Last October, Janie and I celebrated Reformation Day with a read-along of Pilgrim’s Progress for families. Janie covered the original book for older kids, while I picked up Oliver Hunkin’s Dangerous Journey: The Story of Pilgrim’s Progress. It would turn out to be more than just a good read or a vocabulary builder. My mom was in the last stages of cancer, and the reading I did with my kids in this book prepared us to process her death in December. Pilgrim’s Progress isn’t the Bible (an important point!), but it sent us digging into the Scriptures ourselves–and the entire process gave my young children comfort for dealing with death and sin they might not have had otherwise.
On the night before my mom died, my oldest daughter drew a picture of the Celestial City, a bright orange castle, very much like Hunkin’s. She wrote to my mother: “By by, see you soon. Hope you’re not too sad.” It was actually the last picture my daughter would ever give her, and perhaps the most meaningful drawing my mom ever received. They were simple words, but even if I’d had a lifetime of trying to teach my daughter what to say in that moment, I don’t think she could have done any better that such simple compassion and faith.
While Janie and I do spend a lot of time on this blog looking out at the secular culture and what’s right or wrong with it, we believe the best antidote to a sinful world is to fill our minds with the good, the true, and the beautiful. For every one look at ourselves and our sinful condition, (Janie has had to remind me on occasion) take ten looks at Jesus! To help other families do that, this winter I had the privilege of working with Carl Dean White–who also does our Bible Challenge illustrations–to reformat my original Pilgrim’s Progress read-along material. He and his sweet wife, Jenny, have helped me edit and rewrite the text, and Carl has added some super-fly illustrations to go with the text. (Yes, I did just say super-fly.) I’ve honestly been amazed at the results.
Wanna peek? CLICK HERE to download the intro and first chapter.
If you’d like to purchase the entire guide as well as Hunkin’s picture book version of Pilgrim’s Progress, click on over to our Pilgrim’s Progress Shop. Eventually, we hope to get Janie’s part all spit-shined as well, but for now, the guide is best suited to kids ages 4-12.
While Carl and I are asking for a small fee–only $.99 until Easter and $1.99 thereafter–the content (sans illustrations) is already available for free on our website. You can see chapters 1-8, beginning with this post.
And for those of you who’ve been waiting on my guide to that last, 9th chapter, I’ve pasted it below. Since it covers Christiana’s journey over the same ground that Christian trod, I decided to use it largely as a review. For the purposes of this post, some of you might like to skim it as a summary of the devotional material in the rest of the book.
Chapter 9 Summary
In this chapter, we follow Christian’s wife, Christiana, and her children and neighbor, Mercy, on their journey to The Celestial City. In Bunyan’s original writings, this was a separate novel from Christian’s story. Although we don’t go too deep into her tale, there are a few exciting moments such as their encounter with the hound of hell or their fight with he Giant Despair. In the end, she passes through the river of death to join her husband and her Lord.
For our purposes, this chapter is very useful as a review of the rest of the book. Christiana encounters challenges that her husband faced before, and at times finishes the fights that he began. As she encounters each trial, ask your children if they remember what happened to Christian at that place. Flip back to the original illustration if you want, or look at the coloring pages they did, and remind them of the memory verses. (You can even play one of your favorite games from the study again.) Personally, I like to end with one last glance at the Celestial City.
Today, our final activity is to bind the book your children have been making! Here are two possible ways of binding it: 1) Punch holes in the pages, and tie with ribbon. Simple, classic, old-fashioned book fun, or 2) if you’d like to make this a family treasure, you can scan it into your computer, upload the pages to Lulu.com or Kodak.com, and have a hardback keepsake printed. As you read the chapter, you might want to have the coloring pages nearby to pull out when they are referenced.
- Ch. 1: The Burden of Sin. Flip back to the title page and ask your children to tell you what they remember about this page. Remind them of the Memory Verse for Chapters 1 and 2: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 3:23) Look again at p. 113. Do you see Christiana’s sorrow for her sin anywhere? What else is part of her sorrow?
- Ch. 2: A Burden Lost, Heaven Gained. On p. 113, Christiana starts her journey. Turn to p.40 and try to remember why Christian started his journey. What happened to his burden? On p. 113 Christiana doesn’t have a burden, but she does get a special invitation from her husband’s Prince. Who is that Prince? How does she evidence her faith in Him?
- Ch. 3: Lions on Chains. At the House of the Interpreter on p. 118, Christiana and her group gain a guardian. God knew they would need help for the journey that Christian hadn’t. But in both cases, He gave them the help they needed. Turn to p. 49 and remember how God had the lions on chains. Then see if you can remember the Memory Verse for Chapters 3 & 4, Psalm 21:7–“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” What lions are you facing? Do you have any Mr. Great-hearts in your life?
- Ch. 4: The Full Armor of God. On page 118, Christiana and her crew pass the place where Christian fought Apollyon. Review p. 53 and 55, and discuss the armor of God. How many pieces of armor can you remember from Ephesians 6:10-18? What do they stand for? Talk again about how Jesus withstood the temptations of the Devil in the wilderness.
- Ch. 5: God with Us. On p. 118, they also pass the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Review p. 63-64, Psalm 23 and the Memory Verse for Chapters 5 & 6: ““When his lamp shone upon my head, and by his light I walked through darkness….” (Job 29:3) . When have you been encouraged by God’s presence in your troubles?
- Ch. 6: Faithful to the End. On p. 120, Vanity Fair doesn’t seem as vain anymore. They are happy to have Mr. Great-heart’s help. Review p. 71. Why didn’t the people of Vanity Fair like Christian and Faithful? Do you think you could be faithful to God, even if someone threatened to kill you or put you in jail? Where is our treasure? (See Matthew 6:33.)
- Ch. 7: The Key of Promise. I really love that on p. 122, even the children join in to slay the giant. See p. 96, and the Memory Verse for Chapters 7 & 8: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”(Jeremiah 29:11) Have you ever been to “Doubting Castle”? Do you ever think God won’t take care of you or those you love? Why is faith the key that unlocks the prison door?
- Ch. 8: Finishing Well. On p. 126, Christiana crosses the river of death to join her Prince. Look up Isaiah 43:2, and pages 109 and 111. We all must pass through the “river of death” to get to heaven. Do you think it will be worth it? What will be so wonderful about heaven? See Rev. 21:4-7. And finally, pray! Ask Him to open your heart as well as your children’s hearts to His Word, and use them to encourage and build you both up. And maybe even thank Him for stories that encourage us to seek Him and His truth.