Last night at 9:00 PM, we had our family Bible reading time, and tonight we’ll do it again, but my oldest son won’t be with us. He’s off for ten weeks at a summer job with a Christian camp organization. It’s a kind of mission venture, though he’ll get paid. He just won’t make as much money as he would if he’d stayed in town, based on his experience. Then he’ll return for a couple of weeks and then, Lord willing, he’s off to university in the fall. Donations still accepted; Canadian tax receipts available; and yes, they take credit cards. (Sorry, I just had to add that.)
Our nightly time together, which runs anywhere from 12 minutes to about 30 minutes was originally called “Hangin’ out Time.” I still think of it as that. He’d outgrown the crib, but was too young to be put in a single bed, so we set a mattress on the floor, and I just started walking in and laying down next to him and we started singing songs. The first one, I don’t know the origin of. I learned it as poetry and set it to music when I was very young.
See my candle burning
With a golden light;
Shining from my window
Out into the night.
I can light a candle;
God can light a star;
Both of them are helpful
Shining where they are.
And the John Fischer classic,
Love Him in the morning when you see the sun arising
Love Him in the evening ’cause he took you through the day.
And in the in between time when you feel the pressure comin’
Remember that He loves you and He promises to stay.
That one, plus “Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam” and “Jesus Loves the Little Children.” Then we started reading The Beginner Bible. Then we graduated to Classic Bible Stories from Standard Publishing (when a customer returned one that was bound upsidedown.) Later we got into meatier stuff with the NIRV Adventure Bible, the NIV Teen Study Bible and Hurlbut’s Story of the Bible — the larger, very long, original version, not the shorter one available today.
My youngest son joined us at some point. They never reached the point of protest, as I did when I was their age, so we just kept digging in deeper and deeper. Lots of stuff from The Message. Lots of fun with The Kiwi Bible by Chris Grantham (from Penguin NZ) and The Word on The Street. The entire New Testament from the NIV Life Application Bible with all the notes for that day’s reading read by me out loud. Followed by bits of the Pentateuch, Wisdom Books, Kings, Samuel, Minor Prophets again delivered with both text and notes. Several entire books by Stuart Briscoe. More recently, repeating some Gospels, Epistles and Prophets with the ESV Study Bible. (They love the notes, but not the text; my kids have become discerning translation critics!)
All kinds of other stuff as well. Last night we did some more ‘binge’ reading of James MacDonald’s devotional booklet, Our Journey. We’ve also enjoyed stuff from David Jeremiah, Jeff Lucas, and a host of other devo-booklet writers.
My oldest still yells out, “It’s time for ‘story.'” Conjures up an image of a bedtime story with little engines that could, guys named Harold with purple crayons, runaway bunnies and bunnies who say goodnight to the moon. Instead, it’s a time that has taught them the very nature of God. His ways and dealings with His people. In all, my kids know a lot more Bible than I did at their age. My oldest just got a new NIV Life Application for his birthday. He wore out my copy. He reads it daily.
They don’t know a lot of memory verses. If that’s the standard of measurement, then I’ve failed as a parent. I’m not so sure, though. They seem, somehow, much further ahead of me even without the rote memorization that characterizes the western approach to education.
One of the biggest beneficiaries of “Hangin’ Out Time” has been me. I can’t tell you what it’s done for my spiritual life to walk with the kids through all these books. Last night, I fought back the tears as I read three devotional selections knowing that, while it might not have been the last time, it was certainly the end of an era. For my oldest, some new chapters are beginning. My eyes are tearing up as I write this.
They have taken God’s word into their hearts. I can’t wait to see what they do with it. I know what it has done to me.