I learned to play “Linus and Lucy” by Vince Guaraldi when I was 14 years old. The music from The Charlie Brown Christmas Special has always existed in my memory, and the story (by Charles Schulz) continues to profoundly influence the way I write for families.
Through the excellence of his craft, his honest characters, and his keen sense of the brokenness of humanity, (informed by his understanding of the Gospel), Schulz impacted all ages through Peanuts. For 50 years of Decembers, families have snuggled up to watch the lights dim and the spotlight settle on Linus Van Pelt, alone on the stage. When the music stops, and he quotes Luke 2 (from memory, I might add), I always cry. In the midst of a terrible Christmas play, the Gospel shows up to save the day.
That’s one reason why the music from the program has endured. The sweet, life transforming truth of the Gospel is proclaimed, and it makes all the difference. I associate that piano music with the simple power of the truth proclaimed – from the mouth of a child, no less.
So, when I began writing Scripture songs for a Christmas CD last year, it was no surprise that my hands fell into the style I started learning so many years ago. (To this day, I play “Linus and Lucy” in the wrong key because I learned it from a cassette tape player that ran a little slow.)
My whole family participated in the recording, along with cousins, friends and neighbors from around Nashville. I wanted the songs to feel like Christmas tree-decorating music, so that while we unpack the ornaments, we can sing along with the very words of Scripture that celebrate the reason for the season: the King of the Universe, born as a baby, come to “save his people from their sins.”
A note about the artwork: I am so grateful to Matt Cosby, our illustrator/animator (Old Testament, Ten Commandments, Ninja). The music was inspired by the Vince Guaraldi trio from the Peanuts Christmas Special, so Matt’s artwork reflects the work of Charles Schulz, creator of Peanuts. He did a great job “tipping the cap” to Schulz while also retaining the joyful whimsy of Slugs & Bugs. Follow matt_cosby on Instagram!
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
As a parent, every day you make decisions that shape your family culture. You decide how to respond to behavior, you choose groceries, you drive to team practice or ballet or piano lessons, you make decisions about movies and TV shows and internet usage… about school and friends and church and family vacations… and you decide what music plays in the car.
Following the release of the two Slugs & Bugs Sing the Bible CDs (15% off SALE this week), we’ve received countless emails from families who listen to Sing the Bible together in the home and the car, and over time these emails have revealed a common theme. Again and again, we hear how these Scripture songs are helping to powerfully shape the culture and personality of homes around the world, as the joy and truth and hope of the gospel settles into the hearts and minds of the entire family.
Recently, at a concert in Virginia, I met Celeste Ainsworth, mother of three, and her husband John. Over dinner, she so powerfully articulated the impact of Sing the Bible on her family, that I asked her to record her story. You can see it for yourself in the video below.
I am so grateful for Celeste and her family, and for all of the families that share their stories about how Slugs & Bugs is impacting them and their children. These stories help me press on, and fill me with gratitude and joy. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Right now (through Wednesday, Sept. 9) we’re having a 15% off SALE on the Sing the Bible Bundle (in celebration of our second consecutive Dove Award Nomination (Children’s Album of the Year)).
You can buy them for your family right now: (click here)
Randall Goodgame is a husband and father of 3, and the founder of Slugs & Bugs Family Music.
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.