Category: Bible Stories (page 2 of 8)

The Easter Story | Katherine Sully

When people ask about having four kids and I hear that panicked pitch to their voice—that “how do you do it?” pitch—they mean “How do you keep track of them all without leaving someone at the grocery store” or “How do you live with the noise and four kids’ worth of pink laundry?” But those really aren’t the issue for me. Yes, I sometimes panic, thinking I’ve left someone back by the banana display, and I have quit—I can use “literal” here in the literal sense—I have literally quit folding laundry. (We all just sort it and stuff it in drawers.)

The biggest challenge I face on a daily basis, as a mom to kids aged 1-9 is the whiplash that comes from helping a thoughtful nine-year-old think through her problem and talk about it and maybe cry a little, and then wrestling a toddler into tights because she won’t leave her socks on. I emerge from that battle sweaty and victorious to find the four-year-old launching onto the bed belly first, but before I can remind her that belly flops are forbidden and suggest that perhaps her energy might be better spent outdoors, the seven-year-old comes to me sorrowful because her favorite character in her book has just died.

Whiplash.

The Easter Story, by Katherine Sully (review) | Little Book, Big Story

Meeting the needs of different daughters, remembering that the seven-year-old won’t see things the way the nine-year-old does and that there is no reasoning with a toddler—that is my challenge. This makes family reading a tricky affair, too, because I love the idea of us all cozied up around the same book, but it’s hard to choose a book that will satisfy everyone. Our school books and family read-alouds tend to favor the older girls, so lucky Phoebe gets folded up into whatever we’re reading with Lydia and Sarah. This is true for Easter books, too.

And that is good. When it comes to choosing read-alouds, I like to round up. But lately, I’ve been trying to find books that are just right for Phoebe. (Sandra Boynton’s books are always just right for Josie, so that doesn’t take much thought yet.) That is why we’ve begun reading Brambly Hedge together, and why I take a minute in the morning, with the towel still on my hair, to read Everything a Child Should Know About God to Phoebe.  I want her to hear, sometimes, things read just for her.

The Easter Story, by Katherine Sully (review) | Little Book, Big Story

And that brings me, at last, to Katherine Sully’s book The Easter Story. The story of Easter doesn’t lend itself to cute, cuddly picture books. It can be done—it has been done beautifully—but the story centers around crucifixion and violence, done not to the bad guy but to the hero, and that is hard to explain to young readers. But Sully recounts the story’s events simply and faithfully, as the lines of Simona Sanfilippo’s watercolor illustrations sweep across the pages—the figures seem to be in constant motion. Sully doesn’t offer much commentary, but just tells the story like it’s one worth listening to—like it’s one worth knowing well.

The Easter Story, by Katherine Sully (review) | Little Book, Big Story

The Easter Story is a simple, but not too simple, retelling of Jesus’s death and resurrection that draws young readers in, gives them much to ponder, and much to point to. For the few moments I spend reading this with Phoebe, I suffer no whiplash, but sit still with her. We are right where we need to be.


The Easter Story
Katherine Sully; Simona Sanfilippo (2014)

The World Jesus Knew | Marc Olson

Years ago, a friend invited us to Passover seder, a cozy one hosted by friends of his. This was early in our marriage, before kids, and we squeezed into this small apartment with our friend and a half-dozen strangers. We passed plates and glasses of wine and lounged, ancient Israelite-style, around the table on cushions.

The couple hosting led us through the Haggadah, and while the Hebrew was a mystery to me, lovely and impenetrable, the symbolism of each dish on the seder plate wasn’t: one by one, the readings illuminated them, showed us both how they remembered the Exodus and how they anticipated the Messiah who would come and fulfill each prophecy. And, they explained, he had come. He had fulfilled them all.

I had one of those moments, in my corner around the table, as I dipped parsley in salted water and touched it to my tongue, when the window was open and the tree outside stirred in the darkness and I thought, The Jewish people have observed this for centuries, remembering the Exodus. They have waited this long for the Messiah. And I thought, too, The Last Supper looked like this. As we broke bread and served wine, communion changed irrevocably for me as I realized that Jesus wasn’t instituting something new as he passed the cup to his disciples, but fulfilling something ancient—a promise made centuries before.

The World Jesus Knew, by Marc Olson | Little Book, Big Story

History became, in that moment, three-dimensional for me. I saw Jesus in this new context and understood that everything he did and said, the stories he told, carried particular meaning to the shepherds, priests, and prostitutes around him—meaning that is occasionally lost on me, given my unfamiliarity with sheep, mustard seeds, and the grape harvest. And yet: those words still carry enough fire to spark transformation in the heart of a new wife standing in a stairwell, watching friends open the door for the coming Elijah and rejoicing that he has already come.

This seems like a big lesson for kids to take in, but Marc Olson has written a book that takes some awfully long steps in that direction. The World Jesus Knew is a picture book filled with details about first century Jerusalem—what the Israelites and Romans wore, what they ate, how they interacted. A book like this could be dry or overwhelming, but this one isn’t: Jem Maybank’s illustrations arrange that information well, making it easy to follow and fun to explore, and Marc Olson describes these things with energy and wit.

The World Jesus Knew, by Marc Olson | Little Book, Big Story

I know I can’t fabricate those moments of realization for my kids, the ones that open history wide for them so they see that other people, other fascinating people, really lived in this world, though in very different ways than we do now. But I can do my best to give them opportunities to see it. Books like this help a great deal.


The World Jesus Knew
Marc Olson; Jem Maybank (2017)

Exploring the Bible | David Murray

Within one week of starting this reading plan with the girls, I wanted to review it for you. “Look!” I wanted to cry. “We found it! The One!” Our relationship with family devotionals has been tumultuous, and after my recent revelation that we had only made it four days into our last attempt, I had the sort of clarity one has when, while trying to eat raw onions on a sandwich, one realizes that one is an adult who neither likes nor has to eat raw onions.

Family devotionals aren’t working for us, I realized. And they don’t have to. We want to study God’s Word with our daughters; we want them to love it, to see the beauty and the brutality and the bottomlessness of it, and we want to them to love the One who wrote it. We need to find another way, I prayed. What does this look like for us?

Exploring the Bible: A Bible Reading Plan for Kids, by David Murray (review) | Little Book, Big Story

And then, behold! I ordered Exploring the Bible as a Christmas gift for Lydia, thinking it would be nice for her. But when I received it and flipped through its pages and began to see what it was about, I paused. I considered. I ordered two more copies. Lydia, Sarah, and I started working through it together and discussing it as part of our morning routine (while Phoebe colored Slugs & Bugs coloring pages and pondered the meaning of “atonement”).

A week later, Mitch asked me to get him a copy, too, and now we’re all studying through the Bible together, and it is glorious. I was ready to review it right then but I refrained, thinking it would be better if we were farther in, had given it time to stick, and could be sure that Exploring the Bible was as awesome months later as it was at the start.

Exploring the Bible: A Bible Reading Plan for Kids, by David Murray (review) | Little Book, Big Story

Months later: it is still awesome.

Here is what Exploring the Bible is:

It is a reading plan for kids. In one year, it takes readers through the entire story of the Bible by hopscotching from key passage to key passage. The point is not to read the entire Bible in a year, but to follow God’s Big Story through it in a series of short but central passages.

Here is how it works:

David Murray arranged the readings in a series of week-long expeditions: one week we spend with Noah, reviewing the big picture of his story within the context of the rest of Scripture, then the next week we spend with Abraham. Murray helps us find a focus for the week but is otherwise pretty hands-off. No guided discussions here, no personal application. I’m glad for that.

Exploring the Bible: A Bible Reading Plan for Kids, by David Murray (review) | Little Book, Big Story

Here is how it works for us:

Each day, our reading is about five verses long. Lydia, Mitch, and I do ours independently in the morning; Sarah does hers during our discussion. Later in the morning, the girls and I read the passage, then I ask one of the girls to narrate it back to me. Together we answer the one simple question in the workbook, and then we either stop there or we let discussion blossom however it likes. I love the questions in this book, because they point us back to the text: Murray doesn’t ask us to extrapolate on the text or draw out morals, but asks us instead to look back at a key verse and see what really happened.

“What did God say to Abraham?”

“How does Moses describe God?”

“Where was the sacrifice to be placed?”

They direct us back to the text itself, not to our own thoughts on it, and I love that. Our own thoughts bubble up naturally as we discuss the passage, but I am glad the questions anchor our discussion in what Scripture really said, not just in how we respond to it.

Exploring the Bible: A Bible Reading Plan for Kids, by David Murray (review) | Little Book, Big Story

So, most days offer those simple questions with the readings. Sometimes, there is a “Snapshot Verse” that Murray encourages us to copy out in the book and to memorize. The Sunday readings contain one of my favorite features: rather than doing an individual reading, we do what Murray calls “Exploring with Others.” First, we pause for a moment and look back on what we read that week; we answer a simple question about it. Then we have space for sermon notes that we all four work on during our pastor’s sermon. (This has been both enlightening and highly entertaining.)

Exploring the Bible: A Bible Reading Plan for Kids, by David Murray (review) | Little Book, Big Story

Also: Scotty Reifsnyder’s illustrations have this great retro feel that has spurred interesting discussion as well. And the book itself—both its design and its actual composition—is a pleasure to use. It feels so nice to hold it and turn the pages.

In Conclusion

Taking a year to trace the big story of Scripture through Old Testament and New has already begun to bear fruit in us as well as in the girls. We can pick out the main themes of each book more clearly; we have already spotted connections from one story to the next that we might have missed if we’d spent weeks on each story rather than days.

Do our kids still fidget and complain when it’s time to read Scripture? Yes. But Exploring the Bible is like a set of training wheels for the spiritual disciplines of prayer and Scripture reading, and watching our girls gain their balance and become more confident as they read the Bible has been delightful. I am already a little sad that Exploring the Bible won’t go on forever, but I am also excited to see what we learn from this experience and how that shapes our future family reading.


Exploring the Bible: A Bible Reading Plan for Kids
David Murray; Scotty Reifsnyder (2017)

Little One, We Knew You’d Come | Sally Lloyd-Jones

We bought this book years ago, when Lydia was in the tornado stage—flinging books off the shelves at random, emptying baskets of toys on the floor—and The Jesus Storybook Bible was not an old friend, broken in by years, but a new acquaintance we couldn’t get enough of. I ordered Little One, We Knew You’d Come because it, too, was by Sally Lloyd-Jones.

Little One, We Knew You'd Come, by Sally Lloyd-Jones (review) | Little Book, Big Story

But (I’m embarrassed to admit this) I didn’t immediately love it.

The illustrations are of a style that, though beautiful, didn’t appeal to me at first. And the text, though beautifully written, never mentioned Jesus’ name. I remember thinking, Wait. This could be about any longed-for baby. It doesn’t have to be about the coming of Christ. I had that uncomfortable sense that I was missing something.

Little One, We Knew You'd Come, by Sally Lloyd-Jones (review) | Little Book, Big Story

Years passed and three more of our babies reached the book-flinging stage (Josie is firmly entrenched in it now). We have read this book to every child every year, and it has borne those repeated readings with grace. The gentle and quiet illustrations have grown on me; Lloyd-Jones’ poetic words have, too. And I have grown to love the way it doesn’t mention Jesus’ name, because while so many Christmas books illustrate his coming through the eyes of creation awaiting a Savior or Israel waiting on a king, this one lets us see his coming through the eyes of Mary and Joseph, who await not just God’s Son, but their son. He is their Redeemer, and he is the baby they have waited nine months to meet.

Little One, We Knew You'd Come, by Sally Lloyd-Jones (review) | Little Book, Big Story

I get it now. And it is lovely.

Also

Merry Christmas! I am so thankful for you all and pray that this season is filled with that deep-seated wonder—the one that comes not from the “childhood magic” of Santa, but from the true magic of a God who took on humble, helpless infancy for our sake. He is the One who took the shadow of the Law and gave it substance, the One who ripped the curtain so that God might, when all is ready, dwell among us. May the joy of this carry you through many long evenings in the kitchen, many unanticipated needs, and many overtired toddler meltdowns. May he sustain you and give you strength, and may he give you peace.


Little One, We Knew You’d Come
Sally Lloyd-Jones; Jackie Morris (2006)

The Biggest Story ABC | Kevin DeYoung

What I loved best about Kevin DeYoung’s book The Biggest Story was the way he distilled the grand narrative of Scripture down into a straightforward, engaging book for children. I was impressed. Funneling a vast story like that into the uncluttered language of childhood (without dumbing it down) is a challenge, and DeYoung succeeded admirably.

With his new book, The Biggest Story ABC, DeYoung distills the gospel down even further and writes a remarkably coherent explanation of it for toddlers, using the letters of the alphabet as guideposts for the story.

The Biggest Story & The Biggest Story ABC, by Kevin DeYoung | Little Book, Big Story

This approach seemed a little too cute to me at first, but not so cute that I didn’t pre-order it the moment I saw it listed on Amazon. But when I finally read it, I was shocked—shocked, I tell you!—at how beautifully the gospel does fit into an alphabetized book. Even the plagues are neatly alphabetical (Egypt, flies, gnats, hail):

The Biggest Story ABC, by Kevin DeYoung | Little Book, Big Story

as are portions of Israel’s history (judges, kings, law, Messiah):

The Biggest Story ABC, by Kevin DeYoung | Little Book, Big Story

And the way DeYoung describes concepts like substitution and atonement is truly beautiful. Don Clark illustrates these concepts richly, opening visual doors in them so we can behold their beauty in a new way.

The Biggest Story ABC, by Kevin DeYoung | Little Book, Big Story

I set The Biggest Story ABC aside as a Christmas gift for Phoebe, and that seems a painfully long time to wait to share it with her. I can’t wait to read it through together and hear what conversation stems from this story—our story. The one we are never to young—and never too old—to hear.

The Biggest Story ABC, by Kevin DeYoung | Little Book, Big Story


The Biggest Story ABC
Kevin DeYoung, Don Clark (2017)

Lift-the-Flap Bible | Sally Lloyd-Jones

Flaps are big at our house. We love lifting them, sliding them, peeking under them when we think no one is looking. (One of us also enjoys tearing them—alas!) We have a rather impressive stash of books with flaps (or books formerly with flaps), and we add to it whenever we can.

Lift-the-Flap Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones | Little Book, Big Story

But Sally Lloyd-Jones’ Lift-the-Flap Bible is one of my favorite recent additions to the collection, and not just because it has flaps and we love them. Every time we read one of Lloyd-Jones’ books for toddlers, I am in awe of her ability to articulate the love and justice of our God in a few artful sentences. It is a feat that seems simple because the end product looks small, but every word in this sturdy Bible is hand-picked—not one is superfluous.

Lift-the-Flap Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones | Little Book, Big Story

Tracey Moroney, too, illustrates these short stories with vibrant colors, and those flaps make her paintings interactive: the volcano erupts; the whale breaches; the waters part. This book is perfect for exploring with all five senses (because you know the little ones will try and taste it, too, and new books smell so good) and for sowing that first planting of the gospel in the hearts of the smallest readers.


Lift-the-Flap Bible
Sally Lloyd-Jones, Tracey Moroney (2011)

For Such a Time as This | Angie Smith

After reading a picture book that praised Eve for her courage in defying God, I almost quit my search. But the stories of so many women are sown quietly throughout Scripture, and I loved the idea of drawing those stories out. I loved the idea of reminding our daughters, in a time when Paul is derided as a misogynist and the question of women’s roles in church is hotly debated, that they have a treasured place in God’s Great Story.

For Such a Time as This, by Angie Smith | Little Book, Big Story

Moses went on to guide the Israelites out of Egypt, but his mother, sister, and midwife shielded the infant Moses from Pharoah’s wrath. Israel fell into fragments, yet one Moabite woman became the thread God used to sew redemption into Israel’s tapestry. Surely some author has told the stories of those women in an honest, yet beautiful way? Right? One that steers clear of the “bad girls of the Bible” motif?

Yes. Dear friends, the answer is yes. Angie Smith did it, and she did it well.

For Such a Time as This, by Angie Smith | Little Book, Big Story

For Such a Time as This is an anthology of stories about the women of Scripture, and there are more stories in it that I thought possible: Mary and Sarah and Esther are in here. Ruth, of course. But Gomer is in here, and Delilah and Jezebel and Sapphira, too. Smith did not shy away from the less savory characters of Scripture, but even in their stories found the beauty of the gospel pricking through the soot and grime. She approaches them all from a gracious angle, not asking “What does this tell me about me?” but “What does it say about God that he would graft this figure into his family tree, that he would use this figure to do mighty things despite her brokenness?”

For Such a Time as This, by Angie Smith | Little Book, Big Story

Breezy Brookshire’s illustrations get the tension of that question just right: her fluid, glowing watercolors are punctuated by understated pencil drawings. By mixing those two, she captures the tension of our sin and God’s grace in a luminous way.

For Such a Time as This, by Angie Smith | Little Book, Big Story

For Such a Time as This is, I suppose, a selective story Bible. It’s obviously not comprehensive, but focuses on the women of Scripture specifically. But it is also a devotional, as each story ends with a section for young girls to read alone or with parents, and for a prayer that families can pray together for their daughters. If your daughter has a birthday this summer and you invite us to her party, be warned: we’ll probably buy her this book.

For Such a Time as This, by Angie Smith | Little Book, Big Story

Update (Sept. 2017)

We are currently reading this aloud as a family and I love it more after each reading. We’ve read about Abigail and Bathsheba, Hagar and the Queen of Sheba, and Angie Smith does a beautiful job of connecting each story to the Big Story of Scripture, while drawing in details that bring their stories to life. My daughters are enthralled with all these women they had never met before, and I am a little obsessed with the illustrations.

I just wanted you to know that. I loved this book when I wrote about it, but we love it now, all of us. The girls each take sections from the devotional readings, I read the prayer, and even Phoebe repeats our “Word of the Day” and memory verse after me. This book is one of our favorites now.


For Such a Time as This
Angie Smith, Breezy Brookshire (2014)