Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Beyond Phonics - a love of the greatest story ever told

Bear with me as I walk through this long process of thought.  This has been rolling around in my brain for several months now.  It resurfaces occasionally.  Like a snowball it gains some weight and continues on its slow roll down the hill.  I don't think it's reached its full weight, but if I don't begin this process of writing and tracking its growth - I may lose its full impact.
For the majority of the history of mankind only the few have had the education and access to the Written Word, churches, and faith.  Consequently access to God and his Word was controlled and limited by Kings, priests, and other religious leaders.  There was a moment in history where this changed, where the beginning of the breaking of the religious hierarchy commenced.  From the creation of the Gutenberg press until now literacy and access to the Written Word, Holy Bible, has continued to increase.
We are now living in a time of unprecedented access to God's Word and thus His guidance and will.  And yet, do we realize the weight of this?  As we are teaching our children to read, do we accept the real responsibility we are taking on?  Yes, we know reading early and well equals higher test scores, better grades, acceptance into college, and eventually better jobs.  I would like to argue that all of that wanes indifferent in the light of the greatest opportunity that reading affords us.  A chance to revel in the heart, story, and glory of our God, our loving Heavenly Father.
Our culture loves stories.  Even those who say they don't like books like stories.  We DVR a show to learn what happens next, we anxiously await movie sequels, we revel in the joy of an underdog team defeating #1, and we lament to loss of life of people we've never met because we have heard their story.
As our culture becomes more and more obsessed with the next great news story, sports feat, wartime heroic, or love triangle, we move further and further from the Greatest Story ever told.  The story of a loving God who conquered death by sacrificing his beloved son.  Along the way there are battles and love stories, betrayal and regret, stories of love lost and gained, and most importantly forgiveness, second chances and redeeming Love.
Seeking out beginning readers and phonics programs, I hear little on the greater weight of what I am embarking to impart.  This isn't just about letter sounds and tracking skills anymore at our house.  It is something greater.  Something I am still unraveling the how-to of.  I know I must spark a love for stories, a joy in the suspense, a longing to reach the end, but the patience to enjoy the journey along the way.
I've been wondering if I'm crazy.  I've only shared these thoughts with two others while I've been ruminating on it.  Then I found some confirmation.  In John Piper's book Martin Luther: Lessons From His Life and Labor Piper states, "One of the great discoveries of the Reformation -- especially of Martin Luther - Was that the Word of God comes to us in a form of a Book.  In other words Luther grasped this powerful fact: God preserves the experience of salvation and holiness from generation to generation by means of a book of Revelation, not a bishop in Rome, and not the ecstasies of Thomas Muenzur and Zwickau Prophets.  The Word of God comes to us in a book.  That rediscovery shaped Luther and the Reformation."
Piper goes on to say, "The word of God that saves and sanctifies, from generation to generation, is preserved in a book.  And therefore at the heart of every pastor's work is book-work.  Call it reading, meditation, reflection, cogitation, study, exegesis, or whatever you will -- a large and central part of our work is to wrestle God's meaning from a book and proclaim it in the power of the Holy Spirit."
You may say, "Not all of our children will be pastors."  But they should be able to consult scripture and verify the teaching they are receiving is accurate according to scripture.  Most will have families, all will have friends and coworkers.  With this in mind shouldn't we equip them to lead their families well, to guide friends to relationship with Christ, to hold christian brothers accountable by sharing the truths of scripture?
As Luther stated, "Let the man who would hear God speak read Holy Scriptures."
By teaching our children not only the mechanics of reading, but a love of story, we are opening the door for a life long love affair with the only living and breathing book ever written.  For,"In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning."  John 1:1
This convicts my heart as much as it inspires me.  How do I spark a love for the Word of God, if I do not have it myself?  I need to dive in the Word, pray, and teach with my example.