Path to Story, Chapter 34: A Place to Start

It’s been about 9 months since I last wrote on this. So this baby is due. I didn’t plan it this way, and since most babies rarely are, let alone triplets, it seemed appropriate to chronicle the weakest part of my storytelling- beginnings.

As I’ve already said, ‘Once upon a time’, works almost all of the time to begin whatever you want. Over the years the beginning I most commonly use is a lazy version of it: ‘Once there was a _____’, then fill in the blank. I have found I am more of a short-order-cook type of storyteller. I work best before meals, during trips, and explaining things from Spiritfire to homework. Oh, and survival-type situations. But just as babies need to grow, so does my storytelling.

When I can, I look to the Bible, and of course, its beginning is the actual beginning. It may not really work to do that if you want to eat a warm meal, or when attempting to answer a quick question, etc., but it led me to a direct and easy way to find an intro: the 5 Ws. Answering or even asking who, what, when, where, and why, can give a variety of beginnings to the tales we tell.

An example of a ‘who’ beginning would be to focus on a character, like one of the prophets or like Paul the Apostle’s letters. ‘What’ could be about an important scene like a war that may shape what you want to tell. ‘When’ could be a timeline focus like the book of Genesis or Esther. ‘Where’ would focus on the location/setting. And asking ‘why’ could be for a mystery. You might not want to answer these questions right away and let them breathe for a while first like for a mystery unless you want to give misleading information. I will try to get into this later along with a chapter about something I’ve botched repeatedly- telling scary stories to my kids.

In the end, I hope your beginnings are better than mine and can get your kids’ attention faster than a jumping grasshopper. I know I need to keep mine active like with a jolt similar to accidentally touching an electric fence. This can be accomplished with different vocal dynamics.

So whether you are shouting or whispering out your newborn story, may your intros invite all who hear upon a grand adventure. And like with babies, this life can be dreadful boring without one.

Path to Story Ch. 24: Make it Live!

If you want to give your kids a balanced worldview that explains the righteous laws of God revealed in Creation and manifested in the heart of man, if you want to help them gain the discernment needed to choose the path to Wisdom’s house, if walking the paths of God is of any interest to you then a study of the book of Proverbs would be well worth your time.

It was a simple Proverb, just one verse: “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts.” Proverbs 18:8. It exposed to me one of the “dark ways” (2:13) that people choose instead of being on wisdom’s path. In its straightforward simplicity, I was given a window view into Folly’s house, a view that revealed the bait and trap that await those who wander in. A power is given to the Gossip, as to a villain in any of the superhero movies, it has a draw that people don’t even realize and brings poison to the “inmost parts”. A poison that tastes like filet mignon, so yummy, so tender, but it rots from the inside those who consume it.

But seeing as this was the next verse for our Spiritfire, I was confronted with the issue of how to explain it to my kids. For years now I have chosen story as a tool for teaching my kids various things, everyday things like the importance of closing a door or cleaning a room. But I have also experienced its explanatory power in the deeper things. When I looked at my kids’ blank stare as I read the proverb to them, and confused expressions as I tried to explain it, I knew I had to do something…

We traveled back in time to the Old West, to a town that for years had been robbed from by a band of hooligans. A hero had come to that town recently, one that brought fear to the villains and deliverance to the townspeople. Until one of the more unscrupulous members of the village witnessed something odd on the way home. The hero was dismounting from his horse when he saw a spider had crawled up on the saddle. Before the villager knew it, the hero, who had thought he was alone, screamed and jumped away in fear.

It is at this point the story has enough to almost tell itself. The villager goes to the hooligans and says he knows something that will let them take over the town again.  He will tell it to them if he gets a cut.  In this story, it is to the villains that his bit of gossip is so tasty.

Yes, it got fun as I gave different voices to the characters: Joker-like for the Gossip, Dudley Do-Right for the hero, Dr. Claw-like for the hooligan leader, and random ones for the townspeople. My kids got to see and hear an explanation that seemed to really sink in as my oldest son said to me, “I think I get it, that was a good story Dad.”

Do whatever you want for the ending, I didn’t want to belabor the point so I left it at the bad guys throwing a box of spiders at the hero, who then ran away screaming. Feel free to let the hooligans take over for a time, until the hero somehow overcomes his fear, or have an opposite Samson-like ending and have a woman take care of the box of spiders.  One of the unspoken bits of storytelling that can really make a difference to your kids is that of the role you allow gender to play in it.  I’ve also told stories where the villain was a Cruelella Deville-type character or a spoiled princess, it’s fun to see my daughter wrinkle up her nose in distaste when I do.  Everything plants seeds, and when it comes to solidifying identity we must be careful to define discernment, for parents are most responsible in equipping their children to navigate who they are becoming.

Joining storytelling with a devotional Spiritfire time can really help bring Scripture to life. I know my kids really enjoy watching Veggie Tales movies, but nothing can replace a genuine family devotional time with God. When you do it, bring story along with you and witness your kids plum the depths of books like the book of Proverbs, the sayings and riddles of the wise (1:6).

A Path to Story, Ch. 5: The Bible

When I think about what it means to read the Bible to my kids, I think about the story I’m subjecting them to.  The love that’s worth leaving everything for. The life that has no end. The ultimate destination of evil, and my part in all of it.  It brings eternity into our grasp and it gives purpose to this life that far outshines anything else in this world.

Yes, there is violence and sexual content to be censored, especially if you’re reading to your little ones.  Read ahead, or stay in the New Testament till they get older.

As I was attempting to write about this, I found myself facing all kinds of disruptions.  I kept thinking about all the Bibles sitting on shelves gathering dust.  How does one inspire others when it comes to something as important as reading the Word of God?  Over the years, I’ve been exposed to very learned professors and preachers and it seems interpretation can be as fickle as beauty.  Even so, I’ve come up with 7 questions to consider if you’ve never opened the pages of the Bible or even thought about reading it to your kids.

If there was a book that has been around for hundreds of years, explains how we got here, who we are, and why, would you read it?

If there was a book that has been used to shape nations and provide a map for our consciences, would you read it?

If there was a book that countless brilliant minds have tried to refute, but are unable as archeology continues to prove its accuracy, would you read it?

If there was a book that provided the basis for our understanding of human rights, revolutionizing cultures time and again, would you read it?

If there was a book that has inspired more works of art and music than any other, would you read it?

If there was a book that was translated into over 500 languages that people have died over so that others could read it, would you read it?

If there was a book that can guide your relationship with God, would you read it?

It defines faith, hope, and love.  It gives out knowledge and wisdom.  It opens eyes and doors, revealing to the oppressed their true value.  It continues to change lives as it inspires people to become more.

May your times of reading the Bible unlock its power into your life and that of your family.  May both parents and children learn and understand why and how we are to love one another.  May the Bible introduce you and others to the greatest person they will ever know, Jesus Christ.  And may it bless and usher you into His Kingdom.