There’s nothing like reading a good book before bedtime, especially for kids. Too often, the busyness of life leaves parents feeling that we have not done enough of one thing or another. Reading with our children rectifies much of that that. I found that reading the “Dear God Series” (Liguori Publications) by Patti Maguire Armstrong with my boys to be an especially rewarding note to end the day.
Humor and adventure amid deep Catholic values, were presented in everyday situations. It is the everyday things such as dealing with unanswered prayers and the battle between ego, God, and serving others, that spiritual battles hinge on. And it is those early childhood lessons on good behavior that never really quite leave us even as adults.
I originally met Patti over the phone when she interviewed me to write an article about my family’s journey from fear faith. It was the beginning of a continuing friendship.
Not only has she shared our own family’s amazing journey, but also her children’s books touch on many of the issues we have struggled with. For instance, I once struggled with accepting my will over God’s will and questioned why God would not answer my prayers.
In Dear God, I Don’t Get It!, the oldest of three boys, Aaron Ajax is informed that his father who has lost his job, found a new one, but it requires a move from Montana to North Dakota. Why bother praying when you don’t even get what you ask for, he wondered.
Her subtle lessons on theological issues of redemptive suffering, aspiring to sainthood, and understanding that prayer is not about changing God’s will but rather discovering it are woven into a fun, exciting read.
A favorite part in the book was Aaron wanting to be a hero like the saints and totally misusing a situation to draw attention to himself. He was soon humbled into admitting wrongdoing but learned that by being virtuous we are partakers in the divine nature of saints.
The lesson comes across through Aaron setting up situations to appear as a hero only to have it fall apart. Then shortly thereafter, he becomes a situational hero—in the right place at the right time. Only later, when he sacrifices himself, risking loosing popularity, does he experience true heroism, which is the road to sainthood.
“Whoever exults himself shall be humbled and whoever humbles himself shall be exulted.” Mt 23:12. The story ends with a happy ending and the realization that a friendship with God means trusting him to give us the grace we need for the life he has planned for us.
My ten-year-old gained valuable insights through both books, but especially in Dear God, You Can’t Be Serious. The plot in this book is about the middle child, Luke. When he finds out he will be home schooled in the upcoming school year, his pessimistic attitude and acting out leads him into two troubling (and humorous) situations. It is a lesson in letting go and not trying to control things that are beyond our control.
Finding himself adrift on a boat, during summer vacation Luke instinctively draws on prayer and his faith but the lesson is lost later on. Not until he outwits himself and puts himself into an embarrassing trap, does he come to recognize how foolish pride can be.
As a father of three boys that range from 10 to 8 months, a perfectionist and control freak who has been sent an imperfect child in a situation he cannot control, and whose journey to full union with the Catholic Church is all wrapped up in redemptive suffering, Patti’s words in Dear God, You Can’t Be Serious hit a personal cord. You can’t control the situations you are in, but you can control the way you react to them, have a special place in my heart.
There is something for everyone in these heartwarming books. I highly recommend them for all ages.