We have been thinking about what kind of a summer gift we could give our readers and friends, and it occurred to us that we should be sharing more of our spiritual life.
Most parents know that, after all is said and done, we need as much help as we can get from as high a source as we can reach, and in that regard, parenting is truly a spiritual process. When we think of parenting and its challenges, Lincoln's words come to mind: "Sometimes I am driven to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I have no place else to go!"
For us, the ultimate goal is to raise kids who are more than family-centered, more than church-centered. The goal is to raise kids who are Christ-centered — to have a family that is primarily focused on following the teachings and the example of Christ. A great mentor of ours once told us of several families he had watched over the course of many years, some of which put their central focus on family, some of which tried to orient everything to church, and some of which, while acknowledging the importance of family and church, made the center of their lives their concentration on Christ and their personal relationships with the Savior. Over the years, he said, the families that remained united and strong and that had the best record of ongoing loyalty and love to each other were the Christ-centered families.
One of the most holy moments during the week occurs while we partake of the sacrament. Most members have certain things that they like to meditate about during the sacrament. Some find that reading hymns or scriptures that focus on the Savior are stimulating and inspiring. Others may concentrate on how to more effectively take upon themselves his name. One simple way we have used to help us focus our (and our kids') attention on Christ is to have a new and separate "facet" of Jesus' nature and personality to concentrate on each Sunday.
As you attend sacrament meeting with your family each week, we're sure that, like us, you urge your kids to "think about Jesus" while the sacrament is being passed. But what exactly do they think about? And if they think about the same thing, or have the same images and thoughts in their minds each week, is there a risk that it becomes routine or automatic, and they stop really thinking about and focusing their mental and emotional attention on the Lord?
With that concern in mind, we wrote a book many years ago called "What Manner of Man," which attempts to look at 48 separate and individual aspects of Christ and of his example. We were on our mission in London at the time, and more than anything, we wanted our missionaries, as well as our kids, to have a meaningful experience with the sacrament each week. We wrote the book for our missionaries and our children, hoping that having a fresh new "facet" or perspective of Christ to think about each week would keep the ordinance of the sacrament fresh and vital in their minds.
Since the mission, we have found that this approach of one facet per week allows parents and their children to be more specific and concentrated in their awareness of Christ and of his patterns for living. By thinking about one single characteristic on a Sunday, and talking about it, we can create an interest in one particular thing that can last through the week ahead. Then when the next Sunday comes, we shift our aim to another clear and defined quality of his life and teachings. As the year passes, more and more ideals for living are implanted into our kids' minds (and into our own).
So as a summer gift to all of our readers, we have now published the entire "What Manner of Man" book on the www.valuesparenting.com website. Simply click "What Manner of Man" under the Linda and Richard Eyre section on the left of the home page. Read the introductory material at your leisure, and then you might want to consider reading one section (one page) each Sunday with your family.
Enjoy the process, and think of it (at least partially) as another way to keep your family together — united and strong forever.
The Eyres are the founders of Joy Schools and of valuesparenting.com and the authors of numerous best-selling books on marriage, parenting and family. Their mission statement, developed while presiding over the England London South Mission, is "FORTIFY FAMILIES by celebrating commitment, popularizing parenting, bolstering balance and validating values."
The Eyre's next book is "The Entitlement Trap: How to Rescue Your Children With a New Family System of Choosing, Earning, and Ownership." For instructions on how to preorder "The Entitlement Trap" at a discount, go to www.valuesparenting.com.