My neighbor lent me this book, saying, "I think you'll enjoy it."
And I have. With some success.
What is the radical idea Carrie Ward puts forth in Together: Growing Appetites for God? It is simple: read the Bible - the actual Bible - to your children. Her journey began when she realized she had never read the Bible cover to cover. (I haven't either.) Then a little voice whispered, "Do it with your kids."
I might have ignored that voice. She did not. Carrie's children were preschool age when she started, and they were just as wiggly and silly at the breakfast table as mine are.
"Our trip through the Bible began with me wondering what in the world I had undertaken. Could I do this without lots of pictures? Would they ever be able to listen, or at least be still - or even just be quiet?"Well, not really. They stayed children, but one day, after breakfast, they began acting out the story of Cain and Abel. They were listening, and it was a revelation,
" . . . each morning as they were smacking, squirming, and blurting, I knew they were also hearing. The were hearing the Word of God. This was what I wanted, because if I could read God's Word and they would hear it, God could use it to change their hearts. This was the encouragement I needed to keep going. And keep going we did."Five years later, they finished the first read-through. Her children asked if they could do it again, so they did. The second read-through took three years. Currently, they are on their third trip through the Bible.
I stand amazed. And intimidated. Even after reading Carrie's book, I can't quite imagine reading the Bible straight through with my boys. To that, she says this:
Reading the entire Bible is a goal, but it is not the goal.
The goal is knowing God.So, I took her idea, and made it my own. Nearly ten years ago, my maid of honor gave us a beautiful family Bible, which contains a list in the appendix titled, "Bible Stories to Read to Children." It is basically a checklist of Bible stories, and where to find them. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to (finally) use it. One day after school, I gathered the boys in the living room, and started reading the first story to them. About six lines in, I realized that the King James Version was not going to work for us. I might have given up, but thanks to Carrie's example and encouragement, I tried again. Eventually, we settled on the Common English Version. We also take a lot of breaks, and read at different times of the day.
The truth is, my boys are still boys. They don't sit quietly like they are in a church pew (who am I kidding, they don't sit quietly in the church pews either!) and sometimes they groan, "Uuuuggh! I don't want to do the Bible reading today!" When that happens, I say, "Okay. Maybe later." I don't want it to be a big forced deal. I don't want it to be dreadful. Sometimes we go days between readings.
Sometimes, though, they ask me for more. Sometimes, they ask me to read, and to keep reading. Big Guy closes his eyes and explains, "I'm making the pictures in my bwain." The 99th time Little Guy interrupts, he says something profound, "I know why God is telling them to save. So they can share later." Exactly! And as they are learning, I am, too. I am finding that often, I've only heard the shortened, Sunday School versions of certain Bible stories. With others, I've forgotten the details, and it is good to be reminded.
There is nothing wrong with reading Bible storybooks or devotional books to our children. We do that, too. But there is something special about going to the source. Yes, some stories are raw. (I stopped in the middle of a sentence one time and quickly changed the subject. My kids didn't even notice. We just started the next story the next day. No biggie.) But, even with an awkward pause or two, the unfiltered original version has definite value. The details are important. The language is beautiful. And the act of opening the Bible together is what family is all about.
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