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Family Devotions and Testicles


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. The new editions are leather bound, different from each other, and will grow with them in 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 a person 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 watched me all their years and they think that’s 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 p.m., 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 13:18-19.”

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, and
  10. starting back at number 1.

God bless it all and give me grace.

Just when I’ve lost hope, 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 steps 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 . . .” I am more than ready to hijack this parade.

“Here’s one, Mom. Hosea 7:1. ‘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 twenty 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 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 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.”

“P is for Psalms? That’s weird.”

“Yes. I know. I can’t fix everything. 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.”

“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. Deep breath. “Sorry, guys. 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 incurably-forever-and-always the 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.

One year, in an ambitious fit of New Year’s resolutions, and clearly on a day when we had forgotten how miserable it can be to read the Bible as a family, Peter and I decided to tackle a family challenge: Together, the four of us would memorize a verse from every book of the Bible. We decided we would take turns, working our way through the Bible and the weeks of the calendar. There are sixty-six books and fifty-two weeks, so sometimes we would double up. Whoever had that week got to choose the verse. Since we believe that there are no bad verses in the Bible, that all of them are put there for a reason, whoever’s turn it was would get to lead our family in the verse they’d chosen.

The book of Leviticus happened to fall on the week when it was Tucker’s turn. And so, with all of that said, and with a healthy dose of awkward, I present to you the verse we all had to memorize together.

You must not offer to the Lord an animal whose testicles are bruised, crushed, torn or cut.

Leviticus 22:24, NIV

Yep. Okay, so. Testicles.

I said to them, “Guys, if we’re going to memorize this one, then tell me this. What is the lesson in this verse? What can we be thankful for?”

I have to be honest, I was fishing for answers. I was looking for words like grace. I was looking for somebody to say how great it is that Jesus gave himself for us so we don’t have to sacrifice animals and obey hundreds of laws on a daily basis.

“We can be thankful . . . that our balls aren’t bruised or crushed or torn or cut.”

“True. . . . Anything else?”

“Well, Mom, back then, animals were like money. And God wants the best of what we have, not our leftovers. So God didn’t want people to give him things that were useless. Or, you know. Bruised.”

Sure, yes. I’ll take that. First fruits and whatnot.

There was a lot of talk about testicles at our house that week. Including bedtime prayers. “God, I promise not to give you bad testicles.” Amen and amen.

(I do think Leviticus 22:24 is solidly in place in their memory.)

(And I live in a frat house.)Just-You-Wait-COVER

~ Just. You. Wait. 
Tricia Lott Williford

Releasing on Tuesday

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Tricia Lott Williford

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  1. Our pastor today said when he was young, he thought his parents knew everything. It wasn’t until he had kids (3 girls & 1 boy) that he learned that parents don’t know anything. He also said “Getting 8 hours of sleep at my house is a gift. I also told my friends without children, not to judge my harsh voice in the morning when I talk to my kids because you’ve had plenty of sleep and a few cups of coffee already…all of which I’ve had not”. I love the reality of raising kids today…testicles and all.

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