Book Review: “Everyday Talk” by John A. Younts (2004)

“Talking Freely and Naturally about God with Your Children.”

I first came across this book while visiting a Midwestern church using it as a discussion springboard for their Sunday School class, and after reading it for myself, I would highly recommend other churches do the same. Everyday Talk provides a brief (151 pages) yet thorough description of how a parent’s everyday words will impact his children’s lives. Through our everyday talk, John Younts writes: “we teach them our worldview, our ethics, our theology, and our relationship with God” (7).

Perhaps what attracted me first to this book was the very first chapter titled, “Stupid Rain.” A common sentiment across the spectrum, most of us get mildly upset at circumstances beyond our control, and few of us have a filter which keeps these thoughts to ourselves. So what’s the harm in saying “Stupid rain” when a sudden downpour ruins our planned picnic? Either little ears thinking that weather is a mistake outside God’s control, or little ears subconsciously understanding that if God is really in control of the weather, we have a right to hate it and to tell Him so. This simple illustration immediately got me thinking about all the vain words I let slip throughout the day, whether in presence of my 3 and 4 year olds or not. My untamed tongue has become not simply a bad habit, but also a danger to the spiritual lives of my future children-turned-adults! This terrifying thought forced me to read on.

John A. Younts brings to light a great deal more about the words of a parent, focusing specifically on two Scriptural passages (though he also touches on so many more). Deuteronomy 6:4-9 set the foundation for his entire discussion, that as a parent, you must be willing and able to teach God’s Word “diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Proverbs 1:8-9 then implies that a parent should be fearless and confident in the power of his everyday talk: “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.” With these key passages in mind, Younts’ further chapters all make perfect sense to any parent wanting to have a more positive influence on his children’s lives.

Before I focus on two particular chapters that have had a great impact on my thinking, I’d like to mention one thought from Younts that has done the same. Though he touches on this thought several times throughout the book, Younts clearly defines it this way:

The purpose of the family is 1) to maintain and nourish the one-flesh relationship between husband and wife, and 2) to prepare children to leave the home of their parents and establish their own home. The family does not exist for itself. Genesis 2:24 teaches that the husband-wife relationship does not exist primarily for children. Children are only temporary residents. A husband and wife are to remain together after the children have left. Parents, note this well: God wants your children to leave home. They are to move on. Parents are the ones who stay put. (91)

What an elementary adjustment to the way most spouses approach family life! If parents actually paid attention to this note from Scripture, how vastly lower would be our statistics for Christian divorce!

Two chapters I really enjoyed in Everyday Talk were near the end of the book, Chapters 11 and 12. In Chapter 11, “Everyday Talk about Music,” Younts finally offers a counter-perspective to the ridiculous notions about music that I had always heard during my conservative upbringing (not necessarily from my parents, who used their brains, but from the churches and schools we related to). Music in and of itself is not godly or ungodly (thank you!), but rather a person’s heart and motives make the difference. In proving this point with Scripture, Younts takes his readers to Amos 5:21-24 and responding this way:

What music did God reject? The very psalms that He Himself had ordained for worship. This is profound! Pleasing God with music is first and foremost a matter of the heart. This passage ends the debate about which forms of music are good and which are bad. There is no question that the music in questions was of good origin. The music came from God. Yet Israel used this wonderful music for her own ends. So, instead of building a closer relationship with God, it became a tool of estrangement from Him. Music, then, is designed to enhance relationships. (129)

How reaffirming and pleasant this conclusion has been to my thinking! Throughout college, I was so sick of hearing holier-than-thou, can’t-think-for-myself ignoramuses call Steven Curtis Chapman, Casting Crowns, Third Day (or whichever other Christian artist was popular at the time) “worldly,” “un-Christian,” “carnal,” “fleshly,” “sinful,” “godless,” etc. Even today, I feel like I have to hide my “CCM” from friends of old, because someone has skewed their thinking that “contemporary” means “evil,” and that drumbeats are the footfalls of Lucifer’s army. Golly! [Soapbox ended]

In Chapter 12, “You Are on Display,” Younts then gets into a more specific discussion about husband-and-wife conversations and (surprisingly) swearing. I can’t name a single other Christian book than emphasizes swearing as much Everyday Talk, yet I was glad to see it! Euphemisms aside, I think that real, all-out cursing has become a more popular norm for Evangelical Christians, as if our freedoms in Christ provide us the right to ignore the dangerous fires of the tongue:

The world swears when it is ungrateful and angry at the way life unfolds. Anyone who thinks he deserves to have life unfold as he pleases is bound to be frustrated and discontent much of the time. People who don’t get their own way in life begin to feel resentful and sorry for themselves. Self-pity is a powerful, negative attitude that gives rise to many, many excuses for sin. People fall into Satan’s trap of giving themselves ‘permission’ to sin to compensate for the difficulties and trials they’ve had to bear. Self-pity is a direct rejection of God’s control. It is saying, ‘I don’t like what you’ve done in my life, and I absolutely will not be content! I can’t change it, so I’ll just be angry.’…Thus swearing is considered a justifiable response to unfair treatment. It is a way of letting others know that you have been wronged. This brand of self-pity is an ugly trait….The ‘put on’ response to swearing is gratitude (Ephesians 5:4). (140, 141)

Because anger is one of my greatest pitfalls, and because swearing sometimes rides that same violent wave, this particular passage hold special meaning for me. And as a result, it will continue to have a high impact on the little ears around me.

Throughout this book, Younts also shares a great deal of helpful discussion questions that bring the teachings and topics home on a personal level, not simply leaving them as a collection of good ideas and opinions. Occasionally, I found some questions that were inapplicable to me now as a parent of a 3 and 4 year old, but they’ll be useful soon enough. This then highlights another strength of Everyday Talk, that it is a book that demands to be re-read so as to give each parent a refresher course in the power of their everyday talk.

©2015 E.T.

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