Monday, March 21, 2011

Portrait of a Faithful Father

The book of Fourth Maccabees (a Jewish book from around the time of Jesus) gives a powerful portrait of a faithful father. In context, the mother of sons who had died for allegiance to their faith, reflects on her husband’s work in training their sons:

A happy man was he, who lived out his life with good children, and did not have the grief of bereavement. While he was still with you, he taught you the law and the prophets. He read to you about Abel slain by Cain, and Isaac who was offered as a burnt offering, and of Joseph in prison.He told you of the zeal of Phineas, and he taught you about Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael in the fire. He praised Daniel in the den of the lions and blessed him. He reminded you of the scripture of Isaiah, which says, `Even though you go through the fire, the flame shall not consume you.' He sang to you songs of the psalmist David, who said, `Many are the afflictions of the righteous.' He recounted to you Solomon's proverb, `There is a tree of life for those who do his will.' He confirmed the saying of Ezekiel, `Shall these dry bones live?' For he did not forget to teach you the song that Moses taught, which says, `I kill and I make alive: this is your life and the length of your days.'" (4 Maccabees 18:9b-19)

Fathers, let us teach the Scriptures to and sing the Psalms with our families, leading them to trust in God that they might live and die faithfully. (Ephesians 6:4).

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Friday, March 11, 2011

Dragons, Stories and Your Children

I am enjoying Michael O’Brien’s book, A Landscape With Dragons: The Battle for Your Child's Mind. The opening portion provides a good description of the role of stories in moral formation, particularly distinguishing good and bad and facing the real fears of the world.

His overview of how Christianity shaped the patterns of older stories but this shaping influence has largely given way to the influence of paganism is very helpful for parents in thinking about books for their children. He argues that fear of “monsters” is not something to be ridiculed; rather, “It is a wise parent who recognizes the first awakenings of these mute dreads as the first buds of a spiritual faculty” (19). His own account of how his mother dealt with the fears of his childish fears is inspiring and instructive.

I have not completed the book, but his arguments thus far have much in common with those of C. S. Lewis (commented on previously here and here)

Here are a few more good quotes:
I want them to read plenty of stories in which there are dragons that act like dragons and meet a dragon’s end. (33)
Their interior life had need of the tales that inform them of their danger and instruct them at deep levels about the tactics of their enemy. It is good that our children fear dragons, for in the fearing, they can learn to overcome fear with courage. Dragons cannot be tamed, and it is fatal to enter into dialogue with them. The old stories have taught our children this. (33)
The imagination must be fed good food, or it will become the haunt of monsters. (33)

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