It delights me to think that my daughter will be spending time with her attention focused on Sally Lloyd-Jones’ book, Thoughts To Make Your Heart Sing. Why? I’ll tell you why. I’m getting ready to tell you why in just a minute. First, there needs to be a dramatic barrier to overcome. Sally Lloyd-Jones has been impacting my family through her wonderful writing for quite a while now. We are big fans. But I was not so sure at first.
<Cue scary music and archival footage in black and white of people looking serious, concerned, and even yet still more seriouser and concerneder.>
I was skeptical about The Jesus Storybook Bible before I read it, even after hearing so many people I respected were using and loving it. My skepticism had two branches, like a double-branched tree (which isn’t that many, really). One concern was that I had seen so many Children’s Bible storybooks distort, or even dramatically subvert, the primary messages of the Bible. I’ve seen kids trained into deeper and deeper self-reliance and Moralism, believing that if they would just, “be brave like Daniel,” or “fight the giants in their life like David,” or (horribly) “not lie and deceive like Jacob,” then they will be heroes of the faith. This trains kids to embrace a “do, do, do, so” religion, when Christianity is a “done” religion. The work is done by Christ, who is the climax of the Bible, the hero of the story, and the happy, holy center of all this Book has for the people of God. Most “Children’s Bibles” I had seen did more than fail our side on this crucial front, they actually seemed to me to fight for the other side.
No! <Cut to footage of a pale, skinny, balding man of 35 years on a windswept knoll shaking his pathetic fist at some vague, unseen evil.>
The other concern I had was centered on my belief that kids, even young kids, can (with careful guidance) listen to and enjoy the actual Bible. I feared that this might be another “Children’s Bible” that would make them feel more detached and untrained to hear the Word of God, by fostering immaturity and disconnection. I worried it would be a barrier to Bible study.
I was wrong on both scores. The Jesus Storybook Bible is an antidote to the pervasive problem of Moralistic Children’s Bibles. God is the hero; he is the center, helping people who are not capable of rescuing themselves. it’s the Gospel in bold –in fact in brilliant color– with memorable words and a friendly tone. It is faithful to the Bible’s main messages, and especially respectful of children. It’s also something that I believe will enhance more in-depth Bible study, because children will be inoculated to a large degree against some of the primary problems we automatically bring to studying Scripture. One of these primary problems is not seeing the Bible as a comprehensive, coherent story, even throughout all the widely varying literary genres, time-periods, and cultures. I would describe The Jesus Storybook Bible as an ally to studying the Bible, not an alternative, or a competitor. My own kids love both, and see a happy harmony there.
I got to know Sally a few years ago – she has a gifted writer’s skills, a zealous artist’s focus, and a sincere heart for kids. I’m delighted to call her a friend (and believe me, I’m looking for ways to work the phrase “my friend, Sally” into every conversation, even the ones about football) of our family. But she is more than just a brilliant someone we know, but someone who has helped us to know more deeply the one who loves us most.
I believe Sally is a gift to the Church. She has a simple message, and a lovely way of saying it. Her books are beautiful, attractive for children in style and language, and expressive of the deepest truths every child (and adult) needs to own. They are faithful to the Gospel and helpful to families.
Here at Story Warren, we get very excited when we feel like we have an ally in fostering holy imagination in kids. We are delighted that Sally is on our side.
I commend Thoughts To Make Your Heart Sing to you. I’ve had a good look at the new book, and it’s lovely. The artwork by Jago is wonderful, the perfect complement to Sally’s words.
Like I said, it delights me deeply to know that my daughter will be nestled in some comfy corner of our house with this book. Gina and I are happy to know that in this book she’ll be dealing, not with a confusing barrage of competing and compelling descriptors of her identity, but with the perspective of what God thinks of her. If Sally spent all her life in just helping to shape my daughter’s perspective in a way that reflects the goodness, truth, and beauty of God’s love, then I call that worth it.
What really blows me away is that I have three other kids. And there are millions more who will be shaped by this book.
This is very good. Add my heart to the chorus.