A Fresh Breath of the Spirit – Book Review of “40 Days with the Holy Spirit”


By Lisa Burgess

So many books on God. On Jesus. But the Holy Spirit? Jack Levison writes to fill that gap. While his latest book, 40 Days with the Holy Spirit: Fresh Air for Every Day, is about the Spirit for every day, it’s more. It’s also a book for every person.

Early on in the book, I caught that we grew up in the same religious heritage. We knew the Spirit existed, even though he was mysteriously absent most of the time in sermons, classes, and conversations. Then like Levison, the more I branched out, the more I realized how critical the Spirit is to our practical Christian life. How much had I been missing?

40 Days with the Holy Spirit aims to show us a more joyful and fulfilled life with our awareness of the Holy Spirit in it. It is practical in every sense. It’s not meant only to be read; it’s also meant to be lived. And in particular, Levison gives us seven specific ways—inner world to outer world—that it’s to be lived: through breathing, praying, practicing, learning, leading, building, and blossoming.

BookCoverHe subdivides the book into four to six days with each of these seven verbs. Each day begins with a short biblical text, a story section to meditate on, an open space for our own written reflections, and ends with a prayer addressing the Holy Spirit’s movement in our lives.

Each one could easily be a stand-alone devotional, yet Levison weaves enough of a common thread between the days that you benefit from the continuity. He brings his own personal stories to the Meditate sections (along with an occasional voice from the desert fathers or Eugene Peterson or an eyewitness to Nazi atrocities), yet he stays focused on the biblical stories and remains centered on the role of the Spirit throughout the book.

I look forward during the upcoming Lenten season to spend more time with the Spirit through the guidance from this book. Levison understands that experiences with the Holy Spirit aren’t one-size-fits-all, so I anticipate my journey with this least familiar member of the Trinity to be unique. Towards the end of the book, Levison actually encourages that uniqueness by suggesting we venture into unknown territory (and mixes in a little southern vernacular to capture the Greek plural pronoun):

“If you’re Pentecostal, worship with Episcopalians. If you’re Catholic, study with the Baptists. If you’re Methodist, meditate with Greek Orthodox Christians. I dare you! And why? Just once more: because y’all are God’s temple and God’s Spirit dwells in y’all.”

The structure provided in this book is just enough to walk us through study and prayer on the Holy Spirit, yet frees us enough to take the path individualized for us in his presence.

On Day 40 Levison writes, “The work of the Spirit is not just something brand new. It is something old made new for us. The Spirit, in this final welcome, brings ancient Scripture to life.”

Life. With a fresh breath of the Spirit moving through us, life is exactly what we invite the Spirit to.


Lisa-Burgess_LisaNotesLisa Burgess writes about how she sees God in everyday moments and ordinary lives. An avid reader, she also reviews books and tells stories of grace at her blog Lisa notes. Follow Lisa on Twitter and Facebook.

For more conversation on 40 Days with the Holy Spirit, visit the Patheos Book Club here!


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