Friday, September 19, 2014

Six Children's Books that Deepen My Faith


Sitting on the old leather couch or rocking slowly in a rickety glider, I’m surrounded by my children as we read together.  I feed my little ones on stories morning, noon and night.  Serving up Harry the Dirty Dog for breakfast, The Magic Tree House becomes an after nap snack, and the evening ends quite often with the quiet words of Goodnight Moon, lulling them off to sleep like sips of warm chamomile tea.  

Once children starting filling our house my own books – the ones from a bachelor’s degree in Biblical Studies and the others from a Master’s of Divinity – were packed away to make room for cribs and changing tables and piles upon piles of children’s clothes and books.  A voracious reader, my appetite was now sated by short stories set on colorful pages and, much to my surprise, those books began to speak to me in all kinds of surprising ways.    

The Carrot Seed taught me about simple faith and perseverance in the face of discouragement as I watched the little boy tend with care and conviction that which was being formed in places he could not see.  The Runaway Bunny gave me new images for and insight into the story of the prodigal son and God’s great mothering, fathering, loving pursuit of the ones who belong to him.  

When I’m tempted to trade the truth of who I am for something the world wants me to be, The Story of Ferdinand, that peaceful little bull who’s carted off to the bull fights in Madrid reminds me about the truth of identity.  Refusing to fight despite the expectations of the taunting and teasing crowd, Ferdinand helps me find the freedom and resolve to make my own quiet but firm stand rooted in the truth of my identity as a beloved daughter of God.  

Tempted to judge the wilderness within myself and my children, I remember the little wild thing Max from Where the Wild Things Are.  When the wildest parts of me “roar their terrible roars and gnash their terrible teeth” I’m learning to, on occasion at least, join in with the “wild rumpus.”  Then, when I’ve had enough I, like Max, return home tired and spent to the place of truth where I am loved just as I am.  

I Love You Just the Way You Are, the simple board book about the little bear Ba and his caretaker George, reminds of the truth that sometimes love is the only thing that can pull us out of a “grumpy, frumpy, stumpy” sort of day; love is the trump card that breaks through every time.

And The Lotus Seed, the story of a refugee from Vietnam who carried a lotus seed half way around the world, affirms for me the truth that beauty and life can come even from great darkness, 

                           It [the lotus] is the flower of life and hope, my grandmother said, 
                           no matter how ugly the mud or how long the seed lays dormant, 
                           the bloom will be beautiful . . . (Sherry Garland)

In times when I’ve been unable to search and study scripture as I once did, the themes of the gospel continue to find me as I sit reading with my children perhaps because my heart is open and listening like a little child.  Now, as time and space open up around me and I return to the ministry of spiritual direction, writing and preaching, it's no surprise that I carry these books with me, replacing my church's usual movie clip sermon intro with a reading of The Runaway Bunny or The Carrot Seed. These books, through the grace and mercy of God, have influenced my "business"  and faith as much or more than any others. 

Are there any children’s books that influence your faith? 

Curious about these books? Here are the full titles and authors:

The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss
The Runaway Bunny, by Margaret Wise Brown
The Story of Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
I Love You Just the Way You Are, by Virginia Miller
The Lotus Seed, by Sherry Garland
also check out The Curious Garden by Peter Brown which offers such a beautiful analogy for the way the kingdom of God can be tended and spread among us.  

This post is linked with the High Calling community linkup around the prompt Best Books for Business.  Click over to find more takes on the topic.

2 comments:

  1. Yes , the Lamb by John Cross...what a good list of books. You are so right those simple children books speak volumes if we just allow God to work through the simple words. Good post, I think i will share this one.

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  2. Sometimes, when I read the books you've mentioned to my girls, I get teary-eyed. And I know it's because of Jesus. Those books have saved me, some days.

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