Monday, February 22, 2010

The Rocky Island

Rocky Island and Other Stories
Revised and updated by Christopher Wright
(Bridge Publishing, 1982), pb., 105 pp.
Ages 5-10

These simple 19th century allegories have some value but mostly are lesser renditions of thems in Pilgrims Progress. In this collection of seven stories there are really two stories retold in only slightly altered ways. The call to trust Christ is made clear, so there is value but so many other books do this in such a better way.  My boys tired of the book quickly because of the repetition and the lack of subtlety.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

God King

(Bethlehem Books, 2002), pb., 212 pp
Ages 8-13

Similar to Williamson’s Hittite Warrior (previously commented on), this story follows a fictional non-Israelite character as he eventually comes into a biblical story where God delivers His people. In this case the main character is an Egyptian boy who becomes pharaoh and then sees God’s deliverance of Judah and King Hezekiah from the onslaught of the Assyrians.

It is a good story with intrigue and action. The main character, Taharka (note 2Kings 19:9), is interesting and compelling. You also learn some things about Egyptian life and religion. The characters are more modern in their outlook, so it is not entirely ‘authentic,’ but it is a good, enjoyable read.

The intersection with the biblical narrative only comes late in the story. Taharka sees the power of Israel’s God as he decimates the otherwise unstoppable Assyrian horde. The names of used of the various Assyrian leaders come straight from the Bible. The book suggests the Assyrians died from an outbreak of the plague, as God’s judgment. The Bible simply says the angel of the Lord struck down 185,000 of the Assyrians. How God did this is not stated, but there are improbabilities with the way this book suggests it.

In the end, we enjoyed this book and recommend it. It is not overly sophisticated, but it is enjoyable and gives a picture of Ancient Egypt as well as giving background to a biblical story.

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Selfishness vs. Courage

I find myself wanting to post a quote from Bob Schultz’s Boyhood and Beyond almost every day as we read through the book (see previous post). There is a wealth of wisdom here, and it stimulates good conversation. Today we read the chapter titled, “Leadership,” where he drew from the story of Ernest Schackleton, a story I have related to the boys before.

Here are two strong excerpts from his application:

“Many boys are said to be shy. Their parents explain why their son did not say thank you or hello with the excuse, “Joey is just being shy today.” The truth is that Joey is just caught up in himself. Joey thinks too much of his own feelings and thoughts to consider someone else. Joey is simply selfish.” (111)

“Do you want to be a man with courage like Shackleton? Your biggest hindrance is selfishness. The selfish are not courageous. You must become a man who thinks of others. It is not waiting for some big chance to save lives that makes a hero; a hero is made by thinking of others in everyday situations.” (113)

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Family Table and Wisdom

Patrick Henry Reardon has a great article in the Jan/Feb 2010 issue of Touchstone titled, “Wisdom from the Family Table.” It is another great resource for parents as he discusses the important life training that takes place as families gather around their tables.

Here are two quotes:

“The quest of wisdom commences with learning how to eat. The most basic steps toward virtue are mastered at the family table. Character begins with etiquette. Teach a child how to dine like a human being, and you have gone wonderfully far in his education.”

“Indeed, I submit that the lessons learned at the family table are more fundamental to the pursuit of wisdom than those learned in the classroom. It is at meals that souls and minds are nourished, as well as bodies. It is largely from eating with the family that helpful information is conveyed and the foundational lines of character are formed.”

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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Imagination the Basis of Ethics, Worldview

David Mills' article, "Enchanting Children: Training Up a Child Requires a Well Formed Imagination" (from Touchstone) is a great resource for parents. He deals with several issues, primarily the importance of the imagination in shaping life.  He argues that the imagination shapes life more than the facts we know and that stoires are the key factor shaping our imaginations.  Therefore we ought to be very diligent in guarding what stories our children take in- e.g. limit television and read them good stories.  I agree wholeheartedly!

Here are some quotes.
On the importance of imagination Mills wrote:
We tend to rely, I think, too much on knowledge. Even if Johnny has memorized the Baltimore Catechism or the Westminster Confession, or even hundreds of verses of Scripture, if his imagination has been formed by the wider, secular culture, he will respond to temptations as a secularist, not as a Christian.

He will know that fornication is wrong and that intercourse is a gift reserved for marriage, but he will feel that it is a recreational activity to be enjoyed ... When he brings himself to temptation, his feelings are more likely to move him than his thoughts, and of course once he falls, his thoughts will start to change to fit his feelings.
Revulsion is a much better protection from the force of the passions than an intellectual understanding by itself. To feel “This is yucky” is not a final protection from sin, but it is better than thinking “This is wrong” but feeling “This is okay.” Lust offers the paradigmatic case (examples come quickly to mind), but this is true of pride, gluttony, envy, and all the rest, even sloth.
He encoourages avoiding the warped stories which cascade from the television and developing a family culture more oriented to reading.  He admits this will be difficult and will set you apart as odd in comparison with others.
But it is worth the effort. Hearing his father or mother read a good story forces the child to hear and begin to imagine stories he would not necessarily read himself, and it gives you another time to talk with him about the deeper things, without being overtly religious in the way that puts off so many children.

He continues:
Good stories read seriously and with enjoyment will help form a child’s imagination, and give it a shape it will never entirely lose, no matter what the child does when he grows older. But we would be foolish to rely on stories to do more than stories can. Wise Christian parents will immerse themselves and their children ever more deeply in the life of the Church, whose worship and teaching and charity and fellowship will be the most profound creator of the Christian imagination.

There they should meet Jesus. The world in which the child knows that Jesus is present is a world he will always live by, even in reaction and even when he convinces himself that it is an illusion. The well-formed imagination is a gift that keeps on giving.

As St. James pointed out, even the devils believe, in the sense that they know what the reality is (James 2:19). But they cannot imagine that the reality is good. They may know of God the Father, but to them such Fatherhood feels like domination and oppression, because their imaginations are so completely corrupted. They do not hear “Thus says the Lord” as “Here is the antidote for the poison that is killing you,” but as “Down, vermin slaves.” Think of Uncle Andrew in The Magician’s Nephew, who hears Aslan’s kind words only as a threatening growl.

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Tuesday, February 02, 2010


I am really enjoying reading Boyhood and Beyond: Practical Wisdom for Becoming a Man, by Bob Schultz, to my boys each morning as we begin school. This is an excellent book with good advice for boys about manhood presented in a down-to-earth engaging way. This morning we read the chapter titled, “Temptation.” Here’s a quote:

Temptations are invitations to do evil. Everyone receives them. Each temptation invites you to destroy your life. Every invitation to do evil, no matter how small, is designed to destroy some valuable part of you. Temptations look good, but they always contain a lie. They don’t tell all the truth. (57)

Schultz then gives a good example of a boyish temptation and the various ideas which might come to mind making it attractive. He then points out that these tempting thougth are lies and then re-presents the temptation pointing out what is actually true in each point such as:

You will feel guilty even if you don’t get caught

You will lose your good name, your parents’ confidence, etc.

What you think is funny may actually bring real pain into someone else’s life and you have not paused to think about what is going on in their life.

This is a great book which has prompted many good conversations for us- and we’re not half way though the book yet!

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