It was the only thing on our summer bucket-list that actually required a bucket, and it started on the banks of the Sugar Creek.
Well, actually it started at bedtime when we hovered around a tiny little chapter book series called “The Sugar Creek Gang.” Originally published in 1940, this little gang of young boys adventure and learn together about life and faith. In one adventure the narrator described a meal they cooked in the ground.
As I read aloud to my boys I thought, “Wow. That is strangely primitive. I wonder if it works.”
They had dug a hole on the beach, lined it with rocks, lit a fire in the hole to heat the rocks, laid foil packages of fish and potatoes on the rocks, covered it with green leaves and sand, then went hiking. When they returned their meal was cooked and devoured by the boys of the Sugar Creek Gang.
My boys were enthralled with the idea of pulling food out of a hole in the ground, and I knew I’d better figure out how to cook a meal in the ground or waste an opportunity to be present with the boys while bringing the story to life.
One Saturday, we drug buckets and shovels into the back yard. My preschooler commenced the groundbreaking with his plastic sand shovel while I used the real one. Two hours later we dropped foil pouches of fish and veggies in our little cooking pit. I had serious doubts about whether it would work so I checked the pantry for mac-n-cheese, just in case. But three hours later we unearthed tender fish and veggies from the manliest crock pot in the world.
As I put away all the toys and tools, I was glad we’d made the time to turn a vicarious adventure into a backyard reality.
You don’t have to dig a manly crockpot in your yard, but summer is a great time to connect the dots between reading and real life. And if there’s any book we’d love to bring to life for our boys, it’s the Bible. While it doesn’t require digging a manly crock pot, we can bring the Bible to life for our boys in a similar way.
Visit a Lake
Many stories in the gospels happen in and around a lake. If you have the opportunity to visit a lake, you can prompt your boys to imagine, or even reenact, stories from the gospels. Imagine Jesus teaching from a boat as the disciples shake sand out of their sandals and the gulls swoop in to steal their fresh catch (Luke 5:1-11).
Work the Garden
A morning in the garden yields teachable moments to talk about the parable of the four soils, the danger of weeds, and even the life inside a seed (Matthew 13:1-9).
Relish the Rain
During a summer thunderstorm ask your boys to imagine the disciples on a boat as it fills with rain and waves (Matthew 8:23-27). They’ll be captivated by the frightening prospect of the storm, the sinking boat, and the great hero Jesus who rescues them all (in more ways than one!)
Try cooking fish and bread (we’ve used refrigerator biscuits and crescents) over campfire coals, and you’ll discover Jesus and his disciples were likely more skilled than 21st century campers. Reading about Jesus cooking breakfast over a fire will give your boys a new appreciation for Jesus’ humanity while the miraculous catch of fish in the same story will point to his divinity (John 21:1-14).
As you consider all the ways you’ll be present with your boys this summer, grab your Bible or the children’s Bible. Survey your surroundings. How can your family, house, yard, community, or summer adventures connect biblical history to your present reality? Connecting the two will bring the Bible to life in the minds and hearts of your boys.
Shauna Letellier is mom to three boys born in less than three years. She enjoys writing fresh retellings of familiar Bible stories. Her first book Remarkable Faith: When Jesus Marveled at Faith in Unremarkable People (affiliate link) releases in July. Connect with her on Facebook, Instagram or at her blog shaunaletellier.com.
Resources: Other books to read and interact with (affiliate links)
The Wild Man, by Zeke Pipher. A fable for boys (and men) of all ages.
The Sugar Creek Gang: The Lost Camper An oldie. Read for yourself how the gang cooked in the ground. (As usual, the books are better than the videos)
Cora Cooks Pancit, by Dorina Gilmore An ethnic cooking adventure for kids.
Cook-a-Doodle-Doo, by Janet Stevens: Boys will love the pot-bellied pig, whose job is “the taster.”