19 stories: Inspired by a little(er) Debbie

As you may be aware there are quite a few of us who are suddenly getting to grips with the concept of home schooling.

It is a daunting task, especially when having to work at the same time. I am extremely privileged, in that my parents who have become stranded here because they can’t go back to Portugal, have moved into our house and are able to take over some of the childcare.

But when putting together a timetable for my children I became aware of the huge opportunity that so many of us, including those without kids, are being given right now. Whilst we can’t go out and see friends, or shop, or do so many of the leisure activities we were involved in till recently – we can spend longer immersing ourselves (and our children) in something far more wholesome.

So – I have an idea for you involving another 19.

(Just to clarify because there’s been some confusion over why I’m doing lists of 19 – I’ve chosen 19 as a way of bringing positive connotations to the number which otherwise has very negative connotations associated with COVID-19. This is my way of creating alternative responses to what is being thrown our way.)

In my children’s timetable I have incorporated two things – which I think would be beneficial for any of us.

The first is that at 11am each morning they are being taught a bible story, and each creating an a4 picture to illustrate it. They started with the creation story – nothing fancy, just an a4 page divided in to 8 squares – with seven of those containing pictures of what was created on that day – ending with rest.

As a kid I did this in Sunday school – we would work through the Bible each year, dividing it up into 52 stories so that at the end of the year each child’s illustrations were put together to create their own Bible. If you’d like ideas as to the stories we used just ask and I’ll send you some more details. But my suggestion is that you work through a story a day – for 19 days…

But perhaps we could all take this on in some way… Schedule in a time each day for getting to know the Bible in a way that we were unable to do when we were busier, or if we are extra stressed and can’t relax in the ways we used to perhaps we could create a new habit of soaking in God’s word to help us through an extra stressful time at work – maybe listen to 19 minutes worth of the Bible being read each day?

(The 19 is just to keep with my theme – feel free to do less, or more! – In my last devotional I mentioned that I think we need to be gentle with each other right now – I also think we need to be gentle with ourselves – we’re dealing with a lot of change and added stress – this isn’t meant to be another burden to add to your list, but a suggestion if you think it could be helpful.)

The second thing that I have discovered that works well for my children is memorising Bible passages. But more than helping them, it helps me… Mine happen to be at an age where memorising is particularly easy for them. But we are all encouraged to do this – so that when we are confronted with a difficult or confusing situation, we automatically draw on the wisdom from the Bible in the way that we respond.

The way we do it – but obviously you have to find what works for you or your children – is that we create cards that illustrate each part of a passage – sort of like cue cards. We create one card and learn a verse each day that we do this, till we have the whole passage in our minds. We discuss parts that are a bit harder to understand, but I’m not really going for a Bible study – in time they will grow in understanding – for now I just want to take this opportunity to fill their mind with wholesome things – and to enjoy our time together.

Someone said to me recently that Christians with dementia forget a lot of things, but often can still remember the Bible passages that they learnt when they were young. Maths and English are important – and don’t worry they are in our timetable too – but if my kids get old and suffer from dementia, I’d rather they remember and are comforted by these Bible passages than that they remember how to perform a mathematical equation…

So, let’s see how we can use this time of uncertainty to ground ourselves in the certainties of God’s word and who he is.

Let’s finish by praying Psalm 23 together:

1The LORD is my shepherd;

I have everything I need.

2He lets me rest in fields of green grass

and leads me to quiet pools of fresh water.

3He gives me new strength.

He guides me in the right paths,

as he has promised.

4Even if I go through the deepest darkness,

I will not be afraid, LORD,

for you are with me.

Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect me.

5You prepare a banquet for me,

where all my enemies can see me;

you welcome me as an honoured guest

and fill my cup to the brim.

6I know that your goodness and love will be with me all my life;

and your house will be my home as long as I live.