Just Read the Bible (10 Things I’m Glad we did for our Kids, Part V)

I could write a long list of things I wish I’d done for our kids, but if I had to pick one thing I’m glad I did do, I would have no trouble choosing: I read to them from the Bible each morning.

Pekka Halonen, Children Reading

When our oldest was two, we got a little red toddler Bible, (The First Step Bible, Mack Thomas, Gold’n’Honey Books.)  It was the simplest, most pre-school friendly Bible story book I’ve ever found.  It’s falling apart now; but it’s still the first thing I read to any little visitor who comes over.

It was easy to read the Bible to our three boys during their early school years because we home-schooled them.  Before academic work started, we settled on the couch and I read to them from an NIV simplified to a third grade reading level, (NIV Kids’ Study Bible, Zonderkidz.) Sometimes I would have them retell the story to me, or act it out during a second reading.

Most people I knew who were homeschooling seemed to be teaching the Bible in the same way they taught academic subjects, with workbooks and lesson plans.   I recall asking a wise lady who home-schooled all five of her kids, what curriculum she used.  She answered, “I don’t use curriculum.  I just read them the Bible.  And after I read a passage, I ask them three questions, “Who is wise?”, “Who is foolish?” and, “What do you learn about God?”  That seemed a lot more appealing and sustainable.

When we stopped homeschooling after the primary years, and the boys went to grade school, finding time to read the Bible in the morning was a lot more challenging.  There was no peaceful time when everyone was together in the same room.  I ended up settling into a pattern of reading to them as they ate breakfast.  Sometimes this meant reading the same passage three different times, but we stuck with it.

It got even tougher when they became teenagers.  One liked to sleep in until the very last minute and grab something to eat on his way out the door.  Another was resistant to having to listen to anything in in the morning.  Another  just didn’t want to be told that he had to do anything at all.

My response to all their attitude was some version of, “This book is the story of how God saves people and how he wants us to live, so it’s really important to read it.  Either you read it yourself, or you listen to me read it”.  I didn’t require comment or discussion from them, and I kept commentary to a bare minimum.  I didn’t want to come in between them and their experience of Scripture.

I think this has been a good approach for teenagers.  I let the Bible speak for itself, and if their eyes were glazed and far away as I read, that was their business.  You can only lead the horse to water!

In high school, two of the three boys preferred to read by themselves in the morning, which is the habit I always hoped would form.  The other guy said, “You better keep reading it to me because I know if it’s up to me I won’t make time for it.”  So I read on.

Recently I asked one boy – the one who most resents being told what to do, if he thinks it has been good for him to have the Bible read to him for all these years.  After thinking a moment, he answered, “Yeah.  I think it kept me from doing a lot of stupid stuff.”

 

Unblocking our View of God (10 Ways to Spiritually Recharge, Part X)

When it comes to being aware that God is right here with us, most of us are blocked. Like a guy with foggy glasses, like a girl who has the radio cranked too loud to hear her GPS, there are some simple things we need to do before we can perceive what is so close.

This is the last in a series of ten posts that discuss things we can do on our own to let God into our heads and hearts. Any contact with God is renewing. So, in summary, here’s what we can do to spiritually recharge:

Elijah on Mt Horeb, by Sister Genevieve
  • Find beautiful quiet places to be alone undisturbed.
  • Give yourself time alone in silence, undistracted by noise and the demands of people.
  • Learn to meditate on true statements, repeating them while you breathe slowly and deeply.
  • Examine yourself and confess to God the ways you have harmed yourself and others.
  • Practice gratitude for what is in your life right here and now.
  • Develop faith by praying for healing of physical, emotional and relationship problems.
  • Surrender to God anything that is not good for you, or is taking the place of God in your life.
  • Build a habit of reading the Bible often.
  • Learn to study the Bible for yourself.

There’s a balance between spending time alone with God and experiencing God in community. Each needs the other, each feeds the other. People who want to seek God benefit greatly from worship services, service projects, Bible classes, prayer groups, retreats with spiritual directors. These are the things we tend to think of first when considering practicing a faith.

But following Christ is much more than practicing a religion. It is a relationship with the one who made us, saved us and loves us every moment of our lives. God really wants time alone with us. And whether we want it or not, we really need time with God.

Whether it’s once a week hiking in a forest, or every morning sitting in an armchair for fifteen minutes, our spirits can be continually renewed, like a fountain that never stops flowing. All we have to do is give God time and permission to work in us.