The summer evenings in Connecticut where I live are filled with the sound of “peepers” – tree frogs, cicadas, and other small creatures that permeate the night air. For some not used to the noise it may be just that – noise. But for me it is a cadence of quiet calm. Not silence, but a contemplative hum breaking the darkness outside my open bedroom window.
Last week I was on vacation along the coast of Maine. Our days were filled with the sounds of silence; the crashing of waves and cries of seagulls accompanied us as we climbed the rocks surrounding Pemaquid Lighthouse. The sound of the cast-iron chime hanging from the house down the road, soulfully striking its own rhythm with the night wind, lulled us to sleep.
For those looking for a youth (middle school or high school) resource that would be adaptable for “distance learning” for the coming program year, Blessed to Bless: An Introduction to the Bible by Tim Sean Youmans (Church Publishing, 2020) may be an answer. Paired with watching videos from The Bible Project, this 300+ page book offers enough content for 86 sessions, broken down into four sections of two units each. BVC (Bible Vocabulary Concepts) are scattered throughout, helping to build up competency and biblical literacy that was once part of a common core education. Learn the origins of phrases such as “the patience of Job,” “Am I my brothers keeper?” and having a “Damascus Road experience.” Understand how scripture can be read literally, symbolically, or a mixture of both.
The Lord said to Abram, “Leave your land, your family, and your father’s household for the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation and will bless you. I will make your name respected, and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
those who curse you I will curse;
all the families of the earth
will be blessed because of you.” ––Genesis 12:1-3
Each chapter begins with a reading assignment from the Bible, followed by Tim Sean’s commentary and a few questions to consider and/or discuss. If you read two chapters of Blessed to Bless alongside your Bible, you will complete this survey of the Bible in about one year’s time. It’s written at an eighth-grade level and was inspired by Tim Sean’s students at Casady (Episcopal) School in Oklahoma City who are between ten- and fifteen-years old.
Tim Sean offers the following:
If you are a Christian and want a basic introduction to the Bible, this book is for you. If you are not religious but you want to have a sense of what the Bible contains and what it means to Christians, this book is also for you. It can be read together as parent and child; it can be sues with a group of parents reading the Bible together with their children, and it can be used for a Sunday school class for teens or adults. It’s for all types of beginners as well as those who want a refresher of the scope of our salvation story.
I can see young people being mailed a copy of the book along with a Common English Bible, which is the translation used in the text. Assignments to read a portion of scripture and a chapter in the book followed by a Zoom-session to watch a video clip together followed by discussion could be a feasible model during these times of social distancing. Most likely formation classes will not resume “in person” across the U.S. this September as churches will be focused on making worship in person a priority first.
Christine Hides of Bless Each One offers the following comment on Blessed to Bless:
Just as a cry for justice arose in our nation and religious leaders encouraged us to turn to scripture, Blessed to Bless: #AnIntroductiontotheBibleby Tim Sean Youmans appeared as a surprise in my mailbox. From time to time Church Publishing sends me preview copies of books to review. This one receives my recommendation for two reasons. First, I am regularly asked for resources to help make sense of the Bible, especially the Old Testament; this book offers a wide and deep guide to approaching sacred texts. The two page chapters are an excellent accompaniment for those who wish to read the text critically and constructively. Additionally, the author has a unique perspective, as an Episcopal priest who grew up in the evangelical tradition. He pitches a large and theologically sound tent that “cultivates the best of sacramental ritualistic Christianity with the heartfelt spirituality of the evangelical tradition.”
As graduations occur in different ways across the United States (and beyond) during our worldwide pandemic, high schools and colleges have sought new ways to honor the students who have worked hard to achieve this milestone along their life journey. As car parades through town, single photo-ops occur next to lawn signs, and the blending of videos of speakers and diploma hand-offs are recorded to share with family and friends many are asking, “What can I give a graduate this year when we can’t be together?” I have a suggestion.
I’ve been waiting for this book ever since Today is a Baptism Daywas released two years ago. Anna V. Ostenso Moore (author) and Peter Krueger (illustrator) have given young and old another gift with We Gather at This Table. With a gentle voice Anna shares how important it is for all ages to come together for the sharing of sacred stories, prayer, song, and fellowship. And during this time of being physically distant from each other, this book is especially touching as we recall how we can still find Jesus’ presence among us when we gather with those in our “safe circle” to share meals and tell stories of Jesus.