Happy summer, dear readers! Whether you’ve been with us since the beginning, or only recently stumbled across the blog, we’re so glad you’ve joined us on the adventure.
To celebrate 3 (3!) years of reading and writing about good, true, and beautiful theological kidlit, we’re thrilled to host an author of some of those books. We’re grateful to Sally Lloyd-Jones for taking the time to share with us about the process of writing theologically for children
We’ll also be giving away a copy of Sally’s recently released devotional for children, Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing, as an additional birthday present. To enter the random drawing, simply leave a comment sharing a book or a post that you’ve particularly enjoyed from the past three years – think of it as a birthday present to us. (No, I’m not above hinting which gifts I would like…just ask my family.)
And now, with no further ado: the interview!
Aslan’s Library: We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about choosing story bibles for our children, and which ones to recommend to others. After all, a story bible is often a child’s first experience of Scripture – and yet, it’s not Scripture itself, not exactly. So any story bible we read with our children needs to be a faithful guide and witness; but it’s also, by nature, a partial and limited retelling of the messy, complicated, and HUGE Book that tells us “the true story of the whole world.” That’s a big task for an author! Did you feel that challenge when you began writing The Jesus Storybook Bible? How do you hope it will help children to approach the Bible?
Sally Lloyd-Jones: One time I saw this guy doing scrimshaw. I asked him, as he was carving a whale on a small piece of ivory, how long it took him. He looked up, paused and said, “About 5 hours and… 35 years.”
In a sense, your whole life goes into whatever you do. It’s taken my whole life so far putting it together that the Bible is not a collection of individual stories teaching us moral lessons that if we follow we can get God to love us, but a wonderful true story of a God who loved us so much, that he stepped out of heaven, came down and rescued us.
When I was 6, I went to a Sunday school that was very strict and seemed to me to be all about rules. I hated it. But I am grateful for it now—without it I wouldn’t remember what it feels like as a child to see God as a strict rule giver who is never pleased with you. That Sunday school fueled my passion behind writing the book: I want children to see that the Bible is not mostly a rulebook—it’s most of all a story. And it really isn’t so much about them and what they need to be doing—it’s about God and what he has done. Rules don’t have power to change you. But a story—God’s Story—can.
AL: One of our favorite things about The Jesus Storybook Bible is, of course, the way it teaches children that the Bible is essentially about God and his action – particularly, that it is a witness to Jesus. I was sold when I first picked up a copy and perused the introduction: “It takes the whole Bible to tell this Story. And at the center of the Story, there is a baby. Every story in the Bible whispers his name. He is like the missing piece in a puzzle – the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together, and suddenly you can see a beautiful picture.”
We don’t often teach our children the stories this way. Do think the traditional way has led to a somewhat fragmented view of Old and New Testament?
SLJ: Definitely. You hear people saying, Let’s just read about Jesus and stick with the NT. As a child I thought that. But he is in the OT—all the way through. And seeing him there—it melts your heart. And it also shows you the Father’s Heart. You see the sacrifice, the depth of his love for us, the incredible richness of the story. No wonder angels never tire of it and can’t stop wondering at it and long to look into it.
The subtitle of The Jesus Storybook Bible is “Every Story Whispers His Name” because the Bible is all about Jesus. Both the Old and the New Testaments. Jesus himself said so.
AL: Are you finding adults are enjoying the Jesus Bible Storybook as well?
SLJ: Yes—and it was nothing I, or anyone else, expected. And at the same time it has me saying, “Of course!”
Of course God would do that. Of course he would blow us all out of the water and do something we never imagined. Of course he would use little children to lead us. (Of course he would—he has such a high view of children!) Of course he would use a humble children’s book to do something profound. To speak to parents as well as children; to help pastors preach; to be a set text in literature classes and theological classes; to speak to college students, to teenagers, to couples in their devotions; to be the book Japanese business men are studying before work; to be the book Chinese prostitutes are reading; to be a tool for sharing the gospel on missions trips,with English as a second language.
It’s thrilling and humbling and a huge honor—and I am very aware who is the author of the book’s success. To him goes all the glory and praise.
Next week, we’ll post the second half of our interview, in which Sally shares the genesis of Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing, as well as some of her own childhood reading. Be sure to stop back by!