Every Story Whispers His Name
About the Guest
Sometimes one bold, courageous step can lead to a higher calling and purpose. Such is the case for Sally Lloyd-Jones, author of "The Jesus Storybook Bible." Sally recalls how her father sent her off to boarding school at the tender age of 8 with the words of Joshua 1, "Be strong and very courageous." Though ill and terribly frightened at the time, Sally was sure that God was going ahead of her.
Sally Lloyd-Jones recalls how her father sent her off to boarding school with the words of Joshua 1, “Be strong and very courageous.”
Every Story Whispers His Name
Bob: Sally Lloyd-Jones grew up hearing Bible stories; but by the time the stories were over, they didn’t leave her comforted or encouraged. In fact, they made her wonder if God really loved her.
Sally: I used to think I had to be as brave as Daniel and then God would love me; but I knew very well I wasn’t nearly as brave as Daniel, and I wouldn’t want to be thrown into a den of lions. I’d say, “No, I don’t believe in God,” rather than be thrown—so, I thought: “How can God be pleased with me? He can’t.”
So this book came out of that because the Bible isn’t a book of rules or a book of heroes. It’s, most of all, a story. It’s the story of how God loves His children and comes to rescue them. At the center of the story, there is a baby; and every single story in the Bible whispers His name.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, November 16th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. It is good to tell your children Bible stories, but it’s even better if you can point them to Jesus in those stories.
We’ll talk about that today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. I think I just need to say to the grandparents who are tuned in today: “Go ahead and get your credit card out now,” because, by the time we’re done, you’re going to want to go online, at FamilyLifeToday.com, and order multiple copies of what we’re talking about to send to your grandkids this Christmas.
Dennis: This is really good stuff. We’re going to be talking about The Jesus Storybook Bible. It’s kind of subtitled here: Every Story Whispers His Name.
Bob: Isn’t that great? I love that.
Dennis: I love that. I do. It’s an illustrated Bible that’s going to help you communicate the truth about Jesus Christ to the next generation—then, another book, Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing. Both of these are by Sally Lloyd-Jones.
And I want to welcome Sally to our broadcast. Before she says, “Hello,” I want to warn our listeners that Sally has a very thick accent.
Bob: It’s a lovely—in fact, I’m wishing that, with the book, you would come along and read the stories in your accent.
Sally: And now—what if I put on a different accent and, then, threw you completely for the whole interview? [Laughter]
Dennis: Yes, you think you could fake Southern?
Sally: No; if I could, I would have tried. [Laughter]
Dennis: Sally lives in New York City. She is a leading writer of inspirational books for children and just has a great heart of wanting to get the gospel, and the truth about God, to children.
Why did you come to New York City from England? I mean, Wales is a beautiful place!
Bob: What were you thinking?
Sally: What was I thinking?
Bob: Cardiff by the sea—you left it.
Dennis: I mean, “Wow!”
Sally: Well, I was actually working in London. I thought, “You know”—I saw the job advertised. I was working in publishing because I was doing the classic thing of almost doing what I wanted; but I was on the wrong side of the desk—I was an editor.
I saw an ad; and I thought, “Oh, I could do that.” But probably, like all Londoners, I thought: “Probably, I shouldn’t go to America for more than a year. That probably wouldn’t be wise.” So, I came; but that was back in 1989. So, that shows you—
Bob: Why do all Londoners think they shouldn’t come to America for more than a year?
Sally: Probably because they think London is the center of the whole universe, like New Yorkers. So, I fitted in perfectly. [Laughter]
Dennis: And you live in New York City as such?
Sally: I do. I love it. Every day you come out of your door—you don’t know what’s coming next. It’s like an adventure. I love it.
Bob: You came to New York in a publishing position; but behind the scenes, your heart/ your desire was to write books; right?
Sally: Yes, I always had wanted to be a writer, but I suffered from the idea that that was just a dream; and “I’m just a child,” and “Anyway, I’m English. You’ve got to be realistic and financially responsible.”
So, as a child, I had read this book called Edward Lear’s The Complete Nonsense, when I was about seven.
Sally: It changed everything, because I didn’t know you were allowed to have so much fun inside a book. He was doing drawings and funny rhymes. At seven, I didn’t know better. So, I just kept making up rhymes, and doing drawings, and inflicting them on anyone I could get hold of.
Dennis: So, if I would have known you—if I’d been going to school with you, at that time—
Dennis: —you’d have been known as a writer?
Sally: Yes, making up stories.
Dennis: Constantly dreaming?
Sally: Yes, dreamy.
Dennis: Telling—making people listen to your stories?
Sally: Yes, making them laugh, being very dreamy—terrible at math—not doing very well.
Dennis: So, what was your favorite story you wrote as a kid?
Sally: Oh, I don’t remember a single one. Well, except I think my favorite piece of writing was the one that the teacher—you know, we all have a teacher that made all the difference. And I had a teacher called Mr. Dean. He was 26—tall, dark, and handsome. He told a nine-year-old that she could write. And the piece of writing that he loved was about going on the train and saying goodbye to my mother.
So, I’ve always remembered that because it was seared into my mind because he believed in me.
So, even though I grew up thinking, “I can’t really have my dream,” there was another side, deeper down, where I thought, “Yes, but Mr. Dean said I could write.”
Dennis: Just one person’s belief can make a huge difference.
Sally: Oh, amazing. I mean, I also had my mother telling me that; but of course, somehow, you think, “Well, they have to tell you that because they have to love you because they’re your mum.” So, something about a teacher—I have a huge respect for them. My sister is a teacher, and it’s an incredible gift. I’m just sad they don’t get paid more and recognized more because they are so—it’s such a gift.
Dennis: I’ve got to ask you this question, right off the start. I usually save this question for the end of the broadcast.
Dennis: Truthfully, I’ve asked it of several women; but generally, it’s a question that I’m known to ask of men. But here is a young lady—you’re single.
Dennis: You left London to come live in Big City—
Dennis: —I mean, “Hello!”
Bob: London is a pretty big city too. Yes.
Dennis: Yes, it is; but it’s a foreign city.
Bob: Well, that’s true.
Dennis: Okay; alright. The question is this, Sally: “What is the most courageous thing you have ever done?”
Sally: Well, I think when I went to boarding school, when I was eight. I didn’t have a choice; but I think that’s probably God equipping me, I think, for the life He was calling me to. But I remember my dad giving me Joshua 1. So there I was, eight years old, being told: “Be strong and very courageous,” and “everywhere you step—that your foot steps on—every piece of ground…”—so, I had this kind of heroic vision that my dad gave me. We knelt by the bed together before I went to school. I was terrified, and it made me ill. I mean, the first night I was sort of just terribly frightened; but I also knew God was going ahead of me and calling me.
Now, I look back on that verse; and it’s been true of my whole life. And I feel like that was a terrifying thing, as an eight year old; and God was faithful. So, coming to America—that’s kind of terrifying me right now to think if I’d have to do that now—but at the time, it didn’t feel scary because I kind of knew—
Dennis: It was consistent with your life.
Sally: Yes, He kind of trained me.
So, I feel like I’ve always been more at home away from home—feeling like my life is an adventure.
Dennis: But your dad pushed you out of the nest.
Dennis: I mean, boarding schools—to most Americans are—we don’t really have an understanding what that looks like. How many years did you go to that boarding school?
Sally: I went, basically, from eight to eighteen. So, I was out of the house from eight; but the reason I went was because we were living in Africa. I’d gone to the international school; but—because I was this child that was dreamy, and in-the-clouds, and all that—I wasn’t thriving in this international school. My parents were faced with this awful, impossible decision: “Were they going to let me stay in this school and not thrive?”
Then, they knew, when they came back to England, I would really be in trouble because I already had this idea that I wasn’t clever. So, they could see the trajectory if they left me in that school. Then, they realized that the best kind of education I could get would be at boarding school. So, it sounds really horrible, and it was traumatic for me; but the school was so amazing.
It was at that school that this teacher was. Those years—from eight to twelve, especially—that was the school—my prep school. It was in an old manor house. Actually, it was in the Jacobean mansion rumored to be Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urberville’s Bram Hurst Court.
Sally: But that’s not the worst bit. It was—I love telling people this—it’s so horribly ghoulish! [Laughter]—but it was the house owned by the last woman beheaded in England—Dame Alice Lisle. She was executed by Judge Jeffreys.
Bob: Did you know that, at age nine or ten?
Sally: Yes, I loved it! [Laughter]
Dennis: Did you think you would be writing today?
Sally: I don’t know. I don’t think so. I actually think, because those years are so vivid in my head—any friend, you ask, of mine, will tell you I’m forgetting things all the time—but my childhood is extremely vivid. I think, maybe, I’d be writing; but maybe, I wouldn’t be writing children’s books.
Dennis: You know, I think about our approach to raising kids. It typically is—we’re trying to deliver comfort.
Dennis: We’re trying to protect, at every turn. Yet, it’s kind of a “Wow!” to me that your dad had the vision for you, and recognized your talent, and did something that had to be extremely hard on him.
Sally: Oh, yes. I think my parents suffered more than I did because they didn’t—you know, when they told me—I can remember—I was sitting at the breakfast table of our colonial home in Freetown, Sierra Leone. The fan was going above my head, and my bare feet were swinging in the heat. My parents said to me, “We have to send you away.”
I remember thinking—because I was seven, I thought—and I’m the eldest—so, I thought: “Oh! Maybe, everyone, at seven, gets sent away.” Then, I thought, “Maybe, I have an older sister,” because I really wanted an older sister. I didn’t like being the older—because I was a dreamy, head-in-the-clouds—I wasn’t really a good older sister.
So, I said to my parents: “Oh! Did you have any other children that went away?” because they never said I was coming back. I told that to a friend of mine, who is a writer. His take was, “You were already making up stories to make it work in your head.”
Dennis: You don’t realize this, but there are some moms and some dads, who are listening to your story right now, and their hearts are soaring with hope because they are raising a child who may be a dreamer. Dreamy heads—you’ve mentioned that phrase at least six times, here, in less than ten minutes.
Dennis: God built you in such a way that you had gifts and talents that were expressing themselves. Today, you’ve had an impact upon a lot of children’s lives.
Sally: Yes, I’m very grateful because, whenever I come across a child that’s not thriving at school, my heart goes out to them because I know—and I have a nephew like this. I’m always telling him: “You just don’t learn the way that they know how to teach; but you’re going to be someone who is amazing.
“You’re going to soar, and you’re going to have something so specific to what you can do.” But, then, I’m his aunt, so I have to say that. So he doesn’t really believe me. [Laughter] But I really believe it!
Bob: Were there times in your life when your dreamy-headedness was a frustration?—when you wished you weren’t as dreamy as you were?
Sally: Oh, yes, because, you know, I have a sister who’s not like that. I kind of think I abdicated. She became the older sister and I just—this was inspiration for one of my books—I wrote up a book called How to be a Baby, by Me, the Big Sister.
Bob: We’re talking today to Sally Lloyd-Jones, who’s the author of The Jesus Storybook Bible for kids. I want to know how you made the transition from being on one side of the desk, at the publishing office, to the other. And was it always in the direction of children’s stories, or did you start off, fancying yourself as the great—not the great American novelist—the great British novelist? [Laughter]
Sally: Well, I was either going to be an actor or a writer. I wanted to prepare for my careers.
I knew, as a child, that you’re famous—if you are either of those, you are famous. And then, I thought—and this is funny because here we are—“Well, what happens when you’re famous is—you get interviewed on the radio.” So, I—this is why I’m so good at interviews. I would practice, under the sheets in my bed, when I was eight, my interviews—but because I didn’t know what I’d done—so, I couldn’t say. All I could practice were the in-between bits like: “Oh, that’s so interesting you would ask that. Ha. Ha. Ha. Yes.” [Laughter]
And do special interview laughing. [Laughter] Anyway, that was what I was doing at eight. It’s quite funny to tell you this while we sit here. So, to answer your question, properly—I made the transition because I got laid off, really; but I started off in school textbooks at Oxford University Press in Oxford. That was my first job, and I loved it. I was trained really well, and it was just a great experience. But down the corridor, came all this laughter; and that was the children’s picture book department.
I decided there, “Okay, that’s where I want to work because they are having all the fun.” But I didn’t think I could write picture books because I wasn’t good enough and all that stuff. So, I kept working in editing.
Then, I came to America; and I was working—and it was always in children’s books. Then, they started not being able to afford to pay the writers because I worked on books that could flap, and squeak, and tick, and bounce. It never really mattered to them what the content was. But I always thought, “Well, why don’t you make it good quality?” So, I would end up writing the books, without meaning to, because they had no budget. So, I kind of started writing these kinds of books on the side—you know, just as part of my job.
Dennis: So, they didn’t have a Christian message—
Dennis: —at all?
Sally: —because my whole vision was—I was brought up in a Christian home / had grown up in the church. I didn’t really want to just stay in the church. I wanted to get my training in the general market and get the best training I could get. So, I had this plan: “I’m going to work in a general publisher.”
So, I come to America. I’m working in a general publisher, and they know I’m a Christian. Suddenly, they start giving me Bible books.
God’s sense of humor was wonderful because I had decided I wasn’t going to work in Christian books / I was going to work in general books, but I got the best combination of both. I became the publisher of the Christian children’s book line. It combined my two passions, you know, of writing and my faith. So, it was a wonderful combination.
Bob: So, were you at home, in the evening, writing out your own stories?
Sally: I didn’t know it was children’s books. I was doing like vignettes to use in church—like dramas—because I loved acting. The pastor would use it in the sermon. So, I’d be doing that kind of writing. But when my nephew came along—when he was born—suddenly, when I was working on these books at this publishing company—I suddenly had a real child to write for. When I’d be working on a Bible story book, I’d be thinking: “Well, what would Harry—how would I say it to him? He’s not going to understand sin. I can’t just say, ‘sin.’ He’s not going to know anything about that.”
So it forced me—and it became a great training. I started to think of a real child—talking—just talking.
My writing started to change, where it became not sounding like writing. And I love what Elmore Leonard said—he said, “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”
Sally: It shouldn’t sound like writing.
Bob: So, when you explain to a four-year-old about sin, how do you explain it?
Sally: Well, I think you have to have lots of different ways; but one of the best ways, I think, is running away, and hiding, and thinking you can be happy without God. That’s one way. Another way is to think of sin is like poison that makes your heart sick—so that it doesn’t work properly anymore. It’s thinking that you can be happy without God, but God knows there is no such thing.
I think it’s all about making it relational. The danger I see in some Bible story books is that it is made only about the rules; but we all know, if it’s about the rules, our hearts are hard. Rules make us want to rebel, but if you hear that sin is actually breaking God’s heart, then, a child responds to that because they don’t want to break someone’s heart who loves them.
Dennis: Let’s talk about both of these books. I just want you to give our listeners just a real quick synopsis of what each of these is about. First of all, The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name—this is a story book, along with a DVD. What’s this about?
Sally: It’s really telling the great story underneath all the stories of the Bible because, when I grew up, I thought the Bible was about me and what I’m supposed to be doing so God would love me. I thought it was a book of rules that you had to keep; and then, God would be pleased with you and love you.
Or else, it was a book of heroes you are supposed to copy. I used to think I had to be as brave as Daniel and then, God would love me. But I knew very well that I wasn’t nearly as brave as Daniel, and I wouldn’t want to be thrown into a den of lions; and I’d say, “No, I don’t believe in God,” rather than be thrown. So, I thought: “How can God be pleased with me? He can’t.” So, this book came out of that because the Bible isn’t a book of rules or a book of heroes. It’s, most of all, a story.
It’s the story of how God loves His children and comes to rescue them. At the center of the story, there is a baby; and every single story in the Bible whispers His name.
Bob: Where had you learned that? Because I don’t think it’s common for kids to grow up thinking that every story in the Bible points to Jesus. Where did that idea come to you?
Sally: It came because I worked—you know, I’m in New York. I came to New York around the time that Tim Keller came to New York, and I belong to his church. So, over the years, I say to people—they say to me, “Well, what’s your theological training?” I say: “Well, I’ve read John Stott, Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones. I’ve had the best training. But I also think I’ve been to Tim Keller University by listening to his sermons, week after week, and hearing grace, every single Sunday.”
In every single sermon, there is a point in the sermon where it all seems hopeless. You could leave—a lot of people would leave the sermon there—where you are left trying harder—which is how I grew up, as a child—but it always turns, and as every sermon should. It turns and points to Jesus because He’s the only hope we have.
When you realize that, then the Bible is transformed into this incredible hope-filled book. I wanted children to know that.
Dennis: Sally, that’s a good description of The Jesus Storybook Bible. This other one—Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing—what’s that all about?—because it’s actually illustrated by a young man who is out in Cornwall in England—Jago.
Sally: Yes, Jago.
Dennis: Share with our listeners what this is about.
Sally: This book was inspired by my niece, who went from being a very vivacious little girl of about eight, at the time—and she would kind of walk through her life, singing the soundtrack for her own life kind of thing. She went—almost overnight—she turned into someone who you could hardly hear speak. Her voice was very, very hidden away. We, then, found out she’d been bullied at school.
Later, when she was better, I said to her, “Why did you go like that?” She said these words that I won’t ever forget. She said, “I thought if I stopped being me, I wouldn’t get in trouble.” It broke my heart.
When we are grown-up—before we go into a scary meeting, we’ll read our devotions. We’ll have something. We know where to go to get comfort; but when I asked my niece what she was doing, she showed me all these kind of awful sort of work-like things to fill in the blanks. I thought, “How is that going to help her when she’s got to face the scary bullies?” I thought, “I wish she had a book that told her what God says about her instead of what the bullies say.” And that’s where this book came from. It’s a book of hope for children.
Dennis: Which one of these—
Bob: Oh, I picked out one for her to read. Can I do this?
Dennis: Yes. I was going to have her read one. I was going to have her pick her favorite, but we’ll do that later.
Bob: Each of these is about a page long—
Bob: —not very long. There is a passage from the Bible that’s included, but I want you to read Winkie.
Sally: Okay. I love Winkie. Winkie:
During World War II, a damaged plane crashed into the sea. The crew had no way to radio for help; but they had a vital piece of equipment, a pigeon named Winkie.
Winkie flew all the way home to the base, all 129 miles, alerting rescuers and saving the entire crew. She was awarded a special medal for her heroism.
However far away they are, birds can find their way home again, and again, and again; but not God’s children. God’s children aren’t homesick for Him. God is our true home. Away from Him, we are lost.
Are you far away today? Be like Winkie. The minute you realize you’ve gone off course, head home: “O, return to Me, for I have paid the price to set you free.” Isaiah 44:22
Bob: You see, I don’t just want a copy of the book. I want—
Dennis: —her voice.
Bob: I want Sally to come along and read it.
Dennis: Read it all.
Bob: Yes. Is there an audio book for this?
Sally: Yes. And we have—if you’ve ever come across Poirot, we have David Suchet reading, who—
Bob: I don’t want David Suchet—I want you!
Sally: Oh, you’re so nice. Well, I think the thing is I’m good for about two or three.
But after about ten, you might be like: “Oh, shut up! Be quiet! She’s boring!” [Laughter] Am I allowed to say “shut up” on your radio? [Laughter]
Dennis: No. No, you’re not—especially not at that because our listeners are going, “Oh, no! Keep reading! Keep reading!” [Laughter]
Sally: Well, listen to David Suchet and then decide; because he’s a master.
Dennis: Yes. Well, I love what you’ve done. I, too, love to listen to you read. I’ve got one that I want you to read, but we’ll do that on a later broadcast.
I just am listening here, Bob; and I am thinking, “Stories are how we break through into a child’s soul.” And Sally has really—almost like a locksmith helps break into a safe or gets into a place that’s difficult—she will help parents, I think, and grandparents go some places with kids, with a profound imagination, that even the parents and the grandparents might travel along to those faraway places as well.
Bob: Yes, and this is why I started by saying you’ll want to get your credit card out on today’s program because there are going to be a lot of moms and dads, and grandmas and grandpas, who are going to want to get—in fact, what I would suggest you get is The Jesus Storybook Bible, together with the audio CD—it’s a read-along CD—and the entire book animated on DVD. You can get all of that; and then, Sally has also written a book called Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing.
We’ve got all of her resources in the FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com to order; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or call us at 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
You know, this issue of passing on spiritual truth to the next generation is at the heart of what we, as parents, understand our responsibility to be as we read the Scriptures.
Here, at FamilyLife, our desire / our goal is to provide you with practical biblical encouragement, help, hope—tools that you can use—so that you can do what God has called us to do, as moms and dads. We want to see every home become a godly home.
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Click the button in the right-hand corner that says, “I care”; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make a donation over the phone. Or you can mail your donation to us at FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR. Our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow, we want to talk more about how we can take big complicated theological subjects and make them simple for kids. Sally Lloyd-Jones is going to join us again tomorrow. I hope you can be here as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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