Money and Meaning: A Christian approach to finances

Mark Scandrette and I have known each other over a decade now, and we’ve led workshops and done conference things together and spent many hours talking about faith and life and family. He’s a wise old soul with loads of modern sensibilities. He will give you advice like the best kind of spiritual director- honest, probing, but leaving it rightly in your hands to do something about it- and in the next hour will perform beat poetry wearing his trademark beret. The first time Mark stayed at our house he taught my kids a prayer about potty training that they still remember, and he set them on the kitchen counter and showed them how to make really good coffee from an instant coffeemaker. They were wide-eyed and intrigued and they wore his scarf around the house like a cape.

Mark is one of the most intentional people I know. He has actively built his life according to his values and his passions, and he holds a much-needed and much-in-demand sense of integrity in the way he aligns those values with his actual life practices. He has, in spades, what is known in the pastoral care world as “non-anxious presence.” He is like a human lion tamer, that Mark. People can come at him with all kinds of things, and he returns it to them in kindly spoken words and wise insight. He doesn’t tend to get rattled, and that’s because he knows who he is. I think this is something Jesus was also insanely good at doing, so suffice it to say I’m working on it too.

He’s written two other books you should get: Soul Graffiti and Practicing the Way of Jesus. His third and newest book, Free, engages the ever-prickly conversation of money and debt and consumerism and desire. You know, things people other than Americans need to work on. (ahem)

Mark tackles these issues head on with his characteristically wise insight but also with tons of helpful practical tools that help you figure out what to do about it. Each of the 7 chapters give you steps to help you take a look at your own life, determine what you value, and then align your finances accordingly. But it’s not like a money management book- it’s a “theological exploration of how money works in your life” book, which makes it way better than any self-help book because it gets to the heart of things.

We all know tons of young and old people alike who are saddled with debt and/or surrounded by piles of material things and completely unhappy. If you are that person, or if you know that person, this book is a healthy way forward. It’s “simplicity boot camp,” and Lord knows we all could use some of that.

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