Janelle asked me weeks ago to write a post about what our Bible time looks like. Here it is.
I think too often Christian moms cling to a perfect picture of how Bible time should play out and feel a sense of failure if expectations are not met. Dad should lead. The children should be quiet but enthusiastic. Devotions should happen every day. I was one of those. I waited for years for Stuart to take the initiative in this area. It hasn't happened yet. He's a great living example of a godly man, husband and father but Bible study is not his strong suit. I have learned to be content with this. So instead I read Bible with the kids Monday through Friday and it looks like this:
It’s eleven o’clock. I’ve done my morning workout and spent time preparing for our Bible lesson. I’ve read through the portion of Matthew that we are covering today and thought about it but honestly a whole lot doesn’t come to me. Then I spend some time at Bible.org and study sermons and commentaries. The Bible comes to life this way for me and after I have gone through a commentary on the chapter and looked for additional historical information and looked stuff up in The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, I can begin making other connections that I haven’t come across in my studies. This happens frequently during our discussions around the table.
The kids are working on their morning chores. Some are in pajamas; some are dressed; all need their hair brushed. Bread is rising on the counter and Lauren and I are setting almond coffee cake, butter, grapefruit, plates and glasses of water on the table.
“Claire, I’ve called you three times to get the napkins out! Faith? Faith?! We need silverware. Where are you?!”
Eventually everyone straggles into the sunroom and coffee cake is distributed. The chatter is childish and loud. The room has terrible acoustics and these child noises are magnified to the point of being intolerable.
“BE QUIETAND EAT!”
The children gobble and dribble and spill. I eat fast, push aside my dishes, brush crumbs off my Bible and open to Matthew. “Do you remember what we talked about yesterday? Why is Matthew the first book in the New Testament?”
Claire sidles out of her chair and gets out her coloring book and crayons and sits on the floor.
“I know Mom.” This from Lauren who always pays attention.
“I know you know. I want to know if Claire knows. Do you remember why Matthew comes first, Claire?”
She looks up from her coloring book, “He had bad brothers.”
Oy! Everything relates to Joseph with this kid!
“No, silly!” John is indignant. “Matthew is the trailer hitch book. He uses lots of Old Testament verses. His book is perfect for connecting the Old Testament with the New. He was writing to the Jewish people and was trying to get them to understand that Jesus fufilled many prophecies that were written in the Old Testament.”
“That’s great John. I’m impressed.”
“Can somebody build me a ramp? I need a ramp.” Charlie makes it through about three minutes of Bible time before he runs off to play.
“Faith go with him and build the ramp and then come right back.” They wander off to the playroom.
Yesterday, I read straight through Matthew 1-17. We contrasted Matthew’s and Luke’s geneologies. Today we look at the people listed in Matthew’s. Claire fidgets. Faith needs to be reminded to leave her block building and return to the table.. Kids interrupt for more coffee cake. Water spills and children rush to get a towel to clean it up but eventually we discuss the women listed in this geneology. We discuss how all five are outcasts. I find their stories and read relevant portions aloud. We talk about how three are Gentiles. “Isn’t that awesome, guys, that even at the very beginning of Gospel message God lets us know that the good news of salvation is not just for the Jews but for everybody? Matthew includes person after person in this gospel who is on the edge of society, people who are looked down on, outcasts. Why do you suppose he does that?”
“What’s an outcast?”
“I just told you. Somebody who is looked down on. Somebody that everybody else thinks is unimportant or worthless. Do you understand?”
“I guess. Can we be done yet?”
“In just a minute, Claire. There’s some important stuff in this section.”
“I know. Matthew was a tax collector and tax collectors were looked down on during Jesus’ time.”
“That’s right, Faith. That’s exactly right. So as we read through this Gospel, keep your ears open and be listening for stories about the outcasts, the people nobody liked.”
“Are we done now !”
“Yes, we’re done now, Faith. Clear the table and get your after breakfast chores done and then it’s time for individual lessons.”
We will read over this section for two more days. Tomorrow we’ll point out all the kings. We spent a year in Kings and Chronicles so this will be good review to see what the kids remember. I’ll emphasize that none of these people were perfect. We’ll go through the list of names and see if we can remember the shortcomings of the people in the list.
The next day we’ll talk about how Matthews personality is reflected in the geneology. It makes sense that a numbers whiz would divide the geneology into three equal groups of fourteen. I’ll explain that Matthew’s geneology shows us that in spite of the chaos of the individual lives that make up the list, God is able to work his perfect orderly plan through ordinary people. I’ll tell the kids that A record of the geneology of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham can be translated The genesis of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham. I’ll ask them, “What do you think about when you hear the word genesis? Now doesn’t it make sense that John chose to begin his gospel, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God ? They are really both saying the same thing!”
That will be the end of Matthew Chapter 1:1-17. Four days spend with Matthew’s geneology. Bible takes about twenty minutes to a half hour. We often have one lesson at breakfast and another at lunch. Interruptions are a given. The little ones get bored but their minds are stretched and around age seven they begin to understand and participate with more enthusiasm. If I only had little ones (seven and under) I would simply read through the The Child’s Story Bible like I did with Lauren and John. Perhaps this is really what I need to do with Claire and Charlie but Faith (7) is definitely ready for this type of Bible study. She begs me to read Bible at every meal. For now this is the way we learn. For now. But nothing ever stays the same with children.