Here are some books to keep your mind sharp and renew your faith while enjoying summer vacations with friends and family this summer:
Answering the Call: The Doctor Who Made Africa His Life by Ken Gire / Thomas Nelson
You don’t have to travel abroad this summer to glimpse life in another region of the world. Just crack open this inspiring tale of Nobel Prize-winning humanitarian Albert Schweitzer. The late Schweitzer, a child of a Lutheran minister, had accomplished more in his first 30 years of life than most achieve in a lifetime: he served in the military, earned advanced degrees in theology and philosophy, became a skillful concert organist, gave lectures in at the University of Strasbourg and was ordained as a minister in St. Nicholas Church. For many, that would have been enough to earn a reasonable living and attain social status in life. Yet Schweitzer was moved by his Christian faith to earn a medical degree and move his family to what is now Gabon, Africa in order to build and run a hospital among the natives.
God had joined faith and reason together harmoniously. It is man who puts them asunder. The more I understand Jesus, the more I am impressed by the way He combined faith and common sense. In the end, it seemed the most rational thing to do with my life, perhaps the only rational thing,” Schweitzer said of his controversial decision in Answering the Call.
Author Ken Gire takes great pains to describe everything: the mission that was Schweitzer’s first home in the French colony of Lambaréné –deep in the dense rainforest, surrounded by a “cacophony of primal noises” –his first hospital in an old chicken coop and the doctor’s first patients – men and women with “pain and sadness” on their faces.
While many of the exploits depicted in the book are based on Schweitzer’s real life, Gire’s book is more historical fiction than biography. Gire acknowledged this in the Author’s Note, “A couple of the characters have been invented, although the majority of characters are factual. I have taken artistic license on wording and dialogue to illuminate certain facts and bring depth to the characters.”
However Gire’s telling of Schweitzer’s bold quest is a vehicle through which readers can ponder Jesus’ compassion for the lame and sick He frequently encountered during His ministry.
Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, ‘If You are willing, You can make me clean.’ Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed.” -Mark 1:40-42
Readers of Answering the Call will grapple for a better understanding of Jesus’ compassion as Schweitzer did. As patients, some carried by relatives, lined up in front of his cabin desperate for help, Schweitzer asks the question every reader will be all thinking as he/she reads this book: “Is this what it means to be ‘moved with compassion'?"
Life in the Fairway: What Golf Teaches Us About Integriy by Chad Bonham/ New Leaf Publishing Group
It is summer -- the weather is warm, the sun is shining. It’s the perfect time to hit the golf course this summer and learn to swing the club like the pros. While you’re out there, PGA Tour professionals would also like golfers to learn the integrity of the game – an integrity that for some golfers like Steward Clink, Jonathan Byrd, Webb Simpson and Ben Crane flows from their Christian faith. Chad Bonham’s book uses their testimonies to teach primarily male golfers how important it is uphold Christ even when it seems no one is looking.
“God knows our thoughts,” Byrd, a five-time PGA Tour winner, said in the book. “He knows everything that we do.”
In the book Bonham shows how that belief led Byrd to withdraw from a tournament over a penalty officials had not caught. The decision cost him a chance at making the cut and earning thousands of dollars but Byrd said he would rather live without regrets.
Integrity is integral in golf were the onus is on individual golfers to record and report their own scores and mistakes. Integrity is also integral to the Christian walk.
Bonham’s Life in the Fairway does a good job of showing readers how faith-inspired ethics travel from the course to the home.
In an interview with the author, Simpson shared his ambition to be the best husband to wife Dowd. “I’m so young at it and I’m so new to it but daily my goal is to see how I can keep from being a burden on my wife and how I can be a blessing instead. The only way I’m ever able to do a great job is when I’m humbling myself before the Lord and humbling myself before my wife,” he explained.
He also works hard to fulfill the mandate of Proverbs 22:6 with his young son James: “Train a child in the way he should go and when is he old he will not turn from it.”
There are many more testimonies about integrity, fidelity and devotion on and off the course in the book from all of the golfers named above. That coupled with the golf histories and player trivia and facts featured in between chapters makes this book an enjoyable summer read.
The Ear of the Heart: An Actress’ Journey From Hollywood to Holy Vows by Mother Dolores Hart and Richard DeNeut/ Ignatius Press
Last year’s Academy Awards was rocked by the appearance of an actual nun on the red carpet. Mother Dolores Hart, as it turns out, is no ordinary nun. As a college student Hart acted alongside Elvis Presley – not once, but twice. She eventually performed on Broadway and modeled for fashion layouts. And just as her star was growing brighter, she gave up everything for monastic life as a Benedictine nun.
Viewers briefly learned about Hart’s story in the Oscar-nominated HBO documentary short “God is bigger than Elvis” – the same documentary for which she walked the 2012 Academy Awards red carpet. However Richard DeNeut’s account of Mother Dolores’ autobiography The Ear of the Heart explains her story in greater detail.
You don’t have to be Catholic to appreciate how faith kept Hart from falling prey to the violence and alcohol addiction that plagued her home and led her to sacrifice future fame. You may also appreciate – as I did – the way Hart’s ever-present faith inspired those around her on the movie set: Elvis, a Baptist, often read and quoted scripture with her during the making of King Creole and she also became a confidant of sorts to old Hollywood hunk Monty Clift on the set of LonelyHearts.
Not by Sight: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Walking by Faith by Jon Bloom/ Crossway
You will come back from your vacation with a fresh perspective after reading this modern retelling of classic Bible stories. Not by Sight does not change the setting or context of stories like the disciples and a sleeping Jesus amid the stormy sea, Joseph and an expecting Mary or the adulteress spared a stoning.
Instead author Jon Bloom brilliantly adds thoughts and feelings to them, giving Bible figures such as James Zebedee a relatability that is refreshing. In the story of the adulteress, Bloom gives readers a glimpse of the terror she may have felt as men dragged her from her lover’s bed and into the street to be stoned.
Oh God! Oh God, she begged silently”
Even more exciting is her reaction after being pardoned by the Son of God. Bloom describes the adulteress returning to her home with a new sense of cleanness.
Each narrative is followed with an explanation that helps the reader dig deeper into the scriptures and emerge with a personal nugget of truth.
As John Piper wrote in the forward of Not by Sight, the meditations of faith found in Bloom’s book “are rooted in what the Bible says. The creative additions never go beyond what really could have happened.”
Bloom’s creativity provides a thought-provoking devotional that will pair well with your daily Bible study.
Boy and the Ocean by Max Lucado and T. Lively Fluharty/ Crossway
This is the perfect picture book to share with your young children on the plane or in the car while you are headed to your vacation destination. The vivid pictures of beachscapes, sea creatures and birds by illustrator T. Lively Fluharty are mesmerizing. The pictures do a lot to aid author Max Lucado’s equally captivating story. Told in simple sentences, Lucado’s powerful message of God’s vast love will draw your Pre- K, Kindergraten children in.
The Great Outdoors Bible for Kids/ Zonderkidz
Sending your children to camp this summer? This is a perfect companion. This NIV Bible delivers the word of God with helpful tips such as how to tie a knot, identify animals and perform first aid. There are also seven devotions written with campers in mind.
This backpacking Bible is available in paperback, brown Italian duo-tone leather and green soft covers. Appropriate for children ages 9 and up.