we learn that in many ways they're not all that different from you and me. Narrat Saints are people too. The word saint conjures up images of superstar Christians revered for their spectacular acts and otherworldly piety. But when we take a closer look at the lives of these spiritual heavyweights, we learn that they also experienced struggle, doubt, and heartache. In fact, we learn that in many ways they're not all that different from you and me. Narrating her own winding pilgrimage through faith, Karen Marsh reveals surprising lessons in everyday spirituality from these "saints"--folks who lived and breathed, and failed and followed God. Told with humor and vulnerability, Vintage Saints and Sinners introduces us afresh to twenty-five brothers and sisters who challenge and inspire us with their honest faith. Join Karen on her journey with the likes of Augustine, Brother Lawrence, and Saint Francis, as well as Amanda Berry Smith, Soren Kierkegaard, Dorothy Day, Howard Thurman, Flannery O'Conner, and many more. Let their lives and their wisdom be an invitation to authentic life in Christ.

30 review for Vintage Saints and Sinners: 25 Christians Who Transformed My Faith

  1. 4 out of 5

    booklady

    Read this one, two or three chapters at a time, each chapter describing a different Christian who was instrumental to Karen's growth in the faith. Some of her choices were obvious and familiar, such as, C.S. Lewis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Augustine of Hippo. Others were completely unknown to me: Aelred of Rievaulx, Howard Thurman and Mary Paik Lee. Then there were those I had heard about but did not know very well, so was excited to learn more about like Soren Kierkegaard, John Wesley and Fanny Read this one, two or three chapters at a time, each chapter describing a different Christian who was instrumental to Karen's growth in the faith. Some of her choices were obvious and familiar, such as, C.S. Lewis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Augustine of Hippo. Others were completely unknown to me: Aelred of Rievaulx, Howard Thurman and Mary Paik Lee. Then there were those I had heard about but did not know very well, so was excited to learn more about like Soren Kierkegaard, John Wesley and Fanny Lou Hamer. Finally there were those who I can never read enough about: Juana Ines (Sor) de La Cruz, Sophie Scholl, Julian of Norwich and Thérèse de Lisieux. Best of all, Karen blends the stuff of these larger-than-life personalities with her own practical lived experience of late 20th, early 21st century Protestant Christianity. God did not make cookie cutter saints. We are each unique beyond imagining and while we cannot be someone else's Christian, we can learn from everyone. Enjoyable read. Highly recommended. Great gift. Thanks to my dear benefactor! December 26, 2020: Thought this would be like My Life with the Saints by Fr. James Martin, which I liked well enough when I read it 9 years ago. But I was also hoping it would be more, or maybe different and it is. Although I have not even read 1/2 of the book, it is already possible to tell that Karen Marsh's approach is different. She does not just present picture perfect saints, nor does she pretend that she admires all of their qualities, or where she does admire them, she is honest in admitting her own inability to live up to some of their very high standards. In other words this is a book about saints which won't leave you feeling like they are in one class of humanity while you are in another. But I will leave it at that for now and continue reading... December 16, 2020: Received this as an early Christmas gift and dived headlong into it. Love it already! Each chapter is devoted to someone who helped the author along her spiritual journey and if the first chapter is any indication this is going to be an inspiring read. Thank you Dhanaraj!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Brian Daigle

    “…I’m beginning to feel there’s something off about the way we keep our distance from the ‘saints,’ those Special Ones who’ve been officially beatified and certified by distant church officials, held up as perfection incarnate.” – Karen Wright Marsh in *Vintage Saints and Sinners* I have firmly come to believe you are what you read. That means you are who you read. But who deserves our time and attention? Chesterton said the democracy of the dead deserves a loud vote in all our contemporary affai “…I’m beginning to feel there’s something off about the way we keep our distance from the ‘saints,’ those Special Ones who’ve been officially beatified and certified by distant church officials, held up as perfection incarnate.” – Karen Wright Marsh in *Vintage Saints and Sinners* I have firmly come to believe you are what you read. That means you are who you read. But who deserves our time and attention? Chesterton said the democracy of the dead deserves a loud vote in all our contemporary affairs. He was right. And if we look, that democracy is made up of some of the most magnificent saints and sinners. In her newest work *Vintage Saints and Sinners,* Karen Marsh provides us with twenty-five biographical sketches of some of the most important voices of our Christian heritage. Marsh's book is worth a read in 2017, not because Marsh has done anything extravagantly new, but because she has done something extravagantly old: she has honored her father(s) and mother(s). In so doing she paints twenty-five pictures worth studying. But don’t stop at Marsh’s chapters. I challenge you to read a chapter and then pick up a work by that author. Read the next, and do the same. As someone who has given her life to raising children and raising college students from the mire of contemporary UCarthage, Marsh is a delightful chaperone through the lives of these saints and sinners. May their voices may be heard through our own lives. “Throughout my life, as I’ve become a mother and not a nun, a teacher and not a missionary, I’ve been accompanied by ‘vintage’ Christians—spiritual mentors from across the Christian tradition, committed Jesus followers who kept the faith in their own times and places. What began as an intellectual study, even idealized admiration, of notable Christian figures has become a deeper personal experience of reading from the heart. Over the years, I have been awed by ancient lives of humility and strength.” – Karen Marsh, from the Introduction of *Vintage Saints and Sinners*

  3. 4 out of 5

    Betty

    As one of the many former & current UVa students who came through the doors of the Bonhoeffer House on Friday afternoons for Vintage Lunch, I am utterly grateful for this book. Karen Wright Marsh has thoughtfully and beautifully woven her honest reflections with the powerful words & experiences of featured sinners and saints - many of whom I originally came to know through Theological Horizons. Lauren Winner's benediction in the foreword certainly rings true: "May Vintage Saints and Sinners help As one of the many former & current UVa students who came through the doors of the Bonhoeffer House on Friday afternoons for Vintage Lunch, I am utterly grateful for this book. Karen Wright Marsh has thoughtfully and beautifully woven her honest reflections with the powerful words & experiences of featured sinners and saints - many of whom I originally came to know through Theological Horizons. Lauren Winner's benediction in the foreword certainly rings true: "May Vintage Saints and Sinners help you find saintly companions, and may it thereby show you something about how your particular life can be lived in response to the One who created, redeemed, and sustains you."

  4. 5 out of 5

    emma

    "Don't call me a saint; I don't want to be dismissed so easily." - Dorothy Day Oh my goodness, I so love this book. I've been fascinated with saints lately, and this book simply called my name- and delivered! Marsh is an accessible and engaging writer, offering a quick read of 25 different Christians, from C. S. Lewis to Augustine to Dorothy Day. I really appreciated her ability to make each figure completely human; sometimes I discovered that I probably would have not liked or appreciated XYZ. H "Don't call me a saint; I don't want to be dismissed so easily." - Dorothy Day Oh my goodness, I so love this book. I've been fascinated with saints lately, and this book simply called my name- and delivered! Marsh is an accessible and engaging writer, offering a quick read of 25 different Christians, from C. S. Lewis to Augustine to Dorothy Day. I really appreciated her ability to make each figure completely human; sometimes I discovered that I probably would have not liked or appreciated XYZ. However, I did read this with pen in hand, and ended up buying a copy to highlight. I also loved that Marsh included an appendix of recommended reading. I showed my library copy to two people, both of whom also ended up buying it to keep...

  5. 4 out of 5

    Michele Morin

    The Marks of a Sinner's Saintly Story Story has a way of capturing the imagination. Biography brings theological principles, life lessons, and spiritual wisdom to life as I bear witness to the grittiness, lived-out in a transformed journey. Poor choices and besetting sins become cautionary sign posts that might just keep me from going over the same cliff. Karen Wright Marsh shares 25 open windows into the lives of saintly sinners who have loved God and served Him imperfectly throughout history. He The Marks of a Sinner's Saintly Story Story has a way of capturing the imagination. Biography brings theological principles, life lessons, and spiritual wisdom to life as I bear witness to the grittiness, lived-out in a transformed journey. Poor choices and besetting sins become cautionary sign posts that might just keep me from going over the same cliff. Karen Wright Marsh shares 25 open windows into the lives of saintly sinners who have loved God and served Him imperfectly throughout history. Her chief means of conveying Truth happens on the campus of the University of Virginia at the Bonhoeffer House where she presides over a weekly gathering called “Vintage.” There, she shares the lessons she has discovered in the flesh and blood that once belonged to historical brothers and sisters in the faith. Vintage Saints and Sinners: 25 Christians Who Transformed My Faith is a collection of these conversations with the historical details reinforced by bracing accounts from Karen’s own winding pilgrim life. She makes it clear that a saintly title does not disqualify a believer from struggles, nor does it make one immune to the slippage that plagues us all. What these 25 historical figures (spanning some 16 centuries of church history) have in common is the faithfulness of their search for Jeremiah’s “good way” and their dogged determination to walk its restful path. What characterizes the life of a sinner who has “stood at the crossroads” and chosen the path of a saint? I’ve been challenged by four characteristics that recurred throughout Karen’s biographical sketches: Settling into Belovedness Author and professor Henri Nouwen found himself caught in a cycle of work, depression, insomnia, and doubt that left him wondering if anyone would listen to his wisdom if they knew how much he struggled. His pursuit of significance ended with his embrace of the truth that, as God’s child, God’s favor already rested on him. He learned a willingness to hear God’s calling him “beloved” as the loudest voice in his head and heart. John Wesley’s following life was one of “fighting continually, but not conquering,” (114) until he felt his heart “strangely warmed” by the spirit and entered into a life with God that was characterized by relationship rather than rules. Twelfth-century monk, Aelred of Rievaulx delighted in relationships as a youthful extrovert, but found his heart’s desire to be fulfilled only by the knowledge of God’s love for him which infused meaning into all other human relationships. Sinners who long to be saints will let go of their bent toward doing and turn their hearts toward a glorious being that rests in the knowledge of their own belovedness to the God of the universe. Embracing the Strangeness Flannery O’Connor, well-known for the portrayal of “large and startling figures” in her writing, lamented the fact that “people who believe vigorously in Christ are wholly odd to most readers.” (45) Her awareness of the total “otherness” of God led her to pray: “Please help me to get down under things and find where You are.” Only one of many followers who chose a non-traditional life style, Francis of Assisi walked hundreds of miles, dressed in rags, and lived hard-and-inconvenient because he heard the voice of God calling him to a non-traditional path. Modern day saints are called to life of radical forgiveness as the norm, and “strangeness” may abound in varying degrees in the following life. Karen Wright Marsh examines her own commitment to WWJD with new eyes because of vintage saints and sinners’ example in embracing “the joy, the risk, the wholeness of taking Jesus at his word.” The Brilliance of Practicality When I picture medieval saints who committed themselves to a monastic life, the phrase “cutting edge” does not leap to my lips, but then, Julian of Norwich ratcheted her own vows up a notch and became an anchoress, enclosed in a small chamber within the church for the remainder of her lifetime. (Anyone else feeling claustrophobic right now?) Narrow of room but wide of life, one of Julian’s three windows in her little nook faced onto the streets of Norwich where she was able to provide counsel and spiritual insight to those who walked the streets of 14th century England. Ignatius of Loyola approached the faith-life with a strategic confidence that would rival the Pentagon, and approached all decisions with the brilliant question: “What will bring the greatest glory to God?” (164) This lifts the heavy burden of looking for X-marks-the-spot answers to our requests for God’s guidance, and emboldens the believer to take risks, leaning into a trust in God’s ability to work through Scripture and the wise counsel of friends, family, and mentors. Risking the Forbidden If Dietrich Bonhoeffer had settled into a comfortable pastorate in England as an escape from Nazi Germany, or if he had simply played it safe and taken a post in a German university while waiting out the war, we would probably never have heard his name. Instead, discerning the Nazi danger, he founded an illegal seminary, joined the conspiracy to assassinate Hitler, and was, therefore, executed by the Nazis. Of course, the two years between Bonhoeffer’s arrest and execution were overflowing with gorgeous writing that has shaped the church with its theological insights. The Christian life of Amanda Berry Smith began with a bold prayer: “I will pray once more, and if there is any such thing as salvation, I am determined to have it this afternoon or die.” Her passion to know God and to share His love with the world propelled her into a life of risk. A former slave with no formal education, she traveled the world and preached to large crowds. When she encountered protesters, she knelt in their presence and prayed. She contracted malaria as she traveled by canoe in Africa, and succeeded in founding an orphanage for African American girls despite the challenges of living as a woman of color in pre-Civil Rights America. Sinners who long to be Saints for God’s glory will trust for grace in the midst of fear, asking God for “the strong love that casts out fear.” Following the ancient tracks of these 25 pilgrims has been both encouraging and disturbing. Each stands alone as a memorial to a significant and exemplary life, but taken together over time, they reveal the mysterious complexity of the following life and God’s creativity in receiving whatever raw material is offered to Him — and spinning it into gold. As I stand at my own crossroads and look; as I pursue “the good way” and put my feet on the path in front of me, I’ll rest in the Truth that God has long been in the business of transforming sinners into saints and He knows the unique contours of the road this sinner needs to travel. // This book was provided by IVP Books, an imprint of Intervarsity Press, in exchange for my review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Hudspeth

    I'm only 6 saints into the 25 and I'm already hooked on Karen's voice and journey. She humbly walks us through the "greats" of Christianity with insight and humility, offering their flaws and gifts in one big spoonful of knowledge and contemplation. I did not know much about Therese de Liseux or Kierkegaard, but now want to know more. This book is SO enjoyable to read! I'm learning more about those who have gone before me in the Christian Journey, but I'm also learning about how to go on my own I'm only 6 saints into the 25 and I'm already hooked on Karen's voice and journey. She humbly walks us through the "greats" of Christianity with insight and humility, offering their flaws and gifts in one big spoonful of knowledge and contemplation. I did not know much about Therese de Liseux or Kierkegaard, but now want to know more. This book is SO enjoyable to read! I'm learning more about those who have gone before me in the Christian Journey, but I'm also learning about how to go on my own journey as Karen shares her. I highly recommend this book to anyone who feels like they want more insight on what it takes "to love mercy and walk humbly with God." This is how it is done, folks! Sharing what is going on with us and turning and learning what others have done and struggled with. A wonderful, refreshing read--a much needed respite and encouragement.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Dennard Teague

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, rereading this book and then leading a study of this book at my Presbyterian Church. Karen’s biographical and anecdotal style led my group on a wonderful journey. We looked at how we define saints and how our definition changed as we progressed through the chapters. In addition, after talking about Karen’s interactions with her saints, we talked about our own interactions with saints. It was a wonderful book study for a faith community.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Bob

    Summary: Brief vignettes of the lives of twenty-five “saints” and how reflecting on them may inspire and challenge us. It is one thing to be a Christian and another to understand how one might live well the Christian life. Certainly reading scripture is indispensable, both for precepts and examples. But throughout the history of the church, reading “the lives of the saints” has been found a valuable aid as we see fleshed out examples of the life of faith. This book is a contemporary contribution Summary: Brief vignettes of the lives of twenty-five “saints” and how reflecting on them may inspire and challenge us. It is one thing to be a Christian and another to understand how one might live well the Christian life. Certainly reading scripture is indispensable, both for precepts and examples. But throughout the history of the church, reading “the lives of the saints” has been found a valuable aid as we see fleshed out examples of the life of faith. This book is a contemporary contribution to that genre, giving us vignettes on the lives of twenty-five “saints” (not all are canonized as saints in the Roman Catholic Church) and the author’s reflections on what they teach her about the life of faith, and how they challenge her. The book is organized into two parts around two key ideas in Jeremiah 6:16, asking and walking. Under “Asking” she writes about Soren Kierkegaard, Augustine, Therese of Lisieux, C. S. Lewis, Henri Nouwen, Flannery O’Connor, Martin Luther, Amanda Berry Smith, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, A. W. Tozer, Mother Teresa, and Brother Lawrence. Under “Walking” she offers accounts of the lives of Thomas Merton, Benedict and Scholastica, Fannie Lou Hamer, John Wesley, Francis and Clare of Assisi, Dorothy Day, Howard Thurman, Julian of Norwich, Mary Paik Lee, Aelred of Rievaulx, Ignatius of Loyola, Juana Ines De La Cruz, and Sophie Scholl. Each account typically runs seven to eight pages, making it ideal for one’s devotional reading. Marsh mixes biography and her own reflections about how learning about this saint speaks to her own experience. I particularly appreciated the lesser known figures she writes about, a number of them women. Reading the account of Sophie Scholl’s faith-inspired resistance to Nazism that resulted in her martyrdom raised the question of when is it right to risk one’s life in a righteous cause. Then there is the sharply contrasting picture of the Mexican Catholic sister Juana Ines De La Cruz who remains in her cloistered cell and writes beautiful poetry and philosophical theology to God’s glory and then renounced it for a life of contemplation and service. I’ve read much of Martin Luther King, but it was a delight to read of Howard Thurman, his mentor. Lauren Winner, in her foreword, encourages noticing which saints we are drawn toward, and which saints trouble us. I’ll give you one of each from this collection. I’ve found myself more and more drawn to the writings of Soren Kierkegaard as my life has gone on. Wright’s account of his reaction to the comfortable conformity of Danish Christianity appeals to me even as it challenges me. She writes, “Abandon your calculated safety for a reckless, wholehearted life of faith in Christ. Continue to become. Grow. Risk. Take that radical leap of faith right now.” I find myself drawn as one who has lived in that awkward tension of longing for comfort and yet knowing that it is in the risks of faith that life is its most intense and real. Dorothy Day has been troubling me for the past couple months, as I’ve read a narrative of her life, as well as the shorter account here. At one point she has an abortion. When she converts, she leaves her marriage to follow Christ. She gets herself arrested numerous times, even at seventy-five. She employs her considerable writing talents on a penny newspaper, The Catholic Worker, and pours out her life serving the working poor. Marsh writes of her: The human, more colorful Dorothy comes through in her confessional writings. Yes, she admits, it really is raving lunacy to give up your own bed, food, and hospitality to any old stranger in need. But that needy person hasn’t arrived to simply remind you of Christ. No, in “plain and simple and stupendous fact,” your guest is, quite literally, Jesus. The Bible shows how ordinary people like Lazarus, Mary, and Martha welcomed Jesus and so can you; there’s no excuse. Christ is all around you, meeting you in friends and outsiders. The glass of water you give to a beggar is given to him. Dorothy insists that in the end we will be judged by our acts of mercy, so heaven hinges on the way we act toward Jesus in his frail, ordinary human form. So long as families still need bread, clothing, shelter, Dorothy says, “we must keep repeating these things. Eternal life begins now.” So don’t point to some distant dream of glowing redemption—let’s make life today look more like heaven. Get out there and make a difference in Jesus’ name. Dorothy forces me to ask the uncomfortable question of whether there are times I’ve failed to recognize the Lord Jesus in a needy person seeking help. One of the things one comes away with in this collection are that there are probably as many ways of “being a saint” as there are human beings. These people are so different from one another. If there is anything they have in common, it is simply to be captivated by the love of God and the person of Christ and what it means to live out this love in the days and years we are given. This is a book that both challenges and offers hope. Each of these people is indeed a saint and a sinner, both one responding to the call of God, and doing so out of the messiness of his or her life. In these pages, they beckon us to join them on the Way. ____________________________ Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Cara Meredith

    I didn’t know I needed a dose of saints until reading this book. Lovely, authentic and applicable to our lives today.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Billy Melvin

    Simply a great read by Karen Wright Marsh. One will find that the line between Saints and Sinners might not be as thick as we once imagined! Enjoy!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Robert D. Cornwall

    Each of us, if we take the time, can think of historical figures who have influenced our lives. This is especially true of spiritual influences. They needn't be famous, but they could be. We might want to do an exercise and write down twenty-five figures, who might be the "vintage Saints and Sinners" who have helped transform our faiths. Karen Wright Marsh has done just that. She has written a book in which she shares stories of twenty-five figures, some famous, some largely unknown. Ranging fro Each of us, if we take the time, can think of historical figures who have influenced our lives. This is especially true of spiritual influences. They needn't be famous, but they could be. We might want to do an exercise and write down twenty-five figures, who might be the "vintage Saints and Sinners" who have helped transform our faiths. Karen Wright Marsh has done just that. She has written a book in which she shares stories of twenty-five figures, some famous, some largely unknown. Ranging from Bonhoeffer and Augustine on one hand to persons like Sophie Scholl and Mary Paik Lee on the other, Marsh invites us into the lives and stories of these people, who have influenced her spiritual life. She tells the stories of these people in their full humanity. As she drew close to these persons, in her own encounters, reading and reflecting on their writings and stories, she discovered them to be saints and sinners both. She writes that "when they speak across the centuries, their lives turn out to be just as messy as (and sometimes much messier than) mine." (p. 7). Rather than being "inaccessible super-saints" she has found the mto be "perfect companions for a real-life pilgrimage." (p. 7). Although we learn parts of the life-stories of these figures, this is not intended to provide a biography of the individuals. Instead, she offers her perceptions, her reflections on their lives, how they speak to her, how they provide wisdom. The book is divided into two parts. Part One is titled "Asking." Some of the twelve figures in this section are Augustine, Bonhoeffer, Mother Teresa, Brother Lawrence. She shares her admiration for Therese of Lisieux, for instance, for having the courage as a nine-year-old, to go up to the Pope and demand admittance to the convent, and experiences with Flannery O'Connor the "strangeness of God." In part two, titled "Walking," we meet the remaining thirteen figures. This section includes figures as famous as John Wesley and Ignatius of Loyola, as well as figures who might be unknown to most, including young Sophie Scholl. Scholl was executed, together with her brother, for having the temerity as a twenty-one year old student to stand up against the tyranny of Hitler. We know the story of Bonhoeffer, but hers is equally compelling. I found her telling of the story of Mary Paik Lee powerful as well. Lee immigrated with her parents from Korea in 1906, and faced unbelievable racism and discrimination, including the church. Although her family had been leaders in their Presbyterian Church in Korea, even helping support missionaries (and protecting them against the Japanese occupiers), she was barred from attending a Presbyterian church with her high school classmate. The minister barred her entrance, telling her that "I don't want dirty Japs in my church," and then telling them to "God to Hell!" (p. 150) Yet, she remained faithful to God. Although this isn't intended to provide biographies of the persons involved, we get a good introduction to their lives, and if people find the stories compelling and wish to dive deeper, then she will have accomplished an important purpose. Apparently this is a first book, but it is well written and very accessible. It makes for thoughtful devotional reading and encouragement to dive deeper into history on one's own. All in all, a good work.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Lawson

    Luther, Augustine, O'Connor--Oh My! VINTAGE SAINTS AND SINNERS is a serious read--but it's also a fun, inspiring read. I knew about many of the "saints" featured, such as C.S. Lewis, Tozer, and Augustine, but there were also some who were unfamiliar to me. I was only vaguely familiar with the name Julian of Norwich. I knew about Francis of Assisi, but who is "Clare" of Assisi? Perhaps the most intriguing saint featured is Flannery O'Connor. The author raves about O'Connor, placing her "among the g Luther, Augustine, O'Connor--Oh My! VINTAGE SAINTS AND SINNERS is a serious read--but it's also a fun, inspiring read. I knew about many of the "saints" featured, such as C.S. Lewis, Tozer, and Augustine, but there were also some who were unfamiliar to me. I was only vaguely familiar with the name Julian of Norwich. I knew about Francis of Assisi, but who is "Clare" of Assisi? Perhaps the most intriguing saint featured is Flannery O'Connor. The author raves about O'Connor, placing her "among the greatest American writers, and at the top of my English syllabus." She notes that "One cannot get through a Flannery O'Connor story without encountering the strangeness of God." Wow! I admit I am now motivated to read Flannery O'Connor. Of course, I was familiar with Mother Teresa, but after reading the chapter on her life, I realize how little I actually knew. Letters made public after her death show a soul who feared she had been abandoned by God: "I feel the terrible pain of loss, of God not wanting me. . . " This surprised me. Mother Teresa--feeling abandoned by God? The author includes "Conversation Starters" at the end of each chapter. Just like it sounds, this section has some excellent discussion points. For example, "Dorothy Day said, 'Don't call me a saint. I don't want to be dismissed to easily.' What makes us bristle at the term saint?" So all in all, I found VINTAGE SAINTS AND SINNERS" to be an inspiring book, full of wonderful, inspiring lives. After reading this book, I am motivated to research more on many of these figures. So, whether you are Roman Catholic or Protestant, there is something to inspire everyone in this bright book. This book is also part-autobiography, as the author recounts her own spiritual struggles. In the chapter on John Wesley, Karen admits, "Now I feel that I've stepped out from the spotlight of center stage and down into a living faith where God is breathing spiritual life into my soul." Advance Review Copy courtesy of the publisher.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Tanya Marlow

    This is a lean, well-written book reflecting on saints of the past, distilling their teaching into bite-size pieces and using the author’s own life to integrate that learning into practice. The 25 saints include Augustine, Benedict, through to Martin Luther and John Wesley, plus more recent saints, including women and people of colour like Sophie Scholl who defied Hitler and American favourite Fanny Lou Hamer. As a lecturer, she is well able to succinctly draw on the essentials of the teachings o This is a lean, well-written book reflecting on saints of the past, distilling their teaching into bite-size pieces and using the author’s own life to integrate that learning into practice. The 25 saints include Augustine, Benedict, through to Martin Luther and John Wesley, plus more recent saints, including women and people of colour like Sophie Scholl who defied Hitler and American favourite Fanny Lou Hamer. As a lecturer, she is well able to succinctly draw on the essentials of the teachings of the various saints she lists, and there’s a great variety of them, including people of colour. When she refers to her own life it doesn’t feel self-indulgent or a distraction but a helpful and thoughtful reflection on the relevance today. It also offers gentle critique where the ’saint’ (also a sinner) has allowed harmful beliefs from their own culture to distort the spiritual wisdom they offer. It’s written in a literary and intelligent style which benefits from slow but smooth reading, and I’d say that the emphasis is slightly more on the saints' teachings than their lives, so if you want a detailed history of the saints, it’s not the book for you. Neither is it a devotional that brings home fully to the reader the practice or impact of the saints' lives. However, it makes a thoughtful and reflective reference book to dip in and out of and is a pleasure to read. Its real strength lies in gently exposing the fact that the ‘saints’ of the past were still sinners: they struggled as we do, doubted as we do and were loved by God. In addition, the foreword by Lauren Winner is a beautiful essay in its own right. Highly recommended.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Isabella

    Without question, Karen Marsh is an artful and moving story-teller. In Vintage Saints and Sinners: 25 Christians Who Transformed My Faith, the various men and women Karen has selected to serve as guides and companions in this spiritual pilgrimage are wildly diverse—from Martin Luther and Thomas Merton to Amanda Berry Smith and Dorothy Day—each expressing in the uniqueness of their lives what it means to follow Christ. Within the book, readers will experience adventure, mundanity, doubt, and devo Without question, Karen Marsh is an artful and moving story-teller. In Vintage Saints and Sinners: 25 Christians Who Transformed My Faith, the various men and women Karen has selected to serve as guides and companions in this spiritual pilgrimage are wildly diverse—from Martin Luther and Thomas Merton to Amanda Berry Smith and Dorothy Day—each expressing in the uniqueness of their lives what it means to follow Christ. Within the book, readers will experience adventure, mundanity, doubt, and devotion, all of which are rich and necessary ingredients in a life of faith, as illustrated through the stories of these saints. Karen herself is among the ranks of these spiritual paragons in the way she welcomes her readers into her own story, sharing the difficult questions which have arisen in her every-day life and how she has responded. I’d recommend this book to anyone looking to expand their notion of what the Christian life is or perhaps looking for friendship for the journey. It’s a nourishing and worthwhile read for which you can set your own pace and discover which of the saints are speak most acutely to you.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Elsie Lo

    Vintage Saints and Sinners - savour this book like a good vintage wine - by taking swigs intermittently and letting the notes and tannins linger on your palate. Karen Wright Marsh serves up somewhat casual and non-chalant but poignant vignettes of these ancient (and some not nearly as ancient) brothers and sisters in the faith. Each short chapter is basically the length of a devotional and muses on one life lived in response to Jesus. The list of saints and sinners ranges from the classic likes o Vintage Saints and Sinners - savour this book like a good vintage wine - by taking swigs intermittently and letting the notes and tannins linger on your palate. Karen Wright Marsh serves up somewhat casual and non-chalant but poignant vignettes of these ancient (and some not nearly as ancient) brothers and sisters in the faith. Each short chapter is basically the length of a devotional and muses on one life lived in response to Jesus. The list of saints and sinners ranges from the classic likes of Augustine and Julian of Norwich to more modern day names like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Dorothy Day. What I appreciated about this list is the diversity of time, place, culture, and gender, role, calling. Every one of these lives examined were turned towards the Kingdom in their big and small ways, in the profound and the mundane. Marsh's storytelling is superb and endearing as she sandwiches her reflections on each 'saint' in the midst of her own ordinary everyday experiences. I would recommend reading only a few chapters at a time, to give yourself time to sit with each of these folks and let their stories speak into your own life.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sam Powers

    I am currently working my way through Vintage Saints and Sinners by Karen Marsh, although I have to say that "working" is much too strong a term. The way in which Karen introduces each saint is effortless. Whether the person at hand lived in a prior millennia, or within the past century, Karen's narrative of the world as she sees it, informed by the perspective of the Saints seamlessly incorporates religious exemplar into day to day life. With each chapter between 5 to 7 pages, it is easy to fit I am currently working my way through Vintage Saints and Sinners by Karen Marsh, although I have to say that "working" is much too strong a term. The way in which Karen introduces each saint is effortless. Whether the person at hand lived in a prior millennia, or within the past century, Karen's narrative of the world as she sees it, informed by the perspective of the Saints seamlessly incorporates religious exemplar into day to day life. With each chapter between 5 to 7 pages, it is easy to fit just one impactful bite of Karen's knowledge in the span of 10 to 15 minutes. While I am not yet complete with the book, I look forward to continue learning from the lives of the many undersung men and women introduced within the pages of this book. For an audience looking to have a brief encounter with faithful ancestors in the lineage of the Christian faith, this book is a perfect fit.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Ruckle

    An incredible introduction to the lives of these 25 remarkable Christians, written by a remarkable Christian herself. In Vintage Saints and Sinners, Karen combines beautiful storytelling with relevant anecdotes that connect the lives of the saints to our own. The snapshots of each saint were thorough, researched, and eloquent, and left me feeling both informed and intrigued to read further! (I️ love the “recommendations for further reading” that Karen so helpfully features at the end of the book An incredible introduction to the lives of these 25 remarkable Christians, written by a remarkable Christian herself. In Vintage Saints and Sinners, Karen combines beautiful storytelling with relevant anecdotes that connect the lives of the saints to our own. The snapshots of each saint were thorough, researched, and eloquent, and left me feeling both informed and intrigued to read further! (I️ love the “recommendations for further reading” that Karen so helpfully features at the end of the book)! Karen shows us that saints are people too; imperfect and prone to foibles like our own, while inspiring us to look at our own lives as stages for the same dramatic works of Glory as these impressive champions of faith. This book will encourage you, challenge you, and inspire you.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jill Williamson

    Read this one for book club and found it so interesting. It took a look at twenty-five believers from history and gave a short glimpse into their lives and the legacy each left behind. There were lots of names I recognized like Augustine, C. S. Lewis, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther, and John Wesley. But there were so many more people that I've never heard of, and some of their stories brought tears to my eyes. If you are fascinated by history and by people who dedicated their lives to the pursuit Read this one for book club and found it so interesting. It took a look at twenty-five believers from history and gave a short glimpse into their lives and the legacy each left behind. There were lots of names I recognized like Augustine, C. S. Lewis, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther, and John Wesley. But there were so many more people that I've never heard of, and some of their stories brought tears to my eyes. If you are fascinated by history and by people who dedicated their lives to the pursuit of truth and freedom, add this book to your TBR list. It was great.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Missy

    Karen´s masterful way of weaving snippets of everyday life into the worlds (sometimes centuries on) of these "older brothers and sisters of the faith" had me nodding along as I read. While many of these saints and sinners started out as topics during my studies, they´ve become more relatable through the vivid portrayal Karen brings to the table. I´m grateful for access to such wisdom, such honesty, both from Karen herself and these older siblings in the pages of Vintage Saints and Sinners. Karen´s masterful way of weaving snippets of everyday life into the worlds (sometimes centuries on) of these "older brothers and sisters of the faith" had me nodding along as I read. While many of these saints and sinners started out as topics during my studies, they´ve become more relatable through the vivid portrayal Karen brings to the table. I´m grateful for access to such wisdom, such honesty, both from Karen herself and these older siblings in the pages of Vintage Saints and Sinners.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Allison Holm

    Karen Wright Marsh leads gently and kindly down the well-trodden paths of "vintage" Christian saints, carefully picking out insights from their lives and writings. Marsh reveals the humanity of seemingly untouchable saints and uniquely showcases the qualities for which they are remembered. She shows that there is nothing separating us from the lives of the saints except, perhaps, our not knowing them well enough - this book was both a challenge and an encouragement each time I picked it up. Karen Wright Marsh leads gently and kindly down the well-trodden paths of "vintage" Christian saints, carefully picking out insights from their lives and writings. Marsh reveals the humanity of seemingly untouchable saints and uniquely showcases the qualities for which they are remembered. She shows that there is nothing separating us from the lives of the saints except, perhaps, our not knowing them well enough - this book was both a challenge and an encouragement each time I picked it up.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Denise Kruse

    Very much enjoyed this scholarly yet approachable book. As a Catholic, I am already knowledgeable on most of the saints mentioned. I still did learn, though, and there are a few saints represented who are other than Catholic. What I particularly relished here is the Christian author's appreciation of the saints and how she draws on them in her contemporary life. Down-to-earth. Very much enjoyed this scholarly yet approachable book. As a Catholic, I am already knowledgeable on most of the saints mentioned. I still did learn, though, and there are a few saints represented who are other than Catholic. What I particularly relished here is the Christian author's appreciation of the saints and how she draws on them in her contemporary life. Down-to-earth.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Desirae

    DNF @ 20% Full disclosure: I am not religious, but I genuinely enjoy the history of religion and religious theology. I gave up on this after Saint Augustine's baby momma was shipped back to Africa and never heard from again. I don't like the notion of women being displaced so easily. Augustine's behavior went unaddressed by the author. DNF @ 20% Full disclosure: I am not religious, but I genuinely enjoy the history of religion and religious theology. I gave up on this after Saint Augustine's baby momma was shipped back to Africa and never heard from again. I don't like the notion of women being displaced so easily. Augustine's behavior went unaddressed by the author.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jacqueline

    This book is enjoyable to read and a great introduction to many people worth knowing. I am inspired to let go of my aversion to biographies and delve deeper into the stories of people who have walked with Christ before me.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    Really enjoyed this journal/devotional! I was a little nervous that I would need to know all the saints she wrote about, but I definitely didn’t! Short chapters with brief overview and a great takeaway ! Recommend!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Regina

    Short interesting insights into 25 “Saints and Sinners” and reflections on the author’s life of service. There’s also a great list of recommendations for further reading. (On a minor point, I was annoyed by the author’s habit of referring to the Saints by their first names.)

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tim Milligan

    I am grateful for a good list of Christians of various past ages, and I anticipate using the recommended reading list in the back. I did not usually find her personal reflections all that helpful, but that's okay; not every book is written for me. I am grateful for a good list of Christians of various past ages, and I anticipate using the recommended reading list in the back. I did not usually find her personal reflections all that helpful, but that's okay; not every book is written for me.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Carter Hemphill

    Highly recommend. The author provides memorable anecdotes about various Christian saints and skillfully links their biographies with today's spiritual challenges. This is a great book for an introduction to St. Augustin, Julian of Norwich and Benedict, among others. Highly recommend. The author provides memorable anecdotes about various Christian saints and skillfully links their biographies with today's spiritual challenges. This is a great book for an introduction to St. Augustin, Julian of Norwich and Benedict, among others.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kari Johnson

    This is a wonderful devotional book. Although coming from a different theological tradition than I hold, I loved it!! I like how the author pushes toward action, gaining inspiration from people from the past, without portraying them as peerless examples of perfection.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    This book is a winsome, wonderful way to feel both comforted and challenged at the same time. What a gift it is to learn from our fellow sinners-turned-saints!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Stella Maybury

    Well-written and very enjoyable little vignettes about 25 Christians in history, but how they have impacted the writer’s faith to a level that could be called transformational didn’t come through.

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