Tag Archives: Bible

Teaching the Bible story

While I want my children to desire to know God and connect with people on a heart level, I also feel it is crucial for them to have a solid, textually-based knowledge of His Word, the Bible. Even though our morning routine looks slightly different from year to year, it always includes some form of Bible study or learning. In the past, it has been as random as opening the Bible to read a few verses together, to something more systematic like a reading and study of a particular book. One year we covered the Gospel of Luke, another the epistle of James, or enjoyed random readings from Psalms and Proverbs using our Bible verse box. The box is still hanging around on an end table in our basement, but it hasn’t been used in awhile.

This year I have accepted the encouragement from Sonya Shafer from Simply Charlotte Mason to keep key verses written on notecards and file them in an index box. We use no methodology for memorization. I simply read the verse each morning and my kids say it along with me as they become familiar with it. There is no pressure to memorize quickly. Some familiar verses we have learned pat in 2-3 days. Others, less familiar or lengthier passages, have taken us a couple of weeks or so. Sonya Shafer has an easy system of reviewing old verses so nothing is lost over time. Look here for her easy to implement Bible memory verse system. Oh, and if you are tempted to to shorten the length of Scriptures for the younger ones, refrain! The six-year-old, with his agile memory,  is our leader in this. G usually keeps us on track when we forget a phrase or mix up translations. (The King James version was the go-to translation when I was younger.) Regardless of how well we have memorized the text, I feel good that they are hearing beautiful words, words that they can hold on to for life.

I have also been searching for a way to teach my guys the Bible in a ‘big picture” format. I want them to see the overarching story line through history, to see the Bible as a cohesive text as well as a collection of histories, poems, letters written in their own contexts. I want my boys to see how they also fit into God’s story, and I think I have found one way to do that through Bible book summary cards. This group has Bible study curriculum for both a homeschool or home use setting, as well as a classroom setting. The cards are colorful 8.5″ x 11″ sturdy stock cards with graphic and mnemonic devices to help you and your child learn (and remember!) the main focus, doctrinal points, or narratives for each of the 66 books of the Old and New Testament. While they don’t take the place of reading the text itself, it is a wonderful way to give your child a thorough overview. Because there is a brief explanation on the back of each card, even those of us who can’t remember the main point of Haggai, can still learn and teach our kids. Some of the cards look like this.

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Hopefully, the skull and cross bones don’t distract from Bible learning. Come to think of it, I think we talked about Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones that day!

Can you guess which book this card represents?

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We are only a couple of minor prophets away from completing the Old Testament. I am amazed at how they have already connected with the story lines.

On the back of each card are five or six questions to help review. Each day we name the books already completed and I randomly choose a few for them to narrate back to me based on the pictures. We can’t do all of them every day; it would take too long! Then, we read and learn the next one. All in all, it takes us 15 minutes or so to say our memory verse, and learn our Bible book summary cards. In this way, my boys and I are able to start the day with God’s Word.

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Ode to the Sunday School Teacher

Unashamedly, I am still basking in the glow of my Prince Edward Island adventure. Upon returning home, I have read The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery for the first time, which incidentally, I purchased from the Site of the Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Cavendish Home. The paperback proudly bears the stamp.

And I have been re-reading The Story Girlsupposedly the author’s favorite of her novels.

Combine these readings with the fact that our church has been talking about our responsibility of reading for the sake of the community, and throw in the fact that I just completed Reading for the Common Good: How Books Help Our Churches and Neighborhoods Flourish by C. Christopher Smith, have been planning Bible home school curriculum for this next year for my boys, and the fact that I have substituted teaching in children’s Bible classes a few times at church this summer, and it is not difficult to see why a couple of these passages spoke sweetly to me.

Montgomery, who married the Presbyterian minister Ewen MacDonald, was a theological thinker in her own right. With a knack for describing hypocrisies and frivolous loyalties to tradition and prejudices, Montgomery often snuck in satirical statements through her most upright and judgmental of characters. Remember the proudly outspoken Mrs. Rachel Lynde? In a letter to Anne in college, she writes,

“I don’t believe any but fools enter the ministry nowadays….Such candidates as they have sent us, and such stuff as they preach! Half of it ain’t true, and what’s worse, it ain’t sound doctrine. The one we have now is the worst of the lot. He mostly takes a text and preaches about something else. And he says he doesn’t believe all the heathen will be eternally lost. The idea! If they won’t all the money we’ve been giving to Foreign Missions will be clean wasted, that’s what!”

~from Anne of the Island, chapter 5 “Letters from Home”

Now contrast Anne’s enthusiasm for the young and lovely minister’s wife, Mrs. Allan.

“I never knew before that religion was such a cheerful thing. I always thought it was kind of melancholy, but Mrs. Allan isn’t, and I’d like to be a Christian if I could be one like her.”

~Anne confiding to Marilla in Anne of Green Gables, p. 172

Wouldn’t we all want this to be said of us?

So, for those of you who are teaching a Sunday school class, who open the Bible in front of young minds and share words of truth and life, you are filling more than an hour’s void.

“The social life of juvenile Carlisle centered in the day and Sunday schools. We were especially interested in our Sunday School, for we were fortunate enough to be assigned to a teacher who made our lesson so interesting that we no longer regarded Sunday School attendance as a disagreeable weekly duty, but instead looked forward to it with pleasure, and tried to carry out our teacher’s gentle precepts- at least on Mondays and Tuesdays. I am afraid the remembrance grew a little dim on the rest of the week.”

~ from The Story Girl, p. 26

You are providing a vision of what it means to be part of a kingdom of grace and love. It is a great service in which the subjects are only coincidentally small. If nothing else, you are narrating a picture of God’s appealing beauty. May your story be consistently bewitching and inviting.

On their Behalf

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All written in the mid-twentieth century the following novels, although originally written in varying languages – English, French, and Serbo-Croatian, spanning three continents and even more countries – the United States, France, South Africa and Bosnia, share some important similarities.  The following novels would make terrible summer reading. They are not books with which to relax in the warm sun under the shade of your patio furniture in the backyard, or lightly skim as you dig your toes in the sand on your family vacation.  They are slow-moving, difficult, reflective books requiring readers to digest them slowly.  They are not feel-good reads for a light, breezy day.  Strange that I  find myself reflecting on them at this time of year? Not really.  Once my boys’ history and science, math and grammar are put away for the year, my mind is freer to explore my own thoughts.  And, apparently, this June that means death and priests, philosophy and apartheid.

The following are four novels to compare and contrast. They share some weighty themes and interesting literary emphases.

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Death Comes for the Archbishopop  by the American writer Willa Cather was originally published in 1927. It recounts the tale of two Catholic priests in the hills of New Mexico territory in 1851 who battle arid deserts, ancient customs and their own vices and loneliness.

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The Diary of a Country Priest was written by Georges Bernanos in 1937.  It is an ambitious novel with a seemingly unambitious plot.  A French priest finds himself caring for very mundane, prosaic parishioners in an ordinary French village.  These parishioners are mean gossipers, fault finders and antagonistic. The priest is confronted with the need to forgive and be forgiven, even as he knows he is dying.

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The South African classic Cry, the Beloved Country by the late Alan Paton did not immediately end apartheid when it was published in 1948, but it certainly spurred on the dialog which forged its path. Written primarily from the perspective of an aging Zulu pastor, this novel deals with race-relations, ethnicities, murder, forgiveness, healing and our human dignity before God.

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Published in 1966, in what was then known as Yugoslavia, Mesa Selimovic wrote his best known novel, Death and the Dervish.  It is unfortunate that the Bosnian writer is little known in the United States, as this book not only enlightens the reader to the region’s history and psychology, but also deals in relatable, contemporary themes. Throughout its pages a Moslem dervish from the  eighteenth century is in search of his brother who has been arrested by the Turkish authorities.  Enmeshed in their lies, he begins to question his own purpose and his place in society.

Each of these novels is deeply philosophical, spiritual, and fundamentally asks difficult questions about humanity’s purpose and direction. Each of them uniquely deals with social justice.

We shift our ground again when a black man does achieve something remarkable, and then feel deep pity for a man who is condemned to the loneliness of being remarkable, and decide that it is a Christian kindness not to let black men become remarkable. Thus even our God becomes a confused and inconsistent creature, giving gifts and denying them employment. Is it strange then that our civilization is riddled through and through with dilemma? The truth is that our civilization is not Christian; it is a tragic compound of great ideal and fearful practice, of high assurance and desperate anxiety, of loving charity and fearful clutching of possessions.

from Cry, the Beloved Country, p. 155

 

In each novel someone is intervening in someone else’s behalf. Father for a wayward son, a brother for an estranged brother.  The protagonist is a priest – or in one case a dervish – a spiritual leader who finds himself vulnerable and in need of being led.

Monks suffer for souls, our pain is on behalf of souls. This thought came to me yesterday evening and remained all night long beside my bed, a guardian angel.

from The Diary of a Country Priest, p. 28

Every one of these novels are political in varying degrees.  They do not feature characters inspiring coups, but quietly, desperately searching for a better, more peaceable life, free from foreign rule. 

In each novel there is a struggle with authority. There is a tension between races. There is a grave injustice and there is suffering. Death is a prominent theme in each novel, as well as forgiveness.

I’ve done something bad to him…I needed his friendship, like air, but I was ready to lose it because I couldn’t hide that lie from him. I wanted him to forgive me, but he did even more: he gave me still greater love…Most beautiful is that his love doesn’t even need to be earned. If I’d had to earn it I’d never have received it, or I’d have lost it long ago.

from Death and the Dervish, pp. 271-272

My death is here. A death like any other, and I shall enter into it with the feelings of a very commonplace, very ordinary man. It is even certain that I shall be no better at dying than I am at controlling my life. I shall be just as clumsy and awkward…Dear God, I give you all, willingly. But I don’t know how to give, I just let them take. The best is to remain quiet. Because though I may not know how to give, You know how to take…Yet I would have wished to be, once, just once, magnificently generous to You!

from The Diary of a Country Priest, pp. 279-280

Far away from large cities, these stories are rural, primarily set in villages, far removed from fast-paced, sophisticated worlds.  And so the pace of the novels are slow, sometimes plodding, thoughtful to the point that the plots are frequently moved along by the dialog.

These are novels inextricably tied to land or place, filled with beautiful imagery and lush language.

It was the Indian manner to vanish into the landscape, not to stand out against it. The Hopi villages that were set upon rock mesas were made to look like the rock on which they sat, were imperceptible at a distance.

from Death Comes for the Archbishop, p. 233

There is a lovely road that runs from Ixopo into the hills.  These hills are grass-covered and rolling, and they are lovely beyond any singing to it. The road climbs seven miles into them, to Carisbrooke…About you there is grass and bracken and you may hear the forlorn crying of the titihoya, one of the birds of the veld.

from Cry, the Beloved Country, p. 3

 

The geography and time period are characters themselves as significant and pivotal as any others in the novel. They are bound to the soil on which they tread, to the people and languages with which they speak. Bosnia, the American Southwest, bucolic France, and South Africa are more than mere backdrops. They imbue meaning and urgency to these stories. Although each novel is set in a different time period, there is an amazing timelessness in their themes.

These are all spiritual struggles. The Bible and the Koran are liberally referenced and quoted.

A beautiful word is like a tree, its roots are deep in the ground, its branches rise up to the sky.

~from Death and the Dervish, p. 310 quoting The Koran, Sura xiv, 24

On the day of  my death, when they carry my coffin,

do not think that I will feel pain for this world.

Do not cry and say: it is a great loss!

When milk sours, the loss is greater.

I shall not vanish when you see them lay me in the grave.

Do the sun and moon vanish when they set?

This seems like a death to you, but it is a birth…..

What grain does not sprout when it is put into the ground?

So why do you not believe in the grain of men?

~from Death and the Dervish, p. 12, quoted inexactly from several passages in The Koran

-I have ever thought that a Christian would be free from suffering, umfundisi. For our Lord suffered.  And I come to believe that he suffered, not to save us from suffering, but to teach us how to bear suffering. For he knew that there is not life without suffering.

Kumalo looked at his friend with joy. You are a preacher, he said.

His friend held out his rough calloused hands. Do I look like a preacher? he asked.

Kumalo laughed. I look at your heart, not your hands, he said. Thank you for your help, my friend.

from Cry, the Beloved Country, p. 227

 

Our protagonists seek and find their answers not simply in their own experiences, nor in the advice of their compatriots, but through the lens of spiritual truth and vision.

One might almost say that an apparition is human vision corrected by divine love. I do not see you as you really are, Joseph; I see you through my affection for you. The Miracles of the Church seem to me to rest not so much upon faces or voices or healing power coming suddenly near to us from afar off, but upon our perceptions being made finer, so that for a moment our eyes can see and our ears can hear what is there about us always.

~from Death Comes for the Archbishop, p. 50

 

 

New Year’s Ramblings

With this blog post I send out my best wishes for a happy 2016 to all reading this, and to all those who aren’t.  While New Year’s is a holiday which is apparently supposed to inspire us and rejuvenate us with the excitement of a fresh, new year, I often feel tired after the holiday season.  Christmas, while a lovely season, is also frenetic at times.  Once the shine  has dimmed from our new gifts, I often feel weary, heavy-laden with the drudgery of returning to a school/work schedule in the midst of winter.  This is even true this year when much of the country is experiencing the mildest winter weather in years.  Possibly  due to this winter blues, or possibly due to the fact that I tend to rebel against expectations, I have never really made any new year’s resolutions.  Usually, I reflect back on how I succeeded with daily Scripture reading.  Some years I commit to reading through the Bible chronologically, some years  I prefer to concentrate on specific books or themes.

Over the holidays my husband and I have enjoyed  cooking together more.  Being in the kitchen involved in more intricate, slow-food preparation has been a wonderful way for us to slow down and reconnect.  One recipe had us chopping up three and a half pounds of onions, and sautéing them slowly down with a pork shoulder into a thick, rich sauce.  The last couple of years I almost exclusively cooked with garlic, whether crushed, minced or in whole cloves, neglecting the onion.  The sweet richness of that slow-simmered sauce may have convinced me to bring back the onion to my kitchen in 2016.  You might say, I have resolved to do so.

While we continue to go through our own challenges, as I look back on 2015, I recognize so many blessings our family has enjoyed as well as so many things for which to be grateful.  However, I have hurt , as I am sure you have, this year as our family witnesses so many friends and loved ones enduring truly difficult times.  I long to be a follower of Christ who shares in the troubles of those around us.

Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you fulfill the law of Christ.

Galatians 6:2

I want to be reminded daily to see through eyes with better vision.  To be more focused, loving, prayerful, to seek out ways to serve and to have the wisdom to recognize when and how to do so.

Love must be sincere.  Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in love.  Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the LORD.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction faithful in prayer.  Share with the LORDS’s people who are in need.  Practice hospitality.

Romans 12:9-13

And in between the triviality of onions, and the weightiness of greater spiritual vision, there lies the desire to read more.  Have you seen the Pinterest photos of armchairs with shelves built in or cozy, airy nooks tucked away in sunlit-drenched rooms?  No, I don’t have access to those either.  But I have been inspired by Russia’s online live readings of Tolstoy’s War and Peace.  I don’t believe I have read it in its entirety since I was pregnant with my twelve year old.  The hefty volume sits on my bedside table.  I look forward to Pierre, Prince Andrej and Natasha, and even to Tolstoy’s philosophical view of history.  Please note the translation is by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.



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Reading through Story of the World,  volume 4 with my guys has reminded me of another Slavic thinker, Nikola Tesla.  While browsing through Half Price Books back a few days prior to Christmas, I ran in to this biography full of photographs and mini bios of his contemporaries.  You know Half Price Books, right?  That is the books shop chain where you save money because all their merchandise is so cheap, but somehow you invariably drop $50 to $60 each time you walk in?  I am about three chapters short of finishing Tesla: The Life and Times of an Electric Messiah by Nigel Cawthorne.  While the Serbian visionary’s work ethic and commitment to research is something beyond what I am capable of, it does provide me something to marvel at in the new year.

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Do you care to share any resolutions for the new year?  Or are there things you are continuing to work on?  I would love to hear from you.

Happy New Year to all of us!

FORTY-FOUR (or how Scripture can help my children)

IMG_3719His head was bent down and I could tell he was thinking because his eyelids fluttered a few seconds.  Someone had hurt his feelings, and he was trying to gain control of his emotions, and perhaps acquire a bit of understanding.  He had been wounded, and even worse, it was by one of his own.  A brother.

“I didn’t like when he told me that.”  He was playing with his fingers.  “That made me sad.”

Words not particularly profound, yet descriptive and emotionally mature from a five-year old.  His self-awareness impressed me.

I opened my mouth to comfort him, to impart words of solace, or at least empathy.  But once again, my little G spoke first.  Holding out four fingers horizontally toward me, he proffered a wan but encouraging smile.

“Forty-four, Mama.”

“Forty-four,”  I repeated smiling toward him, and I could tell he had already begun the process of healing.  In just two words he uttered greater wisdom than I would ever have given at that moment.

Well, let me explain.

For the last few years my boys have been attending a Tuesday morning gym class for homeschoolers in our area.  The gym teacher is a mom of three public school teens who developed this ministry for her church and community.  Not only does she lead a gym class weekly free of charge, but she infuses the lessons with biblical truth, friendship and Scripture memorization.  Each year she chooses a new theme verse.  In the past some themes have been “Fly like an eagle” from Isaiah 40:31, “Be still [and know that I am God] from Psalm 46:10, and “Apply your heart to instruction” from Proverbs 23:12.  At the close of each class, all the students gather together in a huddle with their hands in the middle and chant loudly the year’s theme as if it were a winning cheer.  It is cute, especially when the three to six-year olds participate.  And yet, watching G hold out his “four” I am aware of how powerful Scripture is even to the mind of a five-year old.  This year’s verse is “Rejoice in the LORD!”  Sometimes we have bad days, sometimes we do not do our best, but always there is a deep reason for rejoicing.  “Rejoice in the LORD!”  Philippians 4:4.

And there you have it.  Four, four.  Forty-four.

“Forty-four, Mama.”

The truth is this isn’t the first time G has made use of this nugget of truth, not the first time he has laid claim to this promise of treasure.  I have been reproved previously during a bad day, when I was displaying less patience and empathy than I should.  His short fingers in the shape of a four brought me right back to where I needed to be.

This, however, was the first time he had turned it on himself.  Applying Scripture to his own heart at five – I couldn’t be prouder.  Or more grateful.

Forty-four to each one of you.

Easter Sunday

Easter didn’t come with chocolates, jelly beans or an egg hunt for our family.  There was not ham or roast lamb for a big Sunday feast.  As much as I love family traditions, I just haven’t prioritized the organization it takes to pull it off for holidays and special events.  Without extended family nearby, and now that my first two boys are getting older, it just seems less of a priority.  Sometimes I allow it to make me feel a little frustrated, a little sad.

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Yet, when I reflect on our Easter weekend, I honestly don’t know how I could be disappointed.  The Midwest has been enjoying the first true signs of spring.  Trees are budding, I have seen daffodils, and the robins are plentiful .  The weather is mild, and for the most part, a light cardigan or long-sleeved t-shirt is all you need during the warmth of the day.

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My family has been out enjoying the graciousness of warmer weather for the last several days.  I can tell, because there are flakes of dried mud in my entry way where my boys have tromped in and out multiple times throughout the day.  The bicycles, scooters and skateboards  are all askew in the garage from their constant use (and apparently we need to work on training them to return to their proper place).  Although G opted for riding his scooter over an egg hunt, it has all been good, solid family time.

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Easter Sunday church services provided us with a reminder of the unbelievable nature of what we profess.  A man 2,000 years ago rose from a tightly sealed tomb, and we meet every week in his name.  We were encouraged to live boldly, bravely and pray for those in imminent physical danger.  My family was confronted with the miracle of resurrection, as well as the challenge of living out our faith even in the most potentially heinous of times.  A serious message for an eleven and (almost) thirteen-year-old.  I am thankful we were present.

As always, we read the Bible together as a family.  I am determined to find a way to practice this more regularly and meaningfully for my boys.  A gentle retelling of Christ’s death and a joyful narration of his resurrection helped us celebrate the weekend.  There is something special about Easter, but I am grateful  that every Sunday we have the opportunity to celebrate the fact that He still lives.

As I look back on our “uncelebrated” Easter,  I smile.  No, I hardly missed the jelly beans.  I hope I am correct in saying that my guys didn’t miss them either. Spring, family time, encouragement in our church, and Bible reading.  It was all more than enough.

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Title Character

Adam.  Noah.  Job.  Abraham.  The ancients.  Isaiah.  Jeremiah.  Hosea.  Amos.  The prophets.  Joseph.  David.  Peter.  Paul.  Timothy.   The good guys.  Pharaoh.  Goliath.  Herod.  Pontius Pilate.  The bad guys.  The Bible is full of colorful figures, inspiring stories, tales of adventure, faith and didactic warnings.  Touted as heroes and lofty examples of goodness and godliness, I learned these old stories at the youngest of ages.  As some have no recollection of learning to read, I have no recollection of first hearing these foundational narratives, to the point that I remember at seven years old bragging to an aunt that I knew all the stories in the Bible.  As we were on the way to church she asked me whether or not I knew about Stephen.  She was teaching a children’s Sunday school class that morning on the first Christian martyr.  I stared for a moment, wondering if she were teasing.  Stephen was a modern name.  He sat behind me in class.  Was Jeff in the Bible, too?  His seat was in front of mine. Surely, there wasn’t a Stephen in the Bible?  Obviously, I hadn’t learned every story.  Still, I knew quite a few.  After all, I had parents and teachers who read to me faithfully.

In teaching our children, we point to these biblical figures with the intention of instruction.  We look to them to emphasize faith, kindness, forgiveness, obedience, and self-control, all the Christian virtues.  And yet, in doing this, we might be missing the point.  Missing the point of the entire Hebrew and Greek texts.  Because, just as in great novels or epic tales, there is a main hero or heroine, so through the pages of the Bible there is one main character, the driving force of every story, the purpose in each parable.  Each pericope can be distilled into a single word, the Word, God, the title character.

Perhaps he is explicitly in the forefront, given credit for his omniscience and providence as in the lives of Joseph, Daniel, and ultimately, Jesus.  Or maybe it is more implied and his name is not even mentioned as in the book of Esther.  Regardless, the story of the Bible is not a collection of tales featuring warriors, prophets, poets and kings, but rather the singular story of God.  Over the centuries, he has brought his finger down into the history of humanity, he speaks his word and his creation chooses to follow the story….or reject it.  Regardless, he is always the author and title character.

Even now, millennia after the cessation of written words of divine inspiration, I am living a portion of God’s story.  Although we may not be able to validate the existence of God-breathed words today, surely we continue to bear witness to God-breathed lives. Knowing we are a part of a greater story does not necessarily diminish the pain we may experience in this world, but if we strive to understand it properly, it can keep us focused on what is important.  Our life is not our own story.  It is God’s.  Just as he led former slaves through a dry sea, a runaway king across naturally hewn caves among the wild hills, just as he led a Jewish scholar to Caesar in Rome, so he leads me, and you.  On the written page, in modernity, for all time, he is the title character.

The Bible Verse Box

He pointed to the far corner of our upstairs loft, motioning to the bottom of the end table by the couch.

“Let’s get out the Bible verse box,” suggested my four-year-old.  We had already done some activities with Little Passports, read a leveled reader and sang a couple of nursery rhymes from his What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know.  Generally G is much more eager to re-enact epic superhero battles with me, than engage in my planned out activities.

Like any typical four-year-old, G’s proclivity to be guided into an organized lesson waxes and wanes.  Because he has already begun reading so well, simply through story time, I have allowed him to read on his own when he chooses.  And he chooses often at the most surprising of times.

Cereal boxes at breakfast.

Billboard advertisements on the freeway.

Random books from his shelf.

My private emails over my shoulder.

Sports results from the bottom of the t.v.

Some educators refer to this as environmental print.  G calls it “reading his words.”

On this day, however, he was focused, so I continued letting him choose the next activity.  And apparently he had several things on his mind, including the Bible verse box.

Our Bible verse box looks like this:DSC_0026

An old, cardboard box covered over in typing paper and decorated by a five and four year old A and S, has sat on top of select back issues of Appleseed and Cricket magazines for several years.  We originally created this and filled it with Bible verses on love, bearing with one another and patience, in those early first days of sibling rivalry.  What began as a way to infuse a bit of kindness and respect into my boys, has unwittingly become another way of encouraging literacy.  Add a colorful card stock backing and apparently we have an appealing way to include a little Bible in our family’s morning Together Time.

We don’t make use of this box regularly anymore, but occasionally G asks for it.  Instead of pulling out our Bibles for a lengthier read, A and S still like participating with G, choosing a purple or green-backed proverb, a yellow reminder from Ephesians.

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The Bible verse box also houses trading cards of the apostles and the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments. You can print them out here.  Unfortunately, they have started charging for them now.

If G is determined to read, I am happy he is reaching for these words of wisdom, even from an old, cardboard box.

Ancient Words

Do you have a favorite Bible verse?  If you do, chances are it may begin something like, “For God so loved the world…” or  ” I can do all things through him…”  Beautiful verses.  From the time I was relatively young, however, one of my favorite verses peculiarly has been Daniel 1:4.

Then the king ordered Ashpenaz…to bring…young men….showing aptitude…and qualified to serve in the king’s palace.  He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.

Could there be anything more thrilling than studying to mastery the language and philosophy of an old and exotic people?  It sounded so romantic…in the literary sense.  I had always aspired to be involved in something equally exciting one day.  Except, I already was.  I may not have ever deciphered Hiitite code or Babylonian writings (although that reminds me another trip to the Oriental Institute may be in order), but as a Christian and daily Bible reader, I pore over ancient Hebrew and Greek texts regularly.  Perhaps not in the original language, but I am certainly familiar with their texts, and have even memorized pivotal lines from their pages.  I know many of you are more studious than I in your Bible reading and spend substantial amounts of time absorbed in its message.  I do not take access to this knowledge for granted.

Our minister launched a theology reading group a few months back.  We have been reading a relatively academic book on our own and meet monthly to discuss it.  To paraphrase him, if our study of theology does not result in doxology, it is in vain.  In other words, our looking into scripture should not be strictly cerebral.  Application is imperative.  It should inform the way we live out our lives.  If you are interested, here is the book we are currently wrapping up.

In opening the Bible, somehow we are able to live in harmony with ancient texts.  We, in the post-modern world, are inextricably tied together with these ancient and holy words through threads of oral tradition and the rites of ancient mythologies.  Something from my ten-year-old self thrills with this privilege.

The forms of kingly annals, wisdom literature, psalms of ascent, biblical poetry and the like are not foreign to my contemporary sensibilities because at an early age I heard them repeated.  They were recited and memorized, not with cold, analytical study, but so that they would retain their original fervor from the time they were initially pronounced.  Here is my challenge as a parent – to create a biblically literate culture for my own children to grow up in.  Living out our faith somehow breathes life back into “obsolete” documents of the distant past, and imbues them with significance.  Because of this, the Hebrew (and Greek) scriptures, their poetry and ancient civilizations have never been completely foreign or irrelevant to me.

Holy words long preserved

For our walk in this world

They resound with God’s own heart

Oh, let the ancient words impart.

 

Words of life, words of Hope

Give us strength, help us cope

In this world, where e’er we roam

Ancient words will guide us home.

 

Ancient words ever true

Changing me, changing you

We have come with open hearts

Oh, let the ancient words impart.

 

Holy words of our Faith

Handed down to this age

Came to us through sacrifice

Oh, heed the faithful words of Christ

 

Holy words long preserved

For our walk in this world

They resound with God’s own heart

Oh, let the ancient words impart.

 

Ancient words ever true

Changing me, changing you

We have come with open hearts

Oh, let the ancient words impart.

– Michael W. Smith

The Village, The Family

Hillary Clinton has famously quoted a supposed African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.”  Some homeschool groups and others have jumped on this, adding their own twist, “I have seen the village.  We choose to homeschool.”  Both quotes irritate me.  The former because it seems to fly in the face of my understanding of how the Bible describes my personal responsibility to my family.  The latter because of its disrespectful, condemning tone and sentiment.  Our boys began their school-aged years in a public school setting, yet now we are in our second year of homeschooling, and it looks like we might be here awhile.  Do I look down on families opting for public education?  No.  We were there once.  By and large, it seemed a positive experience.  Currently, the homeschool option just seems the best fit for us.  While the Bible charges my husband and me to train our children in matters of faith,  (Deuteronomy 6) I seriously doubt it has any commandments regarding English grammar or multiplying fractions.  We have just decided to tackle these lessons around the kitchen table, as well.

And yet, this post is by no means intended to be about homeschooling vs. public education.  Instead, I want to reflect on who is raising our children, whether we homeschool, send them to public, private or charter schools.

Clinton wants us to look to the ” village,” except  we don’t have a village.  We have a family.  I am often amazed at God’s design for the church.  While our love for Christ is to be lived out in the mundaneness of daily routines, and in our compassion for others, we need a sense of community.  We need a comfortable and secure place to relax.  We need others looking out for our best interests.  We need a spiritual family full of love, care and positive examples.  And He has provided one for us.  One we very much depend on.

We do not necessarily need others teaching our children manners, morals, or even Bible stories.  Our responsibility as parents is clearly written in scripture.

Never forget these commands that I am giving you today.  Teach them to your children.  Repeat them when you are at home and when you are away, when you are resting and when you are working…Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates.”Deuteronomy 6:6-7,9

However, for my children there is great value in someone they know and respect reiterating the same values and ideals that mom and dad try to teach them.  There is value in pointing someone to Jesus.  They need encouragement.  They miss grandparents being closer.  They need to be prodded and goaded and challenged.  They need to feel unconditional love and support.  It is particularly poignant if that encouragement comes from an unexpected source.  Not a call from the Bible class teacher, but a hug from a church elder.  Not a hello from a peer, but a high-five from one of the teens.

Unfortunately, there is no photo with this post, but I have a thousand in my mind’s eye: showing up unexpectedly for a baseball game, getting down on one knee to listen to the rambling of a toddler, an invitation to come over and play, an offer for babysitting, remembering a personal accomplishment.  You know who you are.  These are things a mom appreciates.

Who is raising A, S and G?  By the grace of God, my husband and I are.  And by the grace and love of some amazing people in his church, we are thankful for their help.  I honestly don’t know if it takes a village, but we do have a family working on it.