Catechizing Through Music

"A Family Prayer" by George Andrew ReidAre you familiar with the concept of catechizing? It sounds like a very stuffy, old, and boring term doesn’t it? In reality a catechism is just a summary of doctrinal beliefs written in question and answer format, for the purpose of memorization. It is a very useful tool for learning the foundations of Christian theology, and has historically been used to teach children the truths of Scripture at an early age. Still sounds stuffy? Let me try to help you see past the terminology. Listen to the way Kathy Keller describes the process of catechizing your children:

“… you are furnishing your child with the mental foundation on which the rest of his or her spiritual life will be built. Or, to switch metaphors, you are laying the kindling and the logs in the fireplace, so that when the spark of the Holy Spirit ignites your child’s heart, there will be a steady, mature blaze.” -Kathy Keller

There now, that doesn’t sound boring does it? THAT sounds like something I want to do!

In fact, my husband and I have always planned to incorporate an updated version of the Westminster Shorter Catechism (the one written specifically for children) into our family devotions. As we thought about our future family in those dreamlike dating and early marriage days, we had grand visions of what those times of Bible reading, singing, praying and catechizing would look like. All of our little children would be dressed, happy, quiet, and willing as they participated in this spiritually enriching process–at least that is how we envisioned it.

Fast forward to reality, and the process turned out to be much more grueling and “challenging” than we had initially thought it would be. The catechism just wasn’t happening. So we thought perhaps they were too young–okay, so they were pretty young at the time–and that we would pick it up again a few years down the line. Perhaps we had just been too ambitious to try to catechize a 2 and 3 1/2 year old.

Dana DirksenBut it wasn’t long after we had tucked away our handy 1st Questions and Answers book that I stumbled upon Dana Dirksen’s Songs for Saplings CDs. I was already familiar with her ABC album which is comprised of Bible verses that correspond with the alphabet, but had not yet heard her Questions with Answers CDs. Let me tell you, this series of albums is worth its weight in gold. I purchased the first CD for my boys and after just a few days of listening to the songs as we travelled in the car, my boys were singing the catechism to themselves. Yes, singing the catechism–questions AND answers–all by themselves without any prompting by me. My husband was flabbergasted at the ease with which they were able to recall the very same information we had so painfully sought to help them memorize only months before. Music, had helped them to commit these important and beautiful truths to heart.

Needless to say, I quickly ordered the next CDs in the series and my kids have been listening to them ever since. Dana’s songs are so well done, fun, and creative and do not shy away from big, theological words like many children’s songs. For instance, one of the songs asks, “What is sanctification?” and answers, “Sanctification is God making me Holy, in heart and behavior.” This might not sound like a very entertaining addition to your musical library, but Dana manages to pull off these deep theological truths in a fun and age appropriate way. My boys actually ask for these songs when we get in the car!

One of the things I appreciate the most about each song is that it includes not only the Q & A, but a supporting Scripture. I think this is brilliant because it roots their doctrinal beliefs in the Word of God and helps you (the parent) to know where to go in order to further study the doctrine being taught. Your children not only learn what the Bible says about a particular topic, but where it says it. See what I mean about gold? Yes.

As I have begun homeschooling my oldest, Elliot, I have been making a point to solidify his memorization of the catechism in a more tradition sense. After we have finished reading our Bible passage for the day, we walk through each question saying it and the answer out loud. This has been a breeze because he already has most of them memorized thanks to Dana’s songs.

There are 4 Questions with Answers CD’s so far: God and Creation, The Fall and Salvation, Christ and His Work, and The Word of God. That’s 80 songs. That’s 80 doctrinal truths to easily and joyfully teach your children through song! I heartily recommend this resource for every parent–even if you don’t intend to formally catechize your children. Just hearing and singing these fun songs will benefit them. And who knows, they might just get catechized along the way without you even knowing it!

I recently contacted Songs for Saplings to let them know how much I appreciated their work and that I would be reviewing the CDs on my blog. I was absolutely thrilled when they replied with a generous offer for the readers of Desiring Virtue. You can download the first Questions with Answers CD at 85% off by using the coupon code desiringvirtue. That means you can get the first CD for $.90! Just follow these instructions before September 20th to download your copy at a substantial discount:

  1. Visit the Questions with Answers, Volume 1 Download page by clicking here.
  2. Click “Buy now”
  3. In the pop up screen, click “Have a Discount Code?”
  4. Enter desiringvirtue and click apply
  5. The price will change from $6 to $.90! –that is a GREAT deal!

You can sample Dana’s music below (the Q&A songs begin on track 8) and either purchase her CDs through the Songs for Saplings website or on Amazon.

Thank you Songs for Saplings, for this wonderful resource and special offer for Desiring Virtue’s readers!

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Bookmarks 9/12/13

BookmarksTrials and the Goodness of God: Gloria Furman shares some sweet encouragement to anyone who is going through trials. She points out that if trials bring us nearer to Christ, then our trials are blessings indeed:

“When there’s nothing in heaven or on earth or under the earth that can separate you from Christ’s love, waves of trials can only throw you onto the Rock of Ages. Resting on that Rock is where I’d like to be and stay forever, and may the Lord bless the means he uses to remind me of that.” -Gloria Furman

The Comparison Game: Christina Fox challenges us to check our hearts when we find ourselves tempted to compare our lives/circumstances/talents to other women.

Excellent and Ordinary: Michael Horton brings meaning to the ordinary and cautions us to not find our worth in our achievements.

Little Sins, Big Consequences: Rachel Jankovic reminds us that the little sins in our lives can have a big impact on our children’s lives.

Women Bloggers and Women Preachers: Aimee Byrd takes a look at the differences between being called to pastor and being called to be an active member of the Body of Christ.

More Than Proverbs 31 and Titus 2: Did you get a chance to catch my first post over at Credo Magazine? I had the opportunity to share my heart for women needing more than rules and guidelines for the Christian life–we need the gospel.

Purity Before Marriage Provides Trust in Marriage: Garrett Kell shares how your physical relationship before you get married can impact your relationship after you get married.

Women Need More Than Proverbs 31 and Titus 2

Credo Blog Guest PostToday I have the incredible honor of sharing my heart for gospel-centered theology for women over at Credo Magazine’s blog. I am thrilled and humbled to announce that I will have the joy of contributing to Credo’s blog on a monthly basis, adding a female voice to the cast of male writers who have been serving the body of Christ there already. I hope you will join me as I talk about the need for applying the gospel to our view of the Proverb’s 31 and Titus 2 Women. Here is an excerpt:

It has been my experience that women especially can find it hard to keep the gospel at the center of their daily pursuit of holiness. Why would I say this? Because there seems to be a disproportional emphasis within women’s ministries, retreats, conferences, the blogosphere, and friendships focusing on biblical texts that are specifically applicable to the female sex but lacking in proper biblical context. We go to women’s retreats expounding on the different virtues of the Proverbs 31 Woman without ever hearing the gospel from where those virtues spring. We engage in Titus 2 relationships, mentoring each other in the practical outworkings of our faith without ever reminding one another of the life-giving truths of the gospel it’s all rooted in. We find accountability partners who will help us focus on the lists of things we need to change about ourselves rather than on the One who has promised to change us.

As a result, our lives can often feel like a vicious cycle of striving to be the perfect wife and mother, failing to be the perfect wife and mother, and then being overcome by guilt because of our inability to be the perfect wife and mother. We have not been taught these important passages of Scripture – which are meant for our edification – within the broader context of Scripture, and we rarely see them coupled with the good news of the gospel… {Read The Full Article Here}

Bookmarks 9/10/2013

BookmarksResponding to Menopause: Kim Shay takes a look at a time of life that every woman dreads and how we can most honor Christ through it.

How Busy Moms Can Get in the Word: When you have little ones (or big ones) finding alone, quiet, and peaceful moments to be refreshed by the Word of God can be a struggle. Here are some helpful tips by Courtney Joseph.

Twins… Burden or Blessing?: My friend Melissa Deming posts a response to a recent CNN article bemoaning the fate of being pregnant with twins.

Decluttering is a Matter of Discernment: Ruth Simons shares some thoughtful reflections on clutter, both in your home and in your heart and encourages us to practice the art of discernment:

“Decluttering is not just an issue of management; it is a matter of discernment, of waging war against worry and fear, and taking thoughts captive as obedient to Christ.” -Ruth Simons

First Things First: I loved this piece by Stephen Altrogge on not getting too stressed about secondary issues when parenting. We must be careful to focus on the most important things and then do our best with the rest.

Selfies and Being Unfriended: As a mother of young boys I have often thought about the unique challenges I will face as my sons grow up in a social media saturated culture. I thought this was a really poignant post from a mom who is taking her role of guarding and training her sons seriously.

Guess How Much He Loves You

“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us.” (1 John 4:16 ESV)

Are you familiar with the sweet storybook Guess How Much I Love You? It is a favorite bedtime story for our family. Throughout its beautifully illustrated pages, Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare compete to describe exactly how much they love one another. With each charming page, their descriptions of their love grows. First it is just the length between their outstretched hands, then it is as high as they can hop, until finally Big Nubrown Hare whispers to his sleeping son, “I love you all the way to the moon and back,” besting his son’s previous declaration: “I love you to the moon.” Though the son’s love for his father is genuine and enthusiastic, his father’s love is always greater.

Can you imagine playing this game with our Heavenly Father? “Dear God, guess how much I love you?” Well, the game would pretty much end right there. God would say something like, “Oh, I know exactly how much you love me. You hated me. Mocked me. In fact, you waged war against me until I lavished my love upon you and put my Spirit within you. Now my Spirit is at work, renewing your heart and mind, and causing you to trust me more with each passing day. He is causing you to love me and to enjoy my love. You now love me, because I first loved you.”

Comparison over. Contest won. We could never even begin to stack our love up against the love of the Father. What a humbling thought! Every emotion and affection we have toward the Father that even resembles love is a direct result of his wondrous grace. He is the one lavishing love upon us, not the other way around: “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10 ESV)

And yet, how is it that we can still find ourselves questioning his love for us? How can it be that there are days when our attitudes, or circumstances, or the world around us tempt us to believe his love might waver or be cut off from us altogether?

Perhaps you get done with a terrible, no good, very bad day in which your attitude caused everyone around you to resent your very existence. You have done nothing good, blessed not a single person, and thought little of your precious Savior. You lay in your bed at the conclusion of the day processing all that has transpired and think, “God cannot possibly love me today. Today, I am unlovable.”

Or perhaps some incredible trial has befallen you. You lose a child, you contract a horrible disease, you lose your job, or your husband cheats on you. Certainly God does not love you in this! His love would not allow such tragedies to occur, would it? In prayers of agony you find yourself asking, “If you truly loved me God, why would you allow this pain and suffering? Do you truly love me in this?”

Or maybe you struggle to accept his promises to love you based on your experiences with human love in the past. Your parents once told you they loved you, but then the abandoned you. Your husband once swore to love and treasure you for the rest of his life, but then he began to abuse you, breaking every vow he ever uttered. When you’ve known nothing of sacrificial love in this world, it can be difficult to accept the perfect, unchanging, and free love of God.

But we must not let this be the case. We cannot allow our hearts to play guessing games with the love of God. It is too precious and he is too honest for us to question his Word. We must continually be about the business of battling the lie that God does not, cannot, or will not love us based on our circumstances, actions, or emotions. This is a lie from Satan, a lie that he victoriously sold to our first parents, Adam and Eve. It is the lie that Christ came to save us from.

If the blood of Christ was shed for you, then you can be certain that God has shown and will continue to show you the greatest love the world has ever known. His love is based upon nothing but the sacrificial work of his Son and is shown in nothing better than the sacrificial work of his Son. Consider these verses:

  • 1 John 4:9: In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.
  • Romans 5:8: but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
  • Lamentations 3:22: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases…
  • John 3:16: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

This kind of love is incomprehensible. How could a holy God love those who are filthy and completely unlovable? How could he love us to the point of sacrificing his own beloved Son? We cannot possibly fathom this God who describes his very being as “love”. And yet, this is what he beckons us to believe. This is what his Spirit is testifying to in the depths of our souls: that God loves us and will never stop loving us.

I cannot say it any better than September’s 3 in 3 Challenge book, Name Above All Names, does:

The heart of the gospel is this: in demonstration of his love, the heavenly Father sent his only Son to die on the cross in our place and for our sins… It is the cross alone that ultimately proves the love of God to us–not the providential circumstances of our lives. We must not allow ourselves to be tricked into thinking that if things are going well with us, then we can be sure of God’s love. For life can often seem dark and painful. Things do not always go well for us. Rather, we look to the sacrifice of the cross and the demonstration God gave there of his love. This is the proof I need. This is the truth I need to hear if the lie is to be dispelled.

If you ever begin to question God’s love for you, look to the cross. It is there that God stretched out his arms to describe exactly how much he loved you, but it was not the space between his hands that described the depth, height, and length of his love, it was the price: it was the death of the eternal son of God.

That is how much he loves you.

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