30-Second Book Reviews (1/5)
Here's another round of 30-second book reviews:
One of the strongest movements in the Church right now is the so-called New Evangelization. Sparked by Pope Paul VI, fueled by John Paul II, and flamed by Benedict XVI, this surge is meant to reawaken the world's dormant faith and pierce all layers of culture with the Gospel.
In Faith at Work: Finding Purpose Beyond Your Paycheck (Our Sunday Visitor, paperback, 135 pages), Kevin Lowry shows us how to ignite the New Evangelization in the most common of places—the workplace. Most Americans spend most of their time on the job, which means the workplace is a vast mission field. But how do we spread our faith in such secular environments?
According to Kevin, not through obnoxious proselytizing. Instead we should develop a virtuous work ethic, ground our success on more than our title or salary, and display a resilient charity that brings light to the workplace. As Kevin explains, living our faith on the job is primarily about how we act day-to-day. He follows Pope Paul VI who noted, “modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.”
And Kevin’s a great witness himself. Throughout the book he shares his wisdom on what’s worked and not worked throughout his career. Yet the book is also packed with plenty of other examples. From the friend who abstains from office gossip, to the co-worker who finds meaning beyond the daily grind, Kevin’s stories provide blueprints for effective witnessing at work.
If you’re looking for a helpful, yet challenging guide to faith in the workplace, Faith at Work is it. Here’s what I said in my endorsement:
“What if your job was not just a job? What if your work was actually central to your faith? In Faith at Work, Kevin Lowry shows how Christians can bring their faith to the world of cubicles, emails, bosses, and factories. Through personal examples, stories of success, and Biblical guidelines, Kevin paves the way toward a "spirituality of work". If you work--and who doesn't?--this book will help you tremendously.” - Brandon Vogt, author of The Church and New Media
With two small children and another on the way, my family needs all the help we can get when it comes to prayer. Nightly prayer times are hit and miss--they either result in 10-minute symphonies of contemplation or 5-minute cacophonies of temper. Add in all the hustle and bustle of the holidays and it's even more difficult.
That’s why I was excited to check out Sarah Reinhard’s new little booklet titled, Welcome Baby Jesus: Advent and Christmas Reflections for Families (Liguori Publications, paperback, 48 pages). The booklet contains entries for every day during the Advent and Christmas liturgical season. All the entries are structured the same way with a Scripture quote, a short reflection (Think), a prayer (Pray), and a simple activity for kids to enjoy (Act). I liked how each devotion is short and engaging—depending on your kids, you only need about 5-10 minutes each night. That's a good amount of time to meditate and pray over the Gospel readings without things getting out of control.
Though the Christmas season is almost over, it’s not too early to plan for next Advent. If you have small kids, I highly recommend this devotional--and at $1.99, you can hardly go wrong.
Discover Christ: Developing a Personal Relationship With Jesus
Bert Ghezzi and David Nodar
The subtitle of Discover Christ: Developing a Personal Relationship With Jesus (Our Sunday Visitor, paperback, 120 pages) might grate against some Catholic ears. But it shouldn't. As Pope Benedict XVI reminds, a personal relationship with Jesus is at the very heart of Christianity:
“Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”
The preparation document for the upcoming Synod on the New Evangelization puts it even more simply:
“The goal of the transmission of faith is the realization of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.”
With that end in mind, Bert Ghezzi and David Nodar have written a superb guide. The chapters in Discover Christ are arranged in question and answer format, and are designed to walk non-believers into a relationship with Jesus. It tackles some of the biggest questions many non-Christians have like:
- What is the meaning of life?
- Why does Jesus matter?
- Why do I need a savior?
- Who is the Holy Spirit?
The book also covers basic elements of Christian discipleship like spiritual formation, celebrating the sacraments, participating in community, and spreading the Gospel themselves.
In short, Discover Christ is a compact guide to living the Christian life. Those strong in their faith might find it a bit simplistic, but Discover Christ is the perfect book for the new seeker or anyone wading in the shallows of faith.
School Spirit: A Profound Journey Through the Gospels for Teachers
Timothy J. Burdick
This new devotional book by Timothy Burdick, School Spirit: A Profound Journey Through the Gospels for Teachers (Lulu, paperback, 181 pages) is not just for schoolteachers. The 180 Biblical reflections within would help anybody who teaches at home, church, the workplace, or in the community.
Burdick essentially journeys through the entire Gospel of Mark, gazing on certain passage through the lens of teaching. What he finds is pretty interesting. He sees in Jesus’ repetitive parables a model for driving points home—to deliver messages with a “tremendous whack” as Churchill would say. Burdick uses Peter’s denial of Christ to demonstrate the need for self-correction, to teach young people how to overcome their own mistakes.
School Spirit is self-published and does carry a couple of minor typesetting issues. Nevertheless any teacher would find much to meditate on. If you're looking for an end-of-the-year gift for a teacher, catechist, or coach, this would be a great choice.