Mark Battersons’ ‘God Speaks in Whispers’ Provides Kids with Big Answers to Big Questions
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Mark Batterson has developed a well-earned reputation over the years as a thought-provoking author with a practical sense of taking complex theological principles and making them easily applicable to everyday life.
As the pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC, the always affable Batterson has penned 17 best-selling books with titles like, The Circle Maker, The Grave Robber, and In the Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day. But his latest release is a bit different. God Speaks in Whispers is an illustrated children’s book.
Co-written with his daughter, Summer Batterson Dailey, God Speaks in Whispers seeks to guide small children with big questions to vital answers that will last a lifetime. They do so in a way that is both fun and clever, but more importantly, helps them to look for God’s voice in the universe.
I recently spoke to Mark about his decision to write a children’s book, the importance of introducing children to how God speaks to them, and why training children to hear God’s voice can help them get rid of fear in the coronavirus pandemic.
First off, how have you and your family been making it through the coronavirus?
One day at a time, you know. I live in Washington, DC. Being right in the nation's Capital is unique because like many places across the country, we've got some significant restrictions. We haven't gathered for a weekend gathering as a church since March. It’s a whole new world. The good news is through our DC Dream Center we've served about 50,000 meals and we’re really making a difference. So, some good things are happening despite the fact that we haven't been able to gather.
That’s fantastic. Let’s talk about this book. What was the inspiration or catalyst for writing God Speaks in Whispers?
A few years ago I wrote a book called Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God. I talked about the seven languages that God speaks in. So, Scripture is the first language and then doors, dreams, desires, people, and promptings in pain. We had this idea. What if we turn that into a kid's book, a bedtime storybook. I think kids have a unique ability to hear the voice of God. So, we created God Speaks in Whispers along with some beautiful illustrations. I really believe it's going to create some (teachable) moments for parents and kids as they read this book together.
You have long been known for your writing in the adult faith arena (17 books to be precise). Why, after so many years writing in that genre, the decision to write a children’s book? Also, I should note that your daughter is your co-author.
She absolutely is. In fact, she has a little bit of this "Seussian" rhyming gift that I didn't even know she had. The book really almost reads like a poem. We felt like it would be fun to do this project together. And as a social worker, I think she has a unique ability to say things that can really speak to younger children. It was a joy as a dad reading books to her as a little girl. In fact, those are some of my best memories as a father. So, to be able to write a book together as a father daughter tag team was even more fun.
Diving into the book a bit, what is the importance of introducing children to the various ways that God lovingly speaks to them and how to listen to His voice?
I think the sooner that a child can learn to discern God's voice, the better off they're going to be. So, there's even this story about the prophet Samuel. When he was a young boy, he said, ‘Speak Lord, your servant is listening.’ He wasn't too young to hear God's voice. I think in some ways, kids have unique advantage over adults because they don't know what can't be done yet. They have tremendous faith. I think learning to see God in their everyday lives is sort of where we begin the book. Can you hear God crashing in the waves? Can you hear Him echo in the caves? Do you hear Him when a bird chirps or when your sister slurps? It’s kind of this whimsical fun introduction. And then, we get into some of the emotions. Can you hear God when you're sad or when you're mad? It really speaks to kids who might be experiencing those emotions but aren't sure what to do with it. We kind of start there and the collaboration allowed us to kind of hit all the different dimensions of what it's like to be at that life stage.
How can this children’s book play a part in introducing children to God’s loving character through whispers (nature, people, Bible, etc. … )?
I think it gets so important for children to realize how much God actually loves them, that they are beloved by God. That really is the subplot of the entire book until you can get to the very end. We have a little bit of fun with this Scripture in , where it says that God is singing songs of deliverance all around the us, which is a really powerful, powerful thought. We end the book this way. “Above all else, know this is true, that God is singing all around you. And what is He saying in that voice still in small, that you my dear are his favorite of all?” We want children to know that there is a God who knows the hairs on their head, who created them with a unique fingerprint, who has plans and purposes, and who has prepared good works in advance.
I think back to my own childhood and some of my early memories are my parents reading Bible stories or bedtime books to me. Those are such sacred moments. Those are an opportunity for parents and children to have conversations that can open up kids' hearts and minds to who God is. Like any parent, I loved those fun whimsical books like Good Night Moon or A Moose and a Muffin. I don't want to just have fun with the book. We want to make sure that there's a message of God loves you. God speaks to you. Hopefully, the book accomplishes both of those things.
How does training our children to hear God’s voice help them embrace His peaceful presence and get rid of any fear kids (and parents) might be going through during this pandemic?
There is a tremendous amount of uncertainty in terms of where we're headed with this virus and where we're headed as a nation. I think it's more and more important that kids find their grounding in God, in God's Word, and in hearing God's voice. I think it can be as simple as “In everything by prayer and petition with Thanksgiving, present your request to God and the peace of God that transcends all understanding will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.” I think what's fun about a bedtime storybook is for lot of kids that's the moment where they fear the dark or they fear being by themselves. When I was a kid, my biggest fear was that Big Foot might be under my bed. I think those fears are very real for our children and probably even more so now in the world that we live in. I think we've got to remind them that God is here, there, and everywhere, and that God is with us. God is for us. God is in us. He is all around us. Rain or shine, He hears our prayer. He is listening to us. And so, I think this book introduces that idea to kids at a young age so that they can have that confidence in who God is. ,
After people have read God Speaks in Whispers what you like readers and listeners to take away from the experience. What is your greatest hope for the book?
I think it's really teaching children to hear God's voice in different ways. I think you can hear God's voice in nature. Everything that exists was once the spoken word. God said, “Let there be light.” In doing so, He brought everything into creation. So really, everything that we see is the voice of God. So, how can we hear that voice when we're in nature? They can learn to discern God's voice through the stars in the sky. As we write in the book, when mom tickles your tummy and makes you wiggle until you let out a great big giggle, I think those are moments where we learn to hear God, even in the hullabaloo or the commotion of what it's like to be a child in today's world. They don't need to wait until they're teenagers, in their twenties, or an adult. I think God wants to speak to us when we are children. And that really is our hope and prayer for this book.
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