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A multimedia Bible exploration sounds far too complex fora parent to have time to organise at home. However, I’d like to propose that it isn’t, especially when we use resources others have already made.
When helping people work out how to do faith at home, I’m always keen to work with them to find ways to make it work for their family (see my article in June’s issue). However, that doesn’t mean we’re looking for the one thing that will work, as we’re still talking about a family: a group of unique individuals, each on their own journey of faith and with their own preferred way of connecting with God. My solution for this is similar to when I’m planning something intergenerational in a church setting: variety!
Earlier this year I wanted us to focus on a psalm together, Psalm 121. I was keen for us to learn it, as I learnt lots of scripture as a child and have found it useful throughout my life. However, I wanted it not just to be learnt, but also meditated on and explored a bit. So this is what I did:
- I created a series of four playlists on YouTube (you could make use of the method you use to organise your music), each with two tracks: one with the psalm being read and one with the psalm being sung. I tried to stick to the NIV version, as I felt this would be an understandable version to remember and use in life. To be honest, one playlist would have been fine, but the four gave us a bit of variety. By changing the playlist each week we heard a different voice reading it, which helped us hear it differently, as well as learning different songs taken from the psalm. (I tried to pick a wide variety of voices and songs so we could all find at least one we liked.)
- We listened to each playlist for one week, once a day, usually after breakfast while getting ready to go out, or during the first five minutes in the car (before we listened to the Lego Movie2soundtrack. Again). I found that by doing this fairly consistently three to five days a week, my 6 and 8-year-olds learnt pretty much all the words of the psalm off by heart without even reading it themselves!
- In week one I set out a creative activity using squares of origami paper and giant Post-it notes to create collages. I wrote out the words of some of the verses to inspire our pictures. I find creating things like this gives me time to meditate on the words of a particular part of the psalm. Often the words I choose to collage are those that are resonating with me, so it gives me time to chat with God and think over what they mean, and to let them settle deeper in my heart. We each created one of these collages. I would have loved to make one for each verse but my daughters weren’t very keen, so I didn’t push it.
- I recently read that Psalms could well have been written while God’s people were in exile, and I can see how this psalm has a different meaning when it is read in that light. To explore this a little we watched a few videos from The Bible Project about the exile on YouTube. These are highly visual five-minute videos that explore different aspects of the Bible in a lot of detail and very quickly! Even my 6 and 8-year-old liked watching them, and they understood and remembered some of what we learnt there. It was great to watch them and learn together, modelling that we are never too old to learn more about the Bible or to discover more of the treasures God has placed within it for us.
- It may be a coincidence, but when I asked my children which Bible story they would like to listen to onbiblegateway.com(you can listen to the whole Bible for free there!), they asked for Daniel and Jonah, both of which are based in a similar timeframe to when the psalm may have been written. As we listened they spotted overlapping themes in those stories. For example, Jonah prayed to God from inside the big fish. What did he pray? I wonder whether he prayed a prayer like Psalm121? And later, when the Lord makes a plant grow up to shade Jonah from the sun, the Lord becomes his shade at his right hand, just as Psalm 121 describes.
- I spent three or four mornings exploring words from the psalm using a Hebrew Lexicon app on my phone to reflect on the wider meaning of the words. I discovered that in the short eight verses of this psalm, words stemming from the word shamar occur five times. It’s a definite theme, so I looked up the meaning of the word and found that it means to protect, to care for, to preserve and to keep. It’s the word that is used when it says: “The Lord watches over you” (verse 5), “The Lord will keep you from all harm; he watches over your life” (verse 7) and “The Lord will watch over your coming and going” (verse 8).
These are multimedia options that work for me and my family in the season we’re in. They may not be ways that would work for your family, but I hope they give you some ideas of how you could use various resources to explore a Bible passage in different ways over a set period of time (such as a month).We are more likely to get some traction with our ideas and resources if they are ones that tap into our own family’s preferred styles of connecting with God. This might involve answering a few questions, so try asking yourself and then the others in your family the following:
- When you last felt connected with God, what was it that helped you connect?
- If you could only choose one aspect of church life to help you grow in your faith, what would it be? Sermons? Worship? Fellowship? Creative activities? Games? Quiet space? Opportunities to serve? Something else?
If your family doesn’t want to chat over these questions, spend time watching and listening, then reflect on these questions:
- What are they into? What do they enjoy doing? What behavioural patterns can you spot? (For example. a child who likes to play with Sylvanian families or Playmobil, or who makes Lego models to tell stories, is into small-world play. Therefore, they might engage well with telling and exploring Bible stories using small-world characters.)
- Which skills are they developing? What interests do they have?
- How do they like to connect with God and other people?
If you would like to read more about different ways in which people connect with God, I can recommend Carolyn Edwards excellent book Slugs and Snails and Puppy Dogs’ Tails. It ostensibly looks like a book about boys and God, but in her research she discovered that the way we connect with God is more to do with our spiritual styles than with gender. It’s well worth a read!
If you’d like to use Victoria’s Psalm 121 playlists, you can find them on her website or on her Facebook page.
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