Family Devotions: The Recipe for Crazy Making


We gave the boys new Bibles for Easter, because it was time. They needed to graduate to a version that doesn’t say “Little Boy’s Bible” on the cover or entice them with animated drawings of someone who may or may not look like Jesus or Moses or Daniel or Joshua.

They’re leather bound, different from each other, and will grow with them into the next few years until they are ready for an even more sophisticated version. I released myself from the ever present question I ask when I buy books for them: “Will they really read it?”

It’s a fair question in the intoxicating aisles of Barnes and Noble, but it’s fair to say that “whether or not they’ll read it” should never be the contingent reason for whether you give or don’t give your child a Bible.

So they have new Bibles. And God love them, they sniffed the inside of the spine when they opened their new Bibles. (These are my children.)

(It’s possible they’ve been watching me for all their years and they think that’s standard protocol for new books, come to think of it.)

So we have a new routine of reading our Bibles together just before bedtime. It’s 8:30 pm, and if we were really going to do this well, we would have started a half-hour ago. But it is what it is. Get your Bibles, gentlemen.

I have high hopes for giving them a stronger Bible knowledge, of equipping them with some Old and New Testament literacy, of having some old-school sword drills, of giving them shiny silver dollars for verses memorized. As always, my hopes and expectations soar.

But then we all sit down together, too late in the evening, and it doesn’t go the way I have in mind. It’s all very… well, age appropriate.

“Guys, since Grandma is recovering from her shoulder surgery, let’s look up some verses about healing. Look in the back of your Bible, where it looks like a dictionary. That’s called a concordance, and it’s where you can find a list of verses with specific words.”

“How do you spell heal again?”


“Oh. I thought it was h-e-l-l.”


“I like to look at the maps, Mom.”

“They’re pretty cool. See if you can find the word ‘heal.'”

“I found the word ‘hell.'”

“We’re looking for any version of heal, healed, or healing.”

“Here’s one, Mom. Leviticus 13:19.”

But I’ve forgotten about the learning curve of the process:

1) finding the word in the concordance,

2) reading the reference,

3) finding the table of contents,

4) finding the page number,

5) locating the actual page,

6) finding the chapter,

7) forgetting which verse,

8) going back to the concordance

9) losing your page,

10) starting back at number 1.

God bless it all and give me grace.

Just when I’ve lost hope, then he finds it and reads aloud, ” ‘If anyone has a boil on the skin that has started to heal, but a white swelling or a reddish white spot develops in its place, that person must go to the priest to be examined.’ Ew, Mom. That one’s gross.”

“That one is gross. Let’s see what else can find.”

Return to above list, 1-10, on repeat.

“Here’s one, Mom. Micah 1:9. ‘For my people’s wound is too deep to heal.’ Do you think Grandma’s wound is too deep to heal? Why can’t Jesus heal it?”

“He can and he will. It’s not that kind of wound. Let’s see… how about…”

“Here’s one, Mom. Hosea 14:4. ‘I want to heal Israel, but its sins are too great.’ Yikes, Mom.”

“Right. Let’s maybe switch gears. I’ll find a verse for you.”

And now, with all the questions and page turning, it’s 8:50 which is 20 minutes past bedtime, and I’m asking myself how hard it is to find a verse we can claim about healing, and reminding myself that Lesson Planning 101 calls for just a few minutes of preparation. Perhaps I could have looked up the verse in advance and pointed them to it, but then this is also what some of the education philosophers call ‘open ended’ lesson plans, and they’re learning things I didn’t script.

(Apparently I call forth a lot from my education theory classes in moments like this one. Because I definitely didn’t script this.)

I take the reins. “Guys, look up Psalm 103.”

“It starts with S?”

“No, it starts with P. Go back to the first pages where it has a list of the books of the Bible. It’s a table of contents that will tell you where to find it.”

“P is for Psalms?”


“Mom, why are your books in a different order from mine?”

“Because mine is a chronological Bible.”

“His starts with 2 Chronicles.”

“No, it doesn’t. They all start with Genesis.”

“But Second Monocles is at the top of his page.”

“That’s because you’re looking at the top of the second column in the table of contents. And it’s not Monocles. It’s Chronicles. Guys, let’s skip this search and go instead to Philippians, chapter two.”

“Is Philippians the same as Philemon?”

“Why does mine have four Johns?”

“Shouldn’t Song of Songs be Song of Solomon?”

“I want to look at the maps again.”

“You guys! Enough with the maps, already!”

And then I’m annoyed with myself for losing my cool during family devotions, of all times. “Sorry. I love the dialogue. I do. But please, just find Philippians.”

And before we know it, it’s 9:15 and we still haven’t prayed for my mom’s healing or even collectively found Philippians.

I finally take their Bibles, flip to Philippians 2, and ask them to read verses three and four aloud. Something about not being selfish. Let’s tack that to the bathroom mirror and refrigerator door, shall we?

And of course, there is Peter, love of my life and laughter of my soul, who is an incurably classic class clown, even when his wife is the proverbial teacher and the classroom is our living room.

“Gentlemen, I shall now read in the original Aramaic.” Insert his made-up language for Philippians 2.

(He makes me laugh every single day. His joy keeps me light, and he reminds me we are all learning – all of this, all of us, together.)

God, step into our silly, messy mess. We really have no idea what we’re doing.

Tricia Lott Williford

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  1. I remember reading a book several years ago about things teens wished their parents had done. The one that sticks with me was the teen who wrote how, even though at the time it seemed more work for less impact, he wished his parents had persisted in having family devotional time. Even though he and his siblings would cut up, act bored, or even make it difficult on purpose, he wished his mom and dad had pushed through.

    So good work, Tricia and hubby! Keep on keeping on…and sharing with us the resulting fruits of your labor.

  2. My heart AND face are smiling…

  3. This captures our family devotional time, too. I think the Lord is pleased that we try. Also, I have decided that I need to have my sons memorize the names of the books in the Bible.

  4. Oh, oh, oh… my ribs hurt now. Is there anything in the concordance for healing ribs?

  5. Soooooooo funny!

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