What would it look like if more of us made spiritual training a priority in our homes? Yes, I suppose it could put us in the category of "mean moms" and "crazy dads", particularly if our children are not used to this. That doesn't scare me; I'm a mean mom by nature. It's nothing new; we established that a year ago, and went into more detail here. Making my children do school in the summer seems to be the icing on the cake. This summer, however, they got a break while I was gone. No one to enforce such schooling, no one wanting to be considered as mean as me. And so, my children, like most others in the US, will go to school in the fall having lost valuable skills. I'll have a meltdown later. Academic education aside, shouldn't I place the spiritual education of my children even higher than that?
I've often thought of having my children read Biblically-based and theologically solid books and then having a discussion about them. Mariana is a voracious reader and will read anything I recommend to her. The boys on the other hand, not so easy. So when I saw on Facebook that friends of ours, Mark and Cheryl Hopkins, were looking to have their boys read Christian living books this summer, we conspired with them. Something like, "How about if you pitch the idea, we'll blame you for the idea, together we could choose 3 books for the summer, and have our children read and then discuss one a month?"
And it has worked! We started with C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters. It was a bit heavy for the younger children (we included those aged 12 and up) but an audio version did help them. I read the book as well but was not present for the discussion. I did hear great reviews. As the Good Doctor noted, "I was pleasantly surprised at how all of the kids actually came to share about how C.S. Lewis impacted them. I was not completely sure at how our 12-year-olds would be able to interact with the material, but once the conversation got started, we were all able to interact with the kids on more of an adult level."
This month we read They've Crossed the Line: A Patriot's Guide to Religious Freedom by Stephen Bloom. Since we know State Representative Bloom and his wife, The King's Strings having played for his campaign fundraiser each of the past two years, we asked Steve and Sharon to join us for the discussion. They chose Leo's Ice Cream, in their district, as our meeting place. We were happy to oblige. We asked questions and heard more from his perspective; why he wrote the book and what he wants the reader to learn and to take from it. Each of our children was challenged to remember that if they don't help to educate others about our freedoms, we could be one generation from losing them. Our discussion definitely benefited from his expertise and encouragement (and the ice cream).
The third book will be chosen this week but will likely be a topic that will help our children understand the roots of their faith. As we see our children reach college age, we want to be certain that they know who they are and why, as well as what they believe and why, before they go off to colleges (private or secular) that will try to deconstruct their beliefs. We've seen far too many young adults flounder in this environment and have sadly watched friends and family walk away from the faith.
We highly recommend that you find a way to encourage your child(ren) to read books that encourage and strengthen their faith. And not having the book is no excuse; we have several copies of each of the books we've done. I'm sure you can put the request on Facebook and borrow them from friends. The church and/or public library might have some as well. The school year tends to be full of other projects and assignments, but I wonder if we can keep this going for more than the summer months? We have learned that it's very helpful to partner with another family. First of all, you can each blame the other family for the idea. That way your kids can't be angry with you and they will realize that there are other mean (or crazy) parents out there. We have learned that each family, as well as each individual, brings a different perspective to the discussion. As Mark said, "The resulting conversation is rich." He added that partnering also brings an automatic accountability to the assignment. We have also realized that with some books, such as the works of C.S. Lewis, it might be better to discuss at several points along the way, rather than waiting until the very end as there is just so much gold in one book. Oh, and most importantly, don't forget the bribe. For the first book discussion, breakfast treats and for the second, that famous Leo's ice cream.
If you're thinking that this sounds like a great idea but it's just too late to begin, think again. You still have one month left, a great opportunity to start with one book. Just think, you can tell your kids that they've got it easy, the King and Hopkins kids had to read three this summer. If you have no idea what book to choose, I leave you with the list with which we began. Maybe one book on here will be the perfect one for your family.
- Every Man's Battle (Arterburn, Stoeker, Yorkey) (Every Woman's Battle)
- The Light and the Glory (Young Reader's Edition) (Peter Marshall)*
- Compelled By Love (Heidi Baker)
- The Screwtape Letters (C.S. Lewis)*
- (New) Evidence That Demands a Verdict (Josh McDowell)*
- Purpose Driven Life (Rick Warren)
- Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis)*
- The Ragamuffin Gospel (Brennan Manning)
- The Case for Christ - Student Edition (Lee Strobel)
- Why Jesus? (Ravi Zacharius)*
- Where is God When it Hurts? (Phillip Yancey)
- Knowing God (J.I. Packer)
- Crazy Love (Francis Chan)
- They've Crossed the Line: A Patriot's Guide to Religious Freedom (Stephen Bloom)