Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Book Review: Keeping Your Kids on God's Side

Being the wife of a man devoted to Christian apologetics, I have some basic grammar of apologetics. By grammar I mean the building blocks that form any subject. I will not boast my foundation is strong enough to build upon it the many useful and brilliant arguments within apologetics, and for that I often feel a void. When do I experience that void the most? When my daughters bring forward questions in which apologetics will give them the best answer. Because we home school, those questions come often throughout our daily lessons. Sometimes I am equipped to answer with confidence, and other times, most often, I tell them to hold onto their question for Daddy at the dinner table.

Now, I greatly enjoy listening to my husband answer their questions over our meal, and I learn along with them, however a growing sense of urgency arises in my soul while listening.  I realize I need to answer their questions during the day. While I am not steeped in the arguments like Chad and there will be times where his expertise is needed, I must be able to give them at least an acceptable answer to their inquiry. I want to give my girls the example that defending the faith through apologetics is not just “Daddy’s ministry” or a “specialty area” for certain Christians who like “that sort of thing”. No, God makes it clear that all disciples of Christ are to defend the faith. This home schooling house wife, who loves classic literature and chai tea at the end of her day, is not exempt - for any reason.  I must more often lay down my Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte and pick up…who?

Over the years, when this conviction again arises with fervor, Chad has recommended many helpful titles, and I have attempted them. Oh, to have his photographic mind and natural development of logic! But I have to read, re-read, and repeat some paragraphs/chapters in truly brilliant books until it starts to form a little more of the foundation needed to build an apologetic structure. Admittedly, I do not make it through. Hello Jane. Let me brew some tea.

Amidst a recent struggle of inadequacy with the girl’s questions, Chad shared that Natasha Crain was sending him a book to review titled Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side (40 Questions to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith), would I like to review it for his blog? I don’t regularly peruse the web or join blogs. But Chad has encouraged me to go to Natasha’s blog often in the past couple years. Each time I stop by, I am challenge and encouraged. And now she has a book, with a title that embodies the hopes and prayers for our girls: to form their soul for Christ. Hello Natasha. Let me brew some tea.

First, allow me to share, Natasha’s warm and transparent writing in the introduction resonated with this reader. She is one of us! A parent rightly burdened with the overwhelming task of modeling, sharing, and teaching Christ to the next generation. And behind those sweet eyes staring back is the soul of my child. Your child. God’s child. In the fitting example of a man who desires to climb Mt. Everest and prepares himself to do so by performing a few jumping jacks, Natasha claims this also is the typical Christian parent’s preparation at the foot of their child’s developing faith. “Here is my call to action,” says Natasha, “We have to stop winging our Christian parenting and start getting in shape to prepare our kids for what’s ahead. Consider this book your personal trainer.” Okay. I have spent years warming up. Time to build some stamina.

Natasha has separated her book into 40 easy to manage chapters. Each chapter is titled in question form. Those questions are derived from “the 40 faith conversations parents most urgently need to have with their kids” and fall under one of five categories:

· Conversations About God

· Conversations About Truth and Worldviews

· Conversations About Jesus

· Conversations About the Bible

· Conversations About Science

You can see the Table of Contents here if you are interested in seeing the specific questions covered.

Every chapter begins with a practical example that puts the following information into its proper context and demonstrates the title question is applicable to daily Christian life and conversations. She then takes the realistic approach that while there are multiple sources one can go to in answering that question (and she lists them when necessary in the end notes) that what a parent really needs is (1) a good understanding of the question and (2) a few logical, easy to grasp evidential examples to get the conversation started. You can then go further with her resources as needed.

What I found most helpful was the concise summary of the question and examples found at the close of each chapter. Some chapters have a larger quantity of research or delve further into explaining the premises of an argument. These chapters could take more time for a parent to grasp and formulate an answer for their child on the appropriate level of development and understanding. The summary of each chapter is where I see myself turning to give my child the answer they need in that moment of conversation with questions I am not adequately ready to answer. I am grateful that Natasha included this short yet powerful tool.

Ultimately, Natasha offers her readers the opportunity to think hard and wrestle with some tough topics of faith for the parents. Her book is not one that you would read word for word to your child of a young age. That could certainly come along with your older children depending on their developmental level. No, this book is for the parent, to equip them to look at their own faith and allow God to work out some struggles in their soul in order to be of stronger faith for their children. Such questions as “Why would God command the genocide of the Canaanites?”, “Does the Bible support slavery?” and “Why do Christians have varying views on how and when God created the world?” resonate with the older, rather than the younger, soul. While the book has the end goal of addressing questions and creating conversations with your children, to engage them and the family in studying out these and many more exciting topics of Christianity, it starts with you. With me. The parents. We must own our faith.  Then, when the questions come, simple or complex, we are prepared to answer them with confidence and compassion.  We must become Christian case makers.

Natasha does not conclude the 40th question and send us to the Notes page. She looks into our homes and points out where we need help the most: in the daily routine of life. She is able to point this out because she is living it with us. The final section of her book, “10 Tips for Having Deeper Faith Conversations with Your Kids”, lays out a manageable and exciting plan to engage and grow families in their faith. Start with one, and work your family up to ten. The results, as Natasha states, is an investment in your children’s lives.

In conclusion, while going through Natasha's book and realizing with each chapter how often I will be returning to it while raising my daughters, I had a little vision, if you will, a sort of flash back to a flash forward. Natasha is not shy to state her daughters are strong willed. How well I know her words. A book on creative corrective discipline was gifted to me when my oldest was about three. By age four she despised that book; I had taken it off the shelf so many times. “Oh, I hate that book! I wish you did not have it! Put it back!” she would firmly state. She knew a creative correction was coming soon. I flash forward to her questions on God, the Bible, Jesus, Truth, Worldviews, and Science during our days of learning together. I see myself taking down Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side often. I hope to hear my daughter say, “Oh, I love that book! I am glad you have it. Open it up to my question.” Ah, a parent can only hope, pray…and be prepared.

Join me in using Natasha’s Crain’s Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side to build the necessary stamina in our children, and ourselves, to climb this mountain of faith. We will stumble together. We will make great strides together. We will see the view from the top, together.

Danielle Gross is a home school mom and Director of the Hagerstown, MD Classical Conversations Foundations and Essentials Community.

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