The Coddling Trap

I wanted to share a  little insight into the problems frequently cited in young people today — their sense of entitlement and their  emotional incontinence. A few years back I was reading a book called, The Christmas Mouse (published in 1973) by a British author who used the pen name, Miss Read. It isn’t a children’s book, it is  a charming story set in an English village with some female characters (along with some children.)

In the course of the plot, one of the female characters, recently widowed, is home alone on Christmas Eve and has a run away child break into her pantry that stormy night. The boy was a foster child from a good family she knew down the road. What struck me reading the book was the response of Mrs. Barry to the hungry, crying child eating her pies in the pantry. The boy being fostered at the farm down the road was upset, because he felt the kids of the foster family had a better set of gifts than he received, and he felt left out not having his own family, so he ran away.

Initially, I found myself thinking, Oh, poor child!  So alone and sad on Christmas Eve without his own family!  But the response of Mrs. Barry set me back very quickly. Rather than emotionally surrounding the shivering boy with a blanket of emotional comfort and understanding, she proceeded to address the core problems. The core issues were that he was A) ungrateful for the warm, safe family home where he was living B) ungrateful for the wonderful family that had taken him in and their buying him gifts he otherwise would not have had C) That he had worried this good family by running away D) That he felt he had the right to break in to her home and steal her food, because he was unhappy.

In short, she rebuked his sense of entitlement and brought him to see, eventually, his wrongheadedness on every front. She let him warm by the fire, met his needs and then called his foster family.

This is the set of values that made Britain and the US strong.  In the West, we  long ago departed from this way of handling children. We are prone to coddle kids when there are core character issues that need addressing. The results are all around us.  Didn’t get what I deserve!You have ‘privilege’ and I don’t!, You have better stuff and it’s not fair!,   I’m entitled to what you have cause I have nothing!

Christian teachings – as found in the Bible – emphasize humility, gratitude and respect for others. When a culture at large ceases to value that and it is no longer taught in homes, you get the atrocious state of things we are now witnessing. I DEMAND this !, I DESERVE WHAT YOU HAVE! , I’M A VICTIM AND YOU OWE ME!I’m UNHAPPY AND YOU NEED TO FIX IT!

No loving,  responsible parent is going to ignore the emotional needs of their children. But there is a difference between idolizing happiness, as though anything that threatens happiness is the problem – in essence, allowing for the tyranny of emotions in a child’s life –  and making sure a child is not carrying unnecessary emotional burdens  I tell this to our young daughter  when she is very unhappy and very unhappy that she is unhappy. “Your happiness is not the most important thing. Obeying and doing the right thing comes first.  Sometimes we are sad, angry, and unhappy. That’s just how life works. But how we ultimately pick ourselves up and respond to it  is what matters.” That’s what I try to get across to my children (and myself!)

Something to remember is that the ongoing mindset of victimhood wars against acknowledging the GRACE in our lives and squelches gratitude. It kills it.

The Christmas Mouse is a wonderful little book by Miss Read, but I found something deeper there worth recognizing, I think.

(There are still copies of this book in some libraries, and there are used versions of this little book available online with a simple search. Sometimes it is combined with two other Christmas stories by Miss Read, all of which are a joy to read.)

Oh, the Books!

I still remember the scent when I opened the door to the children’s section at the library as a child. I say scent, because the collective smell of the books was beautiful to me. It evoked a sense of excitement—far off places, beloved characters in stories, biographies of interesting people, and so much more. I  remember the color of the green tile floors at old Finney, and to this day, if it were still there, I could tell you where my favorite authors were. That was my first library, and it has pride of place in my memory.

In fifth grade, I developed an obsession with the Presidency of John F. Kennedy. I think I read every book on the subject at Finney, even making my way to the adult section when the limited number ran out in the children’s. I could have told you a great deal about the man, the President and his assassination, in detail, at the time.  (My mother’s copy of, Death of a President is what got me started!)

My second library was the Wauwatosa Public Library, a beautiful place long before the redesign and building project in the late 1980’s. The children’s section was (and the new one still is) huge compared to Finney. When I first saw it, I felt like I had entered a book lover’s paradise. I carried home stacks of books every week. It was a  world of enchantment and fascination in my arms.  I learned so much about the world from books.  Much more than just sitting in classrooms.

It has been a joy to watch the love affair with the library continue in some of my own children. Some, not all. But our youngest, Emily, loves to read, and already has her favorite authors at the library. I offer up suggestions as we walk through. Some she likes, some she does not. I think some of the books haven’t caught her imagination yet, because she isn’t old enough for some of them. Some books, I don’t recommend to her. There is a great deal of paranormal, bizarre and unacceptable material in the library, especially now. Parents have to be the filter for children. Just as we guard our children from toxins of various kinds physically, we guard our kids from toxic materials for their minds and souls. If it isn’t honest, if it isn’t true and tells lies about the world and parents, etc., if it doesn’t celebrate the good, than it isn’t welcome.

A lot of the children’s authors I loved are no longer found, sadly. New authors come up and the old classics we knew and loved disappear. I looked in vain today for a couple of authors I remembered, but they were not there. I bought up an entire series online of used girls’ books, the Beanie Malone series, that I loved so much. They were written in the 50’s, but I enjoyed them in the 70’s and 80’s. Girls today would not find them interesting at all maybe, but I loved the whole Malone family as the stories followed the motherless family through adulthood. There were a lot of fantastic values conveyed with the hard-working Malones. The author had a real gift for conveying common moral dilemmas and misadventures of American kids in a family. Great lessons were learned by reading the books.

Today, I snapped a photo of Emily who was waiting for me to find my own books. I ended up with a few Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries and a 2016 release called, The Word Detective: Searching for the Meaning of It All at the Oxford English Dictionary. It’s a memoir by John Simpson, and if you think that’s boring, you’re very wrong. I’m already sucked into it.

The digital age has much to recommend it as far as communication and knowledge. But the thought of books, the kind you can hold in your hands and put on shelves, disappearing is a terrible thing. Emily has not yet been allowed into the digital world yet. She’s busy getting an appreciation for words on the page without digital distraction. It’s my strong view that children need to achieve an attention span and not have their brains rewired before they’ve even fully developed.

Emily and I have a  read aloud time. She sits in her smaller rocker next to mine and we read a chapter from our current book. It’s a special time for us, beyond just the reading of a story. She also has learned to love audio books on CD for when I can’t read to her. When summer days get long, those give her something fun to do to keep her mind and imagination busy.

There are no guarantees your children will love what you love. But as a parent, you can just set the table, so to speak, and let them sample good things that you lay out. Hopefully, the taste for good books will catch on! It looks like Emily is on her way.

Treasure Box at My Door

I am perpetually amazed at the way God works. The last two posts on this blog addressed just one problem of many in today’s churches.  Yes, the tone was negative and comments underscored the grief experienced by many where the lack of love in Christian churches, often starting at the pastoral level,  has had a tragic effect.

I found a large box on my porch the other morning. It was heavy.  Seeing it was sent to me, and not expecting any deliveries, I was curious.  Well, friends, it was a box of treasures—treasures so rich that I am still taking out the gems and admiring their facets.

It was a box of books, just the latest of many sent to me over the years from a long time friend who has an eye for literary riches of a spiritual nature. Occasionally, she sends them on to me. The books inside the box deserve a much longer post, because the story surrounding them is long. and each one is special. But because we had just been discussing pastors and churches here at the Hope Blog, and in a decidedly discouraging way,  one of the book treasures in that box is the topic here today.

I was at a church recently, the one I referenced in my first post on churches and looked down at the hymnal during the singing. The name underneath the hymn, the composer of the hymn tune, was William Henry Havergal. I smiled inwardly. His daughter Frances Ridley Havergal is the author of many familiar hymns still sung in hymn-using churches today. (Take My Life, and Let It Be, Like a River Glorious, and I Am Trusting Thee Lord Jesus are just three I will mention.) Her father was a great musician and also  wrote many hymn tunes familiar to hymn lovers.

William Havergal is the subject of one of the books in the box. I will write more on these new paperback books, freshly available, in a moment.

Here’s a little description of William Henry Havergal, an English pastor of the 19th Century.

William Henry Havergal (whose youngest child, Frances Ridley Havergal, is more known today) was a wonderfully gifted musician, both as a performer and as a composer, but he declined the offer of a music professorship at Oxford to enter pastoral ministry. Over nearly  five decades, his sermons, home visits, care of his flock, diligent ministry, was a “heart work,” bringing many to true faith in Christ and building up believers. His extant sermons (so few now remaining among the more than 2,500 briefly listed in his handwritten book, listing only the date, location, and Scripture text for the sermons he preached from 1816 to 1869) are gold, similar in valuable edification to Spurgeon, Ryle, Lloyd-Jones. The same as his written works, his life was a true example of the believer, and he could say like Paul, “be ye followers of me even as I also am of Christ.” He so much loved his Saviour, and earnestly wanted and sought for others to know and love Him. He is summed up in the Latin phrase that he would write, “Laus Deo.” “Praise be to God.” The Lamb is all the glory in Emmanuel’s land. This collection has the four volumes of his Sermons (all that have been found, leaving us wanting more), his sterling account of “A Wise and Holy Child,” nearly all of his extant hymns and poems, and a brief glimpse at his music compositions; at the end is his daughter’s biography Records of the Life of the Rev. William Henry Havergal, with also others’ statements and articles about him. His life and works can be described by these two comments that he said about his sermon (quoted in his daughter’s biography): “A lady calling, expressing her thanks to him for his sweet and comforting sermon, he meekly answered, ‘The Lord make it profitable, and then take all the praise.’ Another thanking him said it was a precious sermon. ‘Nothing in itself,’ he said, ‘all nothing; but the Lord can make it precious, and may He do so.’ ” (Taken from a longer portion on the back of the book, Works by William Henry Havergal.

Here are a couple other significant things said about this minister of the Gospel.

“He advised, he admonished, he sympathized; and, to the utmost of his means, he aided those who stood in need of aid.   An throughout his ministry he was eminently “faithful.”  HE did not hesitate, though he well knew the cost, to battle manfully with the vices and frivolities of the day. None could hearken to his conversation and think it possible to serve God and mammon.”

And this.

“…As genial as he was gentlemanly, refined in his tastes, high-souled, and gifted, his own immediate home circle, relatives and numerous friends, were all perfectly devoted to him; and no one could possibly approach him, even in a casual way, without feeling the radiation of Christian light and warmth from his heart and beaming face, for to the core he was a true man:  true to God, and true to his fellow men: ( from Biographical  Sketch of W.H.H. by Andrew James Symington)

Someone who commented on one of my earlier posts asked about what a true pastor  would look like in action. I think in these two brief descriptions of William Henry Havergal, you find the basics.   He had sympathy, a radiation of Christian light and warmth to all he met, a true man, true to God and true to his fellow men, he helped those in need to the full extent of his ability. In short, a pastor. A shepherd.

So I picked up this very large volume that contains the surviving sermons and other writings  of Rev. Havergal. This brings us to the other thing so frequently lamented today – the state of the pulpits—the sermons or lack thereof. Within seconds of picking up the book, I was plunged into a world of detailed, solid Bible teaching. The early messages in the book went straight to the Old Testament and emphasized the importance of Christians reading these books in depth, something frequently rejected today in favor of the New Testament alone. The first sermon I read was on the Ark of the Covenant. I won’t go any farther, except to say that the sermon contains rich, rich teaching, the like of which is  very rarely heard today in an American evangelical church.

You enter a different world with Old Path preachers when you read or hear their sermons.  They were serious men of God, with hearts of love for the listener, who spoke the truth, and did not hold back when they needed to say unpopular things. They always, always exalted Christ and preached the pure word of God to whose in their care.

My treasure box is filled with so much, I am still taking in what arrived at my door. It came at a time when I needed the encouragement. Isn’t that like the Lord? Elijah was in the cave and needed food, and it was brought to him by the ravens. This box came to me on the wings of the US Mail, sent by God’s own kindly hand through his loving servant, my friend.  How wonderful it is that  God still meets our needs before we even ask.

If you would like to know what was in my treasure box, go to Amazon.com and type in the search window the following words exactly. “Havergal Chalkley Paperback”. Every one of these books contains wonderful things.  The book I have referenced above about William Henry Havergal is here at this link. It is a large book. Some of the books in this collection of books are for children, written by Frances Havergal, some contain music from Frances and her father, some are devotionals. Click on each book listed on Amazon  for a description. On page 2 of the listings, you will find the Five Royal Books. These are the very first Havergal books I ever encountered years ago when we were in South Carolina. They are devotionals. If you start with those, you can’t go wrong.

William Havergal was a shepherd long ago.  Thanks to the work of those committed to seeing this project through, these sermons, and the beautiful writings of Frances Ridley Havergal, his daughter, have been brought to life again. They are here for a reason. Those needing spiritual food, comfort and a glimpse of real teaching need look no farther than these books.  God can send food with the “ravens” in these times of great spiritual poverty.  I know, because he sent a box of good spiritual food  straight to my door. And now I can share it with you.

(You can see my markers in the book in the box. I’m already using my post-it notes for page reference!)

Dr. Leonard Sax: Parents Are Doing it Wrong

Credit: Leonard Sax

Sick of of tender little snowflake young adults who can’t manage their hurt feelings? Tired of basement-dwelling, launch failure kids, hands full of technology, but without motivation to work and sacrifice for long term goals? Tired of disrespect for authority of all kinds today and the lawless vulgarians on college campuses? Fed up with teachers being targeted by parents when they try to discipline feral students in their classrooms?

In a new book,  The Collapse of Parenting: How We Hurt our Kids when We Treat them Like Grown-Ups  (Basic Books), Dr. Leonard Sax puts his finger on the beginnings of all of this, the collapse of parenting in this country. Loss of any parental hierarchy with children is producing adults who are increasingly unprepared to face real life.

As a parent of six children, 5 of which are adults with one caboose of 6 years, I agree with Dr. Sax one hundred percent. As a babysitter of 16 many years ago, I watched as a young child sat in his booster chair at the table and made a fool of his dad. He didn’t want juicy in that cup, no, or that cup, noooooo! It had to be that cup with the smiley face. As the dad began pouring, the child decided he’d made a wrong choice and began pounding the table in rage. Daddy, utterly clueless, found yet another cup, which the child of 4 then hurled on the floor, juice and all.

I vowed in that moment that this was  not going to be my parental approach. Treating a child like a peer, asking rather than informing young children, is to send up a white flag of surrender to their whims. Good luck parents. You will need it to survive the carnage to come.

Sax’s  book is a desperately needed antidote to the toxic, child-centered advice being ladled out to young parents in advice columns and books today. Thanks, Dr. Sax, for pointing out what should be obvious. With the death of common sense in this country, it’s a clarion call back to sanity. Read an article on the book here.

Titles for Life

I once had a conversation with a prolific  author who told me that when he had a title for his next book, the rest of the book flowed from there. It is hard to find a suitable header for a blog post. I can imagine that authors of books, if they have any say at all in the matter, must have a significant challenge to title their books the right way.  You only get one shot at capturing the essence of what you’ve written and capturing the attention of the readers, and when you only have a few words to do it, it is hard.

When I was young, I had books on the shelves, and for whatever reason, the titles always interested me. Not always the books themselves, but the titles. For example, one book on my shelf was, To Survive We Must Be Clever. I liked the sound of that title and have remembered it numerous times in my life. The book is juvenile fiction by Gertrude Finney about the Aleuts of Alaska. I wasn’t much into survival tales as a young girl, but I liked the title and what it conveyed. In life we often have to be clever to survive. Another was Up a Road Slowly by Irene Hunt. I’ve thought of how that is a good way to describe life when we are unable to run the race and are forced to go up the road, slowly. A while back, I even titled a blog post, “Up a Hill Slowly”, when I remembered that book.  One of my all time favorites as a girl was Stand in the Wind and Eat Peanut Brittle.  That’s the story of how a young girl learns to face her fears. I first read that book in sixth grade, but I have never forgotten that title. When I’ve faced hard things, I have remembered that book and thought, “It’s time to stand in the wind with some peanut brittle.”

Through the years, the titles on adult novels have made me think more than once. There are plenty of inspired titles in the great literature of the Western canon, but some of my favorites are on lighter reading and old novels and mysteries I have collected. I remember some 20 years ago, I was in a very discouraging situation. Having prayed and Titleswatched for a positive change, I was convinced that a long held hope was dashed. Lying across my bed, I glanced up at my bookshelf laden with my dog eared old novels. One title jumped out at me immediately. This isn’t the End was the title. Funny thing was, it wasn’t the end! My dearest hope and prayer became a reality. I still see that book and have to smile.

I like some book titles just for the way the words sound or for a feeling they evoke. Martha Grimes’ mystery novels all have titles with the names of English pubs. Help the Poor Struggler is one of them. Staggering upstairs with a laundry basket I sometimes think, “Yes! Help the poor struggler!” Rumer Godden has some titles that are musical and lovely. An Episode of Sparrows or Black Narcissus, for example. Then there is Elizabeth Goudge and her books, The Scent of Water or  Towers in the Mist or A City of Bells and its exquisite sequel, Sister of the Angels.  Taylor Caldwell’s book, The Listener is another that evokes thought with just two words.  That’s all it takes really. Two or three words to stir curiosity about the contents or convey a certain mental picture.

Some book titles on my shelf are based on old sayings like, True by the Sun, a novel from the early part of the last century. There was an old saying back then that went, “What’s true by the lamp isn’t always true by the sun.” It wasn’t saying that truth changes, it was a warning that what looks good in the poor light of a lamp, isn’t always good in the bright light of the sun.  Another book title I like is The Patch of Blue, by Grace Livingston Hill. Inside the cover she placed this quote.  “It’s a gray day.” The old Scottsman replied, “Yes, but dinna ye see the patch o’ blue?” I remember that when I look out on a bleak day or find things to complain about.

It can be gray in our lives but what a difference it makes when somebody points out the window and says. “Look! There’s a patch of blue!”

patchofblue

Special Delivery!

A dear friend of mine and her mother in Des Moines sent a special box to Emily. These two put together a box of Beatrix Potter-related treasures. My friend Sherry and her mother (who is 90-years-young) knew exactly how to make a four-year-old girl happy! Sherry’s mother made little clothes for the characters, including little shoes and jacket for Peter Rabbit. I love the little skirts on the Flopsy Bunnies, who came holding their own carrots (with some pea pods as well.) Jemima Puddleduck and her ducklings arrived in their own nest which Emily found enchangint. Peter arrived in a watering can, and Emily knew just why Peter was in there! Naughty bunny for being in that garden. The little vintage mouse Emily decided is Hunca Munca from the Tale of Two Bad Mice. Also in the box was a book and CD of the Potter stories being read. I love audio readings of books for children, as it allows good use of their imaginations.

I’m so thankful for the loving people God has allowed to bless our lives and our children’s lives. The kindness and effort put into that lovely box of treasures means more than they can know. It promises to provide hours of imaginative fun for both Em and me. Knowing all the effort of loving hands that went into it makes it all extra special!

 

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For History Buffs…

KingDavidMaking good on my promise to make the Hope Blog more interesting, here are a couple of stories, completely unrelated, that I found this week. History lovers should enjoy both. The first is the internationally reported find this week of what archaeologists believe is King David’s palace. Of course, no such find is without dispute, but the dig is an interesting one. Here is the story, and here is the statement from the Israeli Antiquities Authority.

The second story is of much more recent history. Stories of unusual, compassionate behavior during the nightmarish years of World War II are always heartening to read. A book came out here in the U.S. last December, titled, A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of WWII. (The paperback edition is reportedly going to be released in November this year, in time for Christmas.) The author is Adam Makos with Larry Alexander.

Four days before Christmas 1943, a badly damaged American bomber struggled to fly over wartime Germany. At its controls was a 21-year-old pilot. Half his crew lay wounded or dead. It was their first mission. Suddenly, a sleek, dark shape pulled up on the bomber’s tail—a German Messerschmitt fighter. Worse, the German pilot was an ace, a man able to destroy the American bomber in the squeeze of a trigger. What happened next would defy imagination and later be called the most incredible encounter between enemies in World War II.

 

This is the true story of the two pilots whose lives collided in the skies that day—the American—2nd Lieutenant Charlie Brown, a former farm boy from West Virginia who came to captain a B-17—and the German—2nd Lieutenant Franz Stigler, a former airline pilot from Bavaria who sought to avoid fighting in World War II.

 

A Higher Call follows both Charlie and Franz’s harrowing missions. Charlie would face takeoffs in English fog over the flaming wreckage of his buddies’ planes, flak bursts so close they would light his cockpit, and packs of enemy fighters that would circle his plane like sharks. Franz would face sandstorms in the desert, a crash alone at sea, and the spectacle of 1,000 bombers each with eleven guns, waiting for his attack.

 

Ultimately, Charlie and Franz would stare across the frozen skies at one another. What happened between them, the American 8th Air Force would later classify as “top secret.” It was an act that Franz could never mention or else face a firing squad. It was the encounter that would haunt both Charlie and Franz for forty years until, as old men, they would search for one another, a last mission that could change their lives forever.

 

There Has to Be Hope in the Story

englandA writer friend told me that publishers of fiction today don’t want much descriptive language. In today’s soul there is no time or patience for the poetic or anything that makes the reader slow down to reflect on beauty or really see the setting vividly. It an author can’t cut to the chase, forget it.

Much of today’s fiction reflects society. It’s coarse, violent, irreverent, and ironic. Gradually, libraries are putting the old fiction on the book sale tables and replacing it with the new vulgarity. There are some libraries in our system that I don’t bother to visit anymore. After realizing that the old books I have loved are gone or dwindling, I wander the aisles pulling book after unfamiliar book down, only to replace them on the shelf. The fly leaves say it all. Postmodern despair. I simply refuse to fill my mind with that. It isn’t the reality of sin and trouble in books that turns me off. It’s how the author handles the realities of life that matters. An author will either leave you with hope or despair, depending on their view of life and truth.

I find used books where I can as I’ve noted in other posts. There isn’t a lot of time for reading in my life, but in that I don’t watch much TV (unless it’s the odd special on PBS), reading is my favorite pastime. A couple of nights ago, I took down a book from my shelf by one of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Goudge. The book is The Scent of Water, published in 1963.

Reading before bed, I found myself again in the lanes of rural England where a middle-aged, single career woman travels to find the house left her by her elderly Aunt Mary. She has given up her life and job in London for a life in a small village.

The characters are immediately interesting. The former Oxford academic and now vicar in the village and his sister who lives with him are two of the compelling characters. I loved the vicar’s sister, Jean, best in this book. In many ways, I can identify with that sister. Also in the story are the blind writer and his wife who is resentful at the way her life has treated her. No character remains unchanged in this story, and this couple is no exception.

Two of my other favorite characters are the elderly retired military man, Colonel Tom Adams and his wife. Despite tragically losing three of their four sons in the war, these two are the picture of love and contentment, even with their straightened circumstances financially. One of my favorite paragraphs is when Tom’s wife shares a surprise with her husband as they sit in front of the small fire in their cottage.

“Tom,” she whispered, her face alight with the joy of divulging a secret she had been keeping for this moment, “there’s a fowl for lunch tomorrow, plucked and ready for me to cook. Gladys from the Vicarage brought it this morning while you were in the garden.”

Those words might not seem like much, but they describe the pleasure these two take from simple gifts like having a chicken to cook, the kindness of neighbors who help them with household chores they can no longer do, and the love of each other’s company. What happens with their remaining, troubled son makes up an important part of the story.

If you would like a beautiful, heartwarming story, The Scent of Water will give you delight. How mercy, goodness, forgiveness and hope overcome failure, shattered dreams and fear is the heart of this book. It is only one of the many treasures given to the book world by Goudge.

By contrast, I picked up a book on a library table that initially looked attractive. It shall remain unnamed. Published in 1949, the book was also about life in England between the world wars.

There was no hope in this book. Every character you began to like and champion ended up being a letdown. There was no moral center to the story, even when you thought that one was developing. Shallow, stupid, unloving people injured each other again and again. The book is a classic, and I really have to wonder why. There was nobody to like in the story, no redeeming qualities emerged, the characters got worse and worse. I threw the book aside.

Am I just looking for happy endings? Literary white bread and Miracle Whip? No. I love happy endings, but some books I have read have had a powerful message without them. It’s the worldview of the author that comes through, and for me, even in death, or sorrow or hurt, there has to be hope and there has to be love somewhere in the story.

Children’s Bedtime Reading Disappearing

According to an article yesterday in the UK’s DailyMail, declining attention spans in children are doing away with bedtime reading in some homes.

Technology is destroying the ability of children to concentrate for any length of time. This shouldn’t be a surprise to any of us. I sat in a doctor’s waiting room alone where the TV set had been left on. Some cartoon channel was on, top volume. There is no other way to describe it but as an aural and visual assault. The scene changes were so fast I do not know how any child could even keep up with the nonsense going on. Screaming, pounding music, bizarrely drawn cartoon characters. It looked like something Franz Kafka would have come up with for television.

Attention span? None required. That is not to mention the iPhone use, the tablets for tots, TV, the DVD’s and YouTube videos. Kids are pointing and clicking and touch-screening their way into a digital hell where no thought is allowed to linger for more than a second.

I despise what this is doing to children. According to several published studies, it is changing the actual wiring of their brains. How do you undo this damage once it occurs?

I was blessed to be raised with a mother who valued books. She read to us from the time we were small. There was no TV in the house when we were little. Any ability I have to concentrate was fostered in those early years of story time and discussion about what we had read. We didn’t read trash, either. The classic children’s stories beginning with books like The Little Engine that Could opened up not only language, but character concepts like perseverance, kindness, empathy, and so forth.

Reading to children has to begin early. Having watched all six of my children, two of which came from orphanages in Eastern Europe, I can say that if a child is not read to early, a window will close in their minds. Our daughter from a Romanian orphanage came as a toddler, and she loved nothing more than sitting in her jammies with her brother William, one on each side of me, as we read and read and read. The pictures stimulated her mind, and her new language, English, was developed through hearing it. I believe that reading time together each night helped her tremendously to adapt to English. She did so well that she learned to read at age 5 on the exact same track as our biological son, William.

It’s a commitment to read. Years later, I am reading to our little 3-year-old daughter the same classic children’s books all over again.. We are currently reading the series of Edith and Little Bear books. She adores these stories. Dare Wright, a photographer, took a doll and 2 stuffed bears and posed them doing all kinds of things, and then wrote stories around those beautiful black and white photos. Edith and Little Bear have all kinds of adventures. The stories teach forgiveness, consequences for not obeying, kindness and many other things in the context of the stories. Published in the late 50’s and early 60’s, they are great books for little ones! Many libraries still have them. I bought some used copies online in case they go out of print.

Some nights I am nearly too tired to read at all. But having Emmy’s sweet-scented head under my chin as she eagerly turns the page is such a precious time that I make every effort to do so.

Our Bible stories are the most important. Emily is learning foundational things about God. Her Aunt Marilyn gave her a Bible story book from Concordia Publishing with gorgeous illustrations. We are really just beginning the greatest story ever told, the story of God’s love for us. Reading time is also a teaching time. I can’t afford to miss that with our little girl.

I don’t intend to buy technology any time soon for Emily Frances. I don’t care about computer tablets and such for her. She will use technology fast enough. As Will said, the more advanced technology gets, the more user friendly and easier it becomes to learn. She will pick up what she needs later, just as William and Mary have done. For now, she is developing the priceless ability to think deeply. She needs to be able to appraise the worth of ideas. She needs an imagination. She needs internal quiet to grow emotionally and spiritually. Reading time each night, I believe, is a crucial part of making that happen.

“Read it to me, Mama!”

Emmy is only now becoming really interested in books. She’s nearing the age of 3, and with language development on track and with her growing mind full of questions, she is now able to follow a plot line as she scrutinizes every picture.

Last night after her teeth were brushed and her pj’s were on, I told her I had some books I wanted to show her. I went downstairs and found my hardbound copy of Velveteen Rabbit, Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses and a couple others.

She was waiting for me in our reading chair in my bedroom, blanket over her knees. “Whatcha got, Mama?” she asked eagerly when I came in the room.

One glimpse of the Velveteen Rabbit immediately drew her in. “Read it to me, Mama?” she asked.

She knew I would. We also started on page one of A Child’s Garden of Verses. The copy I have has the adorable, color illustrations by Gyo Fujikawa. (There are so many beautiful editions of this book with great illustrators that it’s hard to pick the one I love best, but Jessie Wilcox Smith is another one of my favorite illustrators, and not just for A  Child’s Garden of Verses!)

So we read Windy Nights, Bed in Summer, Whole Duty of Children, and At the Seaside. At this age, reading is sometimes slow going, as children have so many questions. I remember back with Charlie and Sammy on each side of me, and then years later, Will and Mary on each side that even a short book would take a long time to get through – why, what is that, what’s he gonna do, Mama? All of these questions need an answer when you’re 3!

The most popular book right now at our home is The Three Little Pigs, or as Emmy calls it, “The Big Red Wolf.” I’m not sure where the “red” came from, but she can’t read that one enough. She is outraged, every time, when the “big red wolf” huffs and puffs and blows the houses down. She spends time lamenting the ruined little houses and that naughty wolf’s destruction. I softened the story line somewhat so that the little pigs didn’t get eaten up. I figure there’s time enough for reality. But I did not go so far as one liberal version of the book from the library where the Big Bad Wolf ends up hopping out of the stew pot and running off, presumably to terrorize other little pigs down the road. (What a perfect example of liberal thinking. Let the murderous guy loose, don’t put an end to him. Let some other community deal with him! But I digress.)

I just tell Emily that the wolf falls into the hot and boiling pot and “that’s the end of him.” No elaboration is needed at this stage. It’s enough to satisfy the basic justice instincts in the heart of a 3-year-old. The Bad Wolf needed stopping, and he got stopped. (Children are basically conservatives…)

I want to tell you about a beautiful gift Emily received from Tom’s Aunt Marilyn. When Aunt Kris was here, she brought the most beautiful Bible story book I have yet seen. I had just been thinking about buying a new one, as the old edition of Egermeier’s Bible Stories from my own childhood has lost its cover, suffers from a cracked binding, and the illustrations are very faded. Kris brought this beautiful new book on her last visit, and I was so glad to receive it.

It’s called, The Story Bible, and it’s published by Concordia Publishing House. The illustrations are absolutely beautiful. I still remember the illustrations from childhood in Egermeier’s when they were new and vibrantly colored. I can still see Daniel in the Lion’s Den in his golden robe and the fierce looking lions whose mouths were closed by an angel.

I’m looking forward to many hours with Emily reading the Story of all stories, the account of God’s sovereign hand down through history, the story of His love.

There is no more happy place in this world for me than my reading chair with a child’s sweet smelling head under my chin, exploring the beautiful books of childhood. I have a dining room bookcase full of books that I hope Emily will love as much as I did!