Although I haven’t struggled much with personal devotion time, family devotions have been very difficult for me. Here are my struggles and solutions I’ve found that you may be able to relate to.
Husband Not Home
My husband works out of town some of the time and also is frequently gone in the evenings for sports. While I prefer to have him lead and participate in family devotions, I have had to accept that we are going to do family devotions even in his absence. That acceptance has made them much more consistent in our home.
Husband Not Leading
Even when my husband was home, he wasn’t leading. I discovered there were several reasons for that.
One, sad to say, is because I would butt in when he was leading. On one particular occasion, I blurted out something I thought the kids should know and he said, “I was just going to say that.” Whoops.
A second issue that has prompted my husband to be less interested in leading is his need for reading glasses. He is frustrated that he needs them now and honestly prefers not to read. Just because I am reading doesn’t mean he isn’t leading. He listens to what I read and then takes the lead in asking the kids questions and relating his own teaching on the subject.
A final issue that prompted my husband to be less interested in leading some types of devotions is that the materials he needed weren’t at hand. I realized that as his help-meet (See Created to Be His Help Meet: Discover How God Can Make Your Marriage Glorious by Debi Pearl), I could make sure all the objects for the lesson were in place. Then he could do what the leader does best. Imagine your pastor coming to preach and being expected to find his own microphone and stand. Not very conducive to good leadership! Now I make sure he is equipped to fulfill his calling.
Devotions are Too Time-Consuming
I have tried many different types of family devotions and the ones that have worked well are short. I have shared that our family has tons of fun already, so the devotions that are designed to get families having fun together aren’t essential for us. We like to get the heart of the issue and then go about our day. What we currently use and love is Character Building for Families (Volume 1). We are working through Volume 2 right now. I found one doctrinal issue presented that doesn’t fit with our faith, but the rest has been excellent for discussing what is most important to our family–godly character.
Devotions Don’t Become a Habit
A final problem we’ve had is that although we’ve enjoyed doing devotions together, we aren’t faithful in doing them regularly. I’ve discovered that this is because we haven’t paired family devotions with an anchor activity that we always do. I tried to schedule family devotions for weekend evenings for example. We never know what we’re doing then, however, so devotions just weren’t happening. We now do devotions at meal time. We always eat so unless we are bolting out the door immediately, we have devotion time. This video demonstrates how simple family devotions at mealtime can be.
Family devotions will likely be one of the memories our children and we cherish most–both for the fact that we learn from God and we are spending time together.
My daughter had her first sleepover birthday party last night. I didn't make this cake, but I wish I had. How cute is this?
While we didn't have cake, we did have one girl who struggled. As I lay awake after returning her to her mother in the middle of the night, I thought about how Christians are sleepover shy, too.
I'm hungry. That was one of the shy girl's complaints that I can relate to. Though she had a healthy-sized bowl of popcorn late in the evening, she longed for more. Like her, I've enjoyed so much in life, yet I'm not fully satisfied. No matter how many blessings we experience in this life, we all continue to be hungry.
I'm scared. That was another of her issues with the sleepover. I get that. My house was a dark strange place to her. This world is scary to us as believers, too. The Bible gives us enough "Don't be afraid"s to last us a year, and yet we're still not comfortable with this dark world. Maybe we're not supposed to be.
I wanna go home. The sleepover shy girl missed her mom and dad. Why wouldn't she? There's nothing like being near the one you've always known, the one who loves you unconditionally. While this sleepover we call life can be great fun and we enjoy the people we're with, we wanna go home, too. Our Father is waiting for us with open arms. That image makes the long night a little easier to get through, doesn't it?
Good-night, friend. See you in the morning.
Psalm 4:8 In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.
My dad changed dramatically when he retired. He had worked his entire life and he was truly happy when his time was his own. He quit smoking after five decades and spent lots of time fishing and spoiling my youngest brother. It was heartbreaking, when it seemed my dad had a new lease on life, to learn that he had COPD. He eventually required full-time oxygen.
I had a hard time watching my father, who had never been afraid of anything, have panic attacks when he couldn't breathe. Traveling and any activities that required him to walk became nearly impossible. At one point, he developed pancreatitis and was given a 50/50 chance of making it. He survived, but I had been warned. My dad was mortal.
Warning or no, I wasn't prepared the evening I got my mother's phone call telling me that my dad was near death once again. I cried and cried and kept saying, "I'm not ready. I'm just not ready." I had recently developed a habit of asking God to communicate with me through His Word. I begged God to let my father live. I loved him so much and I wasn't even sure of his salvation. I opened the Bible randomly and read from Isaiah 38:16, 18
You restored me to health and let me live. For the grave cannot praise you, death cannot sing your praise; those who go down to the pit cannot hope for your faithfulness.
I was absolutely convinced that the Lord had heard my prayer and was giving my dad more time. I wasn't disappointed. My dad recovered. He had to move to a nursing home to get the care that he needed, but he never complained. He seemed to enjoy teasing the nurses and staff. I used the extra time with my dad to write him a letter explaining the Gospel and expressing my hope that he had received Christ as his Savior.
During a visit following my letter, my dad said, "Let's talk about what you wrote." He told me that he believed in God and had been baptized in infancy. I still had my doubts. My dad was a humble, generous man, but he had never said anything about God. Was it just because he was quiet? Or did he lack an authentic faith?
My dad and I had a routine. I called him at the nursing home the same night every week. On occasions when I had something else planned, I almost always forgot to call him until the next day. Dad was never upset when I forgot to call, though I always felt awful. I knew he looked forward to our talks. I did, too!
One evening, I realized that I was supposed to be at church the next night, which was my regular night to call Dad. I decided to call him right then. I joked with him that I was really on top of things this time and hadn't forgotten until it was too late. We did the usual chit chatting. I told him about our new mini-van with the remote control door. I said I was walking around like the Queen of Sheba, expecting every door to open for me at the touch of a button. He laughed. He told me that a pastor had come and talked with him for a long time. My dad said, "And you know what? I agreed with everything he said." I was so happy to hear that. I was sure that the pastor had shared the Gospel with my dad and my dad once again affirmed that he believed.
The next evening I was getting ready to go to my church meeting when my mom called. My dad had had a heart attack, she said. They didn't think he was going to make it. In that moment, I knew he wouldn't. When I returned home from church, I got the phone call that confirmed it. My dad was gone. Although I felt ready in comparison to the previous time his life was in danger, I still felt like someone was trying to rip my heart from my chest. I am so thankful my husband was there to hold me up.
Even in my grief, I recognized how loving a God I serve. I'm fully convinced that He moved me to call my father a day early and made sure that I knew my father's salvation was secure. The Lord continued to comfort me as I attended a memorial at the nursing home where he lived. The staff seemed more broken up than I was! Today I continue to be comforted with a vision of my father living in perfect health and peace with the Father of us all.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)
This is one of my all-time favorite pictures of my dad and me. I look like I'm about two and he has that same patient, teaching look he always had with me.
My father's family was twice the size of mine, but unfortunately wasn't twice the fun. His father was an abusive alcoholic. Dad was sent to live with and work for an abusive uncle at the age of four. He quit school after the eighth grade to help support his family. At eighteen he was drafted and was sent to the German front lines in World War II. While there, his life was in constant jeopardy and he watched many of his friends die.
Dad came home to discover that his father had drunk up all the money he had sent home from the service. He eventually married twice and was left twice. When he married my mother and became a father to me in his early forties, he was ecstatic. I can't tell you that he was a perfect father. Years of trauma and mistreatment took its toll on my dad emotionally. But I can tell you that he wasn't an alcoholic, nor was he ever abusive to me. He told me he loved me and was proud of me all the time. He constantly made me laugh. He was one of the most humble men I've ever known. He taught me how to fish, fast pitch softball, and basic carpentry skills. He loved beating me in cribbage. When I was on my own, he bailed me out of several financial jams I got myself into and wrote me precious letters. In one letter he wrote, "I've been thinking of you all week, so I thought I'd better write."
My dad's parenting is a testimony of God's faithfulness in my life. He was the father I wish he had had.
And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children… (Luke 1:17)