“Narnia. Narnia. Narnia, awake. Love. Think. Speak.”
These words grabbed my attention the first year I taught CS Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew to my 7th grade literature class; they still make my heart glad. I was reminded of the awe-inspiring truth of humanity being made in God’s image; we love, think, and speak because He did it first. Aslan’s call to his creation in Lewis’ classic story reminded me of the importance of living my life, even my ordinary, everyday life, as an image-bearer of the One who created the world, and of the good work I was given to shepherd the young people in my life to “Love. Think. Speak” as well. The great lion Aslan’s creational declaration only reinforced my love of words, conversations, stories, and poetry, and their importance in the world.
We learn that the words we speak are vital when we observe in Scripture God acting for and speaking to His people, as well as God commanding and teaching them (and us) how to speak thoughtfully and with love. Although one cannot miss the importance of words when reading the book of Proverbs, Luke 6:45 reminds us: “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
How do we love our children in such a way that helps them cultivate a good treasure in their hearts?
And once again, I am back to thinking about the children in my life. How do we love our children in such a way that helps them cultivate a good treasure and abundance in their hearts, so that the words they speak can mirror the God in whose image they were made? How do we slow down the influence of our culture’s onslaught of lies, slander, and greed in their lives, but at the same time help them delight in all the beauty and goodness in the world?
We give them words that matter. We speak and act with creativity and intentionality. We help them “Love. Think. Speak.”
Over the past month, as head of the theater department of the school where I teach, I have been working with our director and cast on our spring production of A.S. Peterson’s gut-wrenchingly beautiful adaptation of The Hiding Place. While telling the true story of Corrie ten Boom and the consequences of her family hiding Jews in their home, this play overflows with the beauty of words; the dialogue, the motifs, and the Bible verses are masterfully intertwined to make a beautiful story. The play is so strong, that even during our cast’s first stumbling read-through, I was in tears. In the past, we have staged productions such as an Agatha Christie mystery, a Shakespeare comedy, and an adaptation of a Jane Austen novel. I am picky in the scripts I choose, because I firmly believe that we must give our students good stories to tell and our communities good stories to watch. We do this so that everyone can add to the good treasure in their hearts, minds, and imaginations.
Words as equipment for life together
Marilyn Chandler McEntyre’s words from the book Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies also reminds me of how important it is for me, and everyone else shepherding and teaching children, to intentionally cultivate a culture that honors words. She writes in the book’s introduction “Why Worry about Words”:
Words are entrusted to us as equipment for life together, to help us survive, guide, and nourish one another. We need to take the metaphor of nourishment seriously in choosing what we “feed on” in our hearts, and in seeking to make our conversation with each other life-giving… in early English usage, conversation appears to have been a term that included and implied much more than it does now: to converse was to foster community, to commune with, to dwell in a place with others. Conversation was understood to be a life-sustaining practice.” (page 2)
As a parent, a church member, a teacher, an aunt, and a friend, I am called to the imaginative and intentional work of shepherding, in large and small ways, the hearts and minds of the children around me. And so are those who find themselves in communities with little ones, tweens, and teenagers running around. We need to make conversations with our children so that they can learn what it means to partake in the life-sustaining practice of using words that matter for the good of others.
But to converse with words that matter, they need to be given opportunities to add to the good treasure and to the abundance in their hearts. They need to be given a life of words so that they can “Love. Think. Speak” in God-honoring and people-loving ways. They need deep recesses in their souls from which to draw life-giving ideas and words.
I wish there was a 3-step formula to follow to get the perfect outcome. I know I wanted one when my girls were younger. But, looking back on my parenting years, I see there were many ways I planted good seeds. Some of these seeds included the following:
1 ~ Point them to Jesus.
Our children need Jesus. Disciple your child in the faith, planting the seeds of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus as their heart’s treasure.
2 ~ Read Scripture together.
Marvel at the stories of God acting throughout Biblical history; home in on the wisdom, delight in Jesus’s miracles and parables, and be formed by the truths together.
3 ~ Worship God and serve people together.
Make Sunday worship services a good priority, and make serving and fellowshipping together with others a part of your family culture.
4 ~ Read books out-loud to your children.
Even 10-minutes reading time after dinner can spark conversations and connections. (I could never keep book reading to 10 minutes!)
5 ~ Encourage lots of imaginative and outdoor play.
An overflowing dress up box and Playmobil bin can lead to a myriad of adventures that will do more good for your children then video games.
6 ~ Get outside together.
Take hikes. Swim in lakes. Have picnics. Delight in the beautiful world around you. And talk about it.
7 ~ Cultivate conversation around the dinner table.
When you gather together to eat supper, seek to enter into the goodness of the day by recounting all the things you are grateful for. Listen well to your children.
8 ~ Don’t be afraid to introduce—and enjoy together—classical music, poetry, symphonies, museums, and even Shakespeare plays.
Add to the treasure of goodness in your children’s hearts and minds by giving them opportunities to see and enjoy beauty, truth, and goodness. They don’t need more G-rated twaddle. They need richness. Just like they need fruits and vegetables to nourish their bodies, they need to welcome art, in its various forms, into their lives to nourish their souls.
It has been a delightful journey of filling my heart and the hearts of the children in my life with good treasures; sharing poetry and songs, good stories, thoughtful movies, and excellent plays, intertwined with laughter and good conversations has made for rich days. Learning to listen and pay attention to the children in my life has also been a gift; I love how they share their stories and cares with me. They keep my heart open to the world in front of me. As image-bearers, we can take hold of and enjoy all the beauty, truth, and goodness that God has created and we have cultivated; and, together, young and old alike as the Body of Christ, can honor God in how we love, think, and speak.
The featured image is courtesy of Julie Jablonski and used here with her gracious permission for Cultivating and The Cultivating Project.
Leslie Anne Bustard takes great joy in loving people and places, whether at church, around her kitchen table, in a classroom, or traveling around. She delights in words and the way poets and storytellers put them together, and marvels at the beauty found in the details of ordinary life. Reading, writing, teaching literature, baking, producing high school theater, and museum-ing are some of Leslie’s favorite things. Leslie is the host of The Square Halo, a podcast for Square Halo Books (https://www.squarehalobooks.com/podcasts) and is developing a book titled Wild Things and Castles in the Sky: A Guide to the Best Children’s Books. She and her husband Ned have been married for 30 years and live in a century-old row house in Lancaster City, where they raised their three daughters.