Last week, my friends Russ Ramsey, Russell Moore, and Thomas McKenzie met me in a pre-school classroom in Nashville to have some fun and talk about family.
We recorded four short episodes, now titled “A Baptist, an Anglican, and a Presbyterian Walk Into a Monkey Bar.” Here is the first one, on the exciting subject of Scripture Memorization. Don’t miss it.
Russ Ramsey is an author and associate pastor at Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, TN. He just released Struck – a wonderful book about marriage, friendship, a heart surgery, parenting, and living a life of faith during trying times. Highly recommended.
On Sing the Bible Volume 1, friendly monsters (and kids, and friendly bees) joined me in singing Deuteronomy 6:5.
On Sing the Bible Volume 2, Dracula and Frankenstein dropped by the studio again and joined me for our Ten Commandments song.
(On Sing the Bible Volume 3, they are likely taking a break from the studio, though I’m sure they’ll be back eventually.)
Over the years, I’ve been asked about those choices a few times, usually by someone who thought it seemed strange – maybe even wrong – to include something as silly or as scary as “monsters” on a CD about the Bible.
And I totally get it. It is kind of strange.
Then, a few weeks ago, I received a very thoughtful email that prompted me to gather my thoughts for a reply. Since I’ve just (today!) released the video for our Ten Commandments song, I thought today would be a good day to share that reply here.
About the monsters, I’m glad you asked this very fair question. On a practical theological level, I handle it like Veggie Tales handles Bob and Larry, avoiding the issue of salvation for them because they are not real, of course.
As I’m sure you know, mild scariness is one of the ways we introduce the concept of danger to kids – through games like peek-a-boo and “I’m gonna get you!” chase games. Ironically, it’s (of course) also one of the ways we have fun.
For me, reared as I was on Sesame Street (Cookie Monster, The Count, and Grover’s “The Monster at the End of this Book” come to mind) – it is easy for me to use monsters for mildly scary / humorous purposes.
That said, there are deeper message at work. First, do not fear… maybe the Bible’s most frequent admonition. Also, things are not always as they seem. What may at first seem monstrous may prove otherwise, so be slow to judge.
Third, I’m thinking of the great passage from Orthodoxy by GK Chesterton about bogeys and dragons… his point was that fairy tales show that there is something stronger than darkness. In all of the way S&B uses monsters, it is with a similar spirit – that the context of the Gospel overwhelms fear.
Finally, I go back to examples like Sesame Street’s Grover and Bugs Bunny’s abominable snowman. By incorporating “monsters” into fun settings, we bring them onto our level, which allows not only freedom from fear but the beginning of empathy for the “other.” (These are friendly monsters!) And after all, no one I encounter daily is completely evil. most everyone I meet is a mixed bag (like me)!
I wouldn’t say monsters belong in songs about the Bible, though I might say they are already there. With another nod to G.K. Chesterton, “I” am what is wrong with the world. If there are monsters, then they are inside me, and inside you. Thank God in Heaven for the terrible and merciful and ultimate victory on the cross. His victory sets us free to live lives of love and self-forgetfulness. Because of Christ, we are monsters no more.
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20
Here’s another new Christmas Scripture song with music inspired by Vince Guaraldi’s Peanuts Christmas music. I usually use the ESV, but for this song I reached back into the King James version so I could sing the words, “unto us.” I also borrowed a word from the NLT which says, “rest upon his shoulder.”
One of the most challenging things about writing in 5/4 time is keeping the melody naturally singable. Hopefully you can sing along at home without much trouble.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall rest upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
Be on the lookout for the third “Sing the Bible” CD from Slugs & Bugs in 2017!
And BRAND NEW from Slugs & Bugs: The Slugs & Bugs APP! Play Scripture memory games, watch Slugs & Bugs videos and so much more. Click Here to find it!
One of the songs speaks directly to parents, specifically about parenting with Scripture.
Listen to a clip of the song “Hear, O Israel!”
These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders.Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. – Deuteronomy 6:6-9
I’ve known this verse for a long time. And for years, Amy and I talked about ordering pretty Scripture-verse wall decorations. YEARS, people. But it never happened. Finally, one rare Saturday afternoon when I was not traveling, we got out the markers and construction paper and did it ourselves. Everyone picked a favorite verse from the Sing the Bible CDs, and within an hour, we had 5 bible verses stuck to the walls of our house with that blue sticky stuff that sticks on the corners.
We did not get hung up on perfection or neatness. If it’s hard to read, it’s a conversation starter, right?
One line from that Deuteronomy Scripture passage has always jumped out. “Wear them on your foreheads as reminders” always reminds me of Jim McMahon – the quarterback of the 1985 Superbowl Champion Chicago Bears. He used to write messages on his headbands. I’m not planning on adding headbands to my wardrobe, but I do take those words as further admonition to keep God’s Word at the forefront of my mind.
Listening to Scripture music is one way to do that. Another way to get the kids involved is through a simple Saturday afternoon family activity like this one. Afterwards you can all go out for ice cream – or maybe a blueberry milkshake.
It was a happy occasion. Aunts, uncles, cousins, parents and siblings – all excited to see each other, walking through the airport together. All walking, except me, seated comfortably in a Southwest Airlines wheelchair, my wife selflessly pushing from behind.
We paused at a restroom entrance. I noticed a white wire hanging from one of my teenager’s ears, and spoke up.
Me: “Hey – you’ve got to put that away”
Teenager: “What? Why?”
Me: “You can’t listen to music while you are walking and talking with your cousins.”
Teenager: “But I’ve only got one ear in!”
Me: “That doesn’t matter. it separates you from the rest of the group.”
Teenager: “You are killing my vibe.”
I can’t remember what I said; maybe a question asking if the vibe was more valuable than the cousins, but grudgingly, the earbuds came out.
One of the hardest things about parenting is, half the time we are making up the rules as we go. However, making your personal “vibe” a priority seems counter to the the whole point of our new life in Christ.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:3-4
Sure, “one earbud in” is not the worst thing in the world. And if I didn’t have a great relationship with my kid, I might not choose that battle. But I want my kids to learn that habitual self-focus is the devil’s snare. I know because it still trips me up all the time. And I know because I am most joyful when I forget about myself and focus on the needs of others. Of course, self-care is important. I can’t care for others effectively if I neglect personal hygiene, don’t get enough sleep, don’t get good rest, or never relax and have fun.
However, even in the midst of those things, the mind of Christ in me must be aware of people around me. It is the nature of Christ to sacrifice himself, and now that is our nature as well, as much as we claim to be his disciples, and submit to his loving authority.
…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2
Truthfully, the very hardest part isn’t parenting this stuff. It’s remembering it for myself. But when I do remember – I am free. Joy, kindness, and peace all come easier. Patience and compassion are within reach. Who wouldn’t want that for their kids?
Here’s what people are saying about Sing the Bible with Slugs & Bugs, Volume 2:
Andrew Beem (Dad in Texas- facebook post) – Just want to say thanks. Not a whole lot is more beautiful than my seven year old singing scripture, and your CDs help make that happen
Allyssa Ramsey (North Carolina mom – facebook post)
just wanted to tell you that I love Sing the Bible 2 so much that I hardly know how to say it. My kids ask for it every time we get in the van, and they often don’t want to get out because they’re not done listening. They’re asking questions like “what does humility mean?” and “Is that the REAL Frankenstein?” Everything about this record is so, so right. We love it. LOVE it. Love it. Thank you so much.
Jamie Showmaker (mom in North Carolina – facebook post) Thanks for equipping our family with music that feeds the soul and stirs our affections for Christ.
Maggie Smith (mom of 3 in memphis – facebook) Listening to your sing the bible album was like going to church! Encouraging and convicting. Creative and funny. I am so thankful for your music.
Mom named Sara in Michigan (Instagram post): I was working on a project today and overheard my six and eight-year-olds hunting verses in the Bible and comparing them to the lyrics of Sing the Bible Volume 2. What a wonderful inspiration your music is to their curious souls!
We really love the fact that while your songs are full of wholesome & hilarious fun, the focus is not on being silly but on meditating God’s word and being changed by it. – Ellen White, mom in London, England
Your music has created opportunities that never existed before, for my husband and I to discuss things with our kids, that always seemed too lofty, to difficult.
Heidi Herrick – mom in California
To listen to the music from Sing the Bible Volume 2 – click here.
Hear, O Israel—
The Lord your God, the Lord is One.
These commandments that I give to you today
Are to be on your hearts.
Impress them on your children.
Talk about them when you sit at home
And when you walk along the road.
When you lie down.
When you get up.
And when you ride around in your minivan, it could have said. And when you’re fixing lunch, and when you’re tempted to plop the kids down in front of the TV just to get them out of your hair for a little while, is that too much to ask?
Randall Goodgame’s Sing the Bible records don’t just offer up that kind of Scripture-saturation as an ideal to strive for; they create the conditions under which it becomes a reality, even a norm. Since I got my copy of Sing the Bible, Volume 2, my car has become a rolling Scripture sauna, where my kids and I breathe the shared air of word-for-word Bible verses…