Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Every story whispers his name

Since my first son was very young Sally Lloyd-Jones' The Jesus Storybook Bible has been staple reading in our house. We've probably read it 60-70 times through. A potent dose of Tim Keller style gospel-centred Bible reading, translated for little people, illustrated by Jago and placed in the hands of parents as they pastor their children.
Cultural alarm bell! We're teaching our faith to our children!!! Are we indoctrinating them? Well, on one level - yes. Everyone is. You can try to keep your kids neutral but that's loaded with presuppositions and convictions and beliefs,... We've sought to thoughtfully teach our children the Christian faith, always welcoming and inviting questions from them. And it's remarkable how they can tell the difference between what's true and what's made up in life... they read our passions and our indifference, and more than that they read our lives with extreme scrutiny. Further, if you can permit a moment of faith, if my children can recognise their parents voice in even their earliest days of life, then if there's a Father in heaven, why shouldn't children discern and recognise his voice even more easily... Of course if it's not true then it's just a story, but isn't it strange firstly how much of an impact Jesus has made on this world, and secondly, how all the best stories seem to echo and imitate 'the true myth'...
Now, I don't hold us up as an ideal family for teaching our kids. We fail and our approach may have not been the best, nor necessarily replicable. Anyone offering a one size fits all approach to anything involving kids is probably on shaky ground.

Before putting the children to bed, we've tended to read some stories and then read the Bible, prayed and open up discussion to any questions, varying our approach and adapting our routine as the children have grown, and as seasons of life have changed - new siblings, illness, behavioural and bedtime challenges and other circumstances have meant many adjustments and corrections to our course.

The Jesus Storybook Bible has probably the most influential book in mine and my wife's faith over the past seven years. On many days, it has been the only book and the only Bible our exhausted bodies and minds could handle. Sweet sustenance in the parched desert of early parenting.

Stepping back a bit, I really think it is one of the best Christian books I've read and I'd recommend it to anyone, parent or not. I might quibble with interpretations in one or two places and I wish that some other moments had been included, but this book is consistently strong. Moreover, me-centred or simply muddled Bible reading is so very common, and this book offers a thoughtfully-clear, engaging and imagination-sparking roadmap. And when you're too tired to read, you can have David Suchet read it to you.

It's taught my eldest son to read the Bible looking for Jesus, affirmed his divinely designed desires that the story should have a happy ending, and challenged him about the state of his little heart.

He's an avid reader and we've recently given him an International Children's Bible (NCV), and he's lapping it up a chapter a day - through Genesis at the moment. Lloyd-Jones has given him landmarks on the vast landscape of the Biblical world, and as my boy discovers there are stories beyond, he's atuned to ask the same sort of questions, to make good connections, and to be drawn further in (and further up) into the story of Jesus,

His younger brothers still use theirs, along with other children's Bible for variety, but we don't turn to the Jesus Storybook Bible as often, at the moment, but I doubt it will gather dust for too long - it's a faithful friend who we'll want to spend time with again.

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