Book Review: Fresh Air
Author: Jack Levision
Publisher: Paraclete Press ISBN: 9781612610689
This is probably the best book I have ever read on the subject of the Holy Spirit, especially with regard to “practical living” in relationship with the Holy Spirit. Many of the works I’ve read have been focused from a particular experience or denominational statement of faith. Fresh Air is a departure from this formula and is literally a breath of “fresh air” to me in those respects.
My Christian experience and studies have been “all over the map,” so to speak. I was born into the Southern Baptist Church and moved into the charismatic and Pentecostal movements through the seventies and eighties. I dabbled in Eastern religions as a young adult and questioned faith as an agnostic for a few years. At the turn of the millennia I returned to Christian faith in the Wesleyan-Holiness church and spent the past half-dozen years in guided studies of spiritual formation following ancient paths—reading the early church fathers, desert fathers, studying the monastic’s, and exploring classical spiritual disciplines. Based upon my experiences and what I read from Fresh Air, I wonder why there’s a shortage of real teaching about this Third Person of the Trinity. By comparison, there is quite a bit of teaching about God the Father and God the Son, Jesus…but rarely (in my experience) have I been exposed to teaching about the Holy Spirit and His role in the life of the believer. I think this is very odd, considering the prominent role Jesus said the Holy Spirit would have in the lives of His followers.
I remember a conversation I had with a leader in an evangelical movement. I asked him about doctrinal statements and beliefs about the working and ministry of the Holy Spirit and he answered; “We believe they are still active, but we do not actively teach about them.” The reasoning for this, I found out later, was specifically about control issues (this was documented in a book outlining the history of this particular movement).
I think the mysterious nature of the Holy Spirit is one of the reasons we lack in teaching; another reason might be the nature of the unexpected and unexplained, which sometimes surrounds the working of the Holy Spirit. God makes people uncomfortable…especially when God is outside of our boxes and off our leashes; and, this is what I liked so much about Fresh Air. Jack dissolves a lot of the mystery that man has created surrounding the Holy Spirit. Taking a truly biblical approach to unraveling this mysterious person of God, he has collected narrative scenes, like acts in a play, where the Holy Spirit and humans have collaborated to reveal the manifest glory of the Godhead. This narrative approach to teaching is so much more gentle and reasoned than the dogmatic or sensationalistic styles I have been exposed to in the past. Levison takes his acts of instruction in Fresh Air from the lives of Job, Daniel, Simeon, Joel, Chloe, Ezekiel, Jesus, and Peter. Some of these acts and “figures” are more prominently known over the others, but each of them presents unique and (I believe) accurate attributes and perspective of the person of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.
My copy of Fresh Air is marked up and bookmarked from cover to cover. While it would be difficult for me to choose a “favorite” chapter, there are several that I favored quite a bit. Daniel’s Discipline (ch. 2), Ezekiel’s Valley (ch. 6), and Jesus’ Test (ch. 7) all received a lot of attention from my highlighters and colored pens, while Job’s Pledge (ch. 1) seemed to serve as a foundational statement for every movement through the book—at least this is true for me. I have already shared a number of ideas and thoughts from this book with people and I’ve only had it in my possession for a short time. I know I will be returning to it again and again; I’ve already started thinking of ways to incorporate various things I’ve learned into my own teaching curriculums and retreat leading. I’m sure the same will be said of others who read this book.
Our church today is in sore need of this Fresh Air, I’m prayerfully hopeful that many will find this teaching as helpful as I have.