Tag: family devotions

Wise Up | Marty Machowski

In Wise Up, Marty Machowski (whose books The Ology and The Gospel Story Bible have become standards in our home), takes families through the book of Proverbs in ten-minute jaunts. He asks probing questions about selected passages, all with the aim of teaching our kids to value and pursue wisdom.

Machowski pulls passages from all over the Bible into the discussion as well, showing that the pursuit of wisdom is not a topic limited to the book of Proverbs, but one that is prevalent and highly-prized throughout the whole of Scripture. This is a quest that matters—to God and, therefore, to us—and Machowski is careful to emphasize that while not leaning toward a moralistic interpretation of Proverbs. The gospel is everywhere in this book, and that is beautiful.

But here is where I need to make a confession.

Wise Up, by Marty Machowski | Little Book, Big Story

When I flipped through this book just now, I found our bookmark, placed there months and months ago, holding our place at the reading for “Day 4.” I have written before about our inconsistency with family devotions, but I was sure we’d made it at least a week into this one before shelving it. So, I need you to know that: we haven’t read through this full book as a family. We didn’t try any of the projects (though I love the idea of them), and I don’t think we sang any of the hymns (though we love singing hymns). But I wanted to share this book anyway, because it is a great study and I want you to know about it.

Wise Up, by Marty Machowski | Little Book, Big Story

I also want to ask for your help: for those of you who make family devotions a part of your day, what does that look like? We read together before bed—sometimes from the Bible itself, sometimes from a story bible—and I just embarked on a study with the girls as part of our school day that I hope to share here a little later.

But I’m learning that when presented with pre-written questions, the five of us old enough to know what’s happening seem to wilt and conversation dries up. If we read a story Bible and follow the girls’ questions wherever they lead, a rich and rewarding discussion sometimes ensues (or sometimes, people flop on the floor and pretend to sleep). It’s harder to measure our progress when we have discussions that way, but I’m starting to make peace with that.

Wise Up, by Marty Machowski | Little Book, Big Story

What about you? How does your family read Scripture and hold devotions together? I’m on a quest for ideas here and, through that, I hope to win some wisdom.


Wise Up: 10-Minute Family Devotions in Proverbs
Marty Machowski (2016)

Mission Accomplished | Scott James

Our daughters have a knack for arriving on holidays. Our first made me a mother on Mother’s Day, which made me feel a little like an impostor: when a nurse wished me “Happy Mother’s Day” as I sat there holding my hours-old infant, I must have given her a “Who, me?” look, because she laughed and said, “Yes, you.”

Our second arrived in the midst of a month of family birthdays; our third, on St. Lucia’s Day, early in the morning (though she was due the next day, on our anniversary). Our girls seem to like days already made significant by our family or the world, and we like that about them. I thought that this daughter might be the exception, until I looked at the calendar for Lent this year and realized that she’s due right in the middle of Holy Week. That gives her something like four holidays to choose from.

Having had one daughter during Advent, I can tell you: this was welcome news. Anticipating the birth of a child during a season that celebrates the birth of the Christ Child was beautiful and deeply significant. Rejoicing over the Resurrection of Christ and our new life in him while holding the newest illustration of new life in my arms sounds equally lovely.

(Of course, that assumes that I won’t go horribly overdue. But I have my hopes. And my trust in God’s timing.)

A two-week devotional for Easter: Mission Accomplished, by Scott James | Little Book, Big Story

And so Lent is a quiet, mildly planned event in our home this year. Today’s book is the only new Easter book I’ve discovered this year, and because it is a devotional meant to be read during Holy Week and the week after Easter, I can’t guarantee that we’ll read it all the way through as a family this year.

But I read it through and found it worth sharing, so I thought I’d kick off the Lenten season with a new book for you, then follow by republishing a few of our favorite Lent and Easter books during the following weeks.

Mission Accomplished is a collection of fourteen family devotions, meant to be started on Palm Sunday and read for the next two weeks. I don’t know what your history is with family devotions, but ours is spotty, and a two-week devotional is right up our alley. Each devotion begins with a reading from Scripture, followed by a short reading from the book. There are questions and prayers and, at the end, a hymn to sing or a project to work on as a family.

A two-week devotional for Easter: Mission Accomplished, by Scott James | Little Book, Big Story

I liked that last part, because the hymns were (almost) all hymns I knew, and the projects were simple projects that I’ll actually (probably) do with the girls: painted rocks or crosses made from twigs and twine—stuff that doesn’t take a lot of preparation but that does deepen the lesson learned through the reading.

Illustrated by A.E. Macha (who also illustrated The Gospel Story Bible), Mission Accomplished ties our Lenten celebrations back again and again to the Gospel. Whether we read it now, well before Holy Week, or during Holy Week (accepting the very real possibility of being interrupted by a trip to the hospital), I’m excited to share this book with our family and to remember the Reason we have for singing together, reading Scripture together, and painting rocks together.


Mission Accomplished
Scott James, AE Macha (2015)

7 Favorite Resources for Family Devotions

Family devotions, we have learned, are fluid. We start a book and stick with it until a baby joins us at the table in a high chair or somebody’s bedtime shifts or a child (who shall not be named) rebels against dinner in all its forms and we leave the table fatigued, having forgotten to pick that book up off the shelf, open it, and read aloud.

Our kids change constantly, and we seem to be always two steps behind them. This makes any kind of routine hard to maintain.

7 Favorite Resources for Family Devotions | Little Book, Big Story

Part of me mourns that fact, and the fact that we’ve yet to finish a devotional together, but another part is grateful for what time we have spent with each of these books. That is the part of me that holds out hope that we’ll get back to them one day—maybe when the high chair has been retired for good, and we’re all eating with forks like civilized folks.

Because we have found a few devotionals worth returning to, plus one that has been an anchor in our family worship, I thought I’d share a few of our favorite resources for family devotions with you. Perhaps you are all eating with forks like civilized folks and you can enjoy reading these books with your family—or perhaps you’re a few steps ahead of us and have realized that that may never happen, and it’s time to buckle down and do family devotions anyway. Whatever your circumstance, here is a list of gems for you:

LONG STORY SHORT, by Marty Machowski

Long Story Short, by Marty Machowski | Little Book, Big Story

This book takes families all the way through the Old Testament—through the famous bits and the weird bits, too. It’s arranged by weeks, with each week divided into days, and each day complete with a reading from the book, a reading from the Bible, and a short list of thought-provoking questions.

We tackled this when our two oldest girls were four and under and were pleasantly surprised at how much our four year old gleaned from the readings (the two year old was more interested in finger-painting with her soup). I look forward to coming back to this one and to exploring Machowski’s book on the New Testament, Old Story New(Read the full review.)

TRAINING HEARTS, TEACHING MINDSby Starr Meade

Training Hearts, Teaching Minds | Starr Meade

Our church is collectively working our way through the Westminster Shorter Catechism with this book. Starr Meade orients each week around a catechism question and includes a series of Scripture readings and small devotions to correspond with each day of the week. This one, too, was a winner—but somehow, we only lasted six months before it returned to the shelf and stayed there.

THOUGHTS TO MAKE YOUR HEART SING, by Sally Lloyd-Jones

Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing | Little Book, Big Story

I read this book to the girls over breakfast for quite some time. It’s beautiful—the illustrations by Jago are deeper and richer than those in The Jesus Storybook Bible and more mature somehow. And Sally-Lloyd Jones’s meditations on various things truly do make the heart sing. (Read the full review.)

THE FAMILY JOURNALby Songs for Saplings

Songs for Saplings Family Journal | Little Book, Big Story

We haven’t used The Family Journal as devotional material exactly, but as a landing place for the discussions that arise as we read together as a family. It is fun to revisit the questions and answers our daughters have learned by heart from the Songs for Saplings albums and to make notes on the spontaneous theological questions the girls throw my way. We have stuck with this one—perhaps because we don’t need to read it every day. (Read the full review.)

The Bible

Reading the Bible as a family | Little Book, Big Story

Every so often, we dip into Scripture itself. I have also been reading one-on-one with our oldest daughter, so she’s getting portions of Scripture straight from the source and that has been a rich time together for us (though pregnancy naps are edging that habit out already . . . ). (Read the full post.)

THE ADVENT JESSE TREEby Dean Lambert Smith

The Advent Jesse Tree: A Family Devotional for Advent | Little Book, Big Story

The Advent Jesse Tree has seen us through Advent after Advent, so we know that we can stick with a series of readings for at least one month! This is a clean, basic, theologically solid look at who Jesus is, what the Bible said about him before he came, and why his coming matters so much to us. We have loved this one year after year, returning to it even after a fancier book with better illustrations briefly lured us away. (Read the full review, or learn how to make your own Jesse tree.)

THE JESUS STORYBOOK BIBLEby Sally Lloyd-Jones

The Jesus Storybook Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones | Little Book, Big Story

This book has anchored our devotional time since our eldest was eighteen months old. Knowing that our older girls are learning the New City Catechism as part of their schooling has helped direct our family devotion time toward something that will help build a solid foundation for our younger girls. And so The Jesus Storybook Bible comes back again and again as a part of our evening ritual.

It has traveled with us halfway across the country and back and is held together mostly by box tape—not glamorous, perhaps, but a sure sign of a book that has seen service in the hands of small readers. And that is what we want: we want them to know that this is their story. Perhaps as the whole family levels up together, we’ll tackle other, deeper devotional books, but for now, this is our tried-and-true book for family devotions. (Read the full review.)

What About you? Which Devotional books (or habits!) have worked for your family?

Reading the Bible as a Family

I have already reviewed a number of story Bibles and Bible stories here, but before we move much further down this road together, I’d like to pause and say something important: story Bibles are great. But the Bible itself is better.

Scripture is true and it is beautifully written (remember the image of Noah riding the waves over the tops of the submerged mountains?), but as adults we can grow a thick skin toward the language of the Bible. We begin to skim the stories that we know by heart, and as we do we lose sight of the shocking beauty of the story being told.

Reading the Bible as a family | Little Book, Big Story

But our children are hearing these things for the first time, and at some point they need to turn those onion-skin pages themselves and know that the words they’re hearing weren’t composed in a home office but in the heart of God himself. They were put to paper in prisons and deserts, written in grief and joy. Men died so we could hold them, leather bound and translated, in our own hands. This is a book unlike any other, and children need to know that from a young age.

Story Bibles are a wonderful aid when introducing kids to the whole of the Bible—especially when children are young and wiggly and love illustrations—but they are tools, meant to lead them on to the Word itself. If we stop at the paraphrase and consider our job done, we’ve merely fed them milk and failed to wean them onto solid food.

But that raises the question: how do you transition from reading story Bibles to reading the Bible itself with your children?

Reading the Bible as a family | Little Book, Big Story

This is not a rhetorical question.

My children are young enough that we’re just beginning to move in this direction, so I am no authority. But I am a compulsive reader and an over-thinker of everything, so I have, of course, compiled a list of theoretical options. For those of you with experience reading the Bible with your children, please comment below and share any words of wisdom with the rest of us!

Reading the Bible as a family | Little Book, Big Story

Sharing Scripture with Your Kids

– Gladys Hunt, in Honey For a Child’s Heart, shares what is probably my favorite approach: read a passage together after a meal. Then everyone, parents included, must ask a question about the passage and answer a question about the passage. Gladys Hunt writes:

This method requires that everyone think through what the passage is saying . . .We experience a great thing:  the joy of discovery. What is discovered for one’s self is always more meaningful than what is told to us by someone else.

– Marty Machowski’s excellent devotionals Long Story Short and Old Story New take families through the Old and New Testaments respectively, with chunks of reading straight from Scripture followed by solid questions. We’ve done Long Story Short off and on, and are continually surprised by what our girls pick up as we read.

Reading the Bible as a family | Little Book, Big Story

– I know of one family that has read through the classic devotional Daily Light on the Daily Path for years. This is an old book, recently released in the ESV translation, that offers carefully curated readings pulled straight from Scripture—the verses aren’t in their immediate context, but are fitted together into a bigger context that follows a larger theme for the day. It’s hard to explain, really, but the way the verses work together is lovely.

– The one thing I do actively implement is surprisingly simple: I share what I’m reading with my girls. I love M’Cheyne’s reading plan (though I may not finish every reading every day), and when the girls see me reading my Bible they often ask me to read to them—and so we’ve read Psalms together here and there, or passages from James. I read aloud until they wander off, and then go on reading to myself. It’s simple, but they seem to enjoy being drawn into my time with Scripture.

Reading the Bible as a family | Little Book, Big Story

So, those are my ideas. What about you? How do you read the Bible with your kids? If your kids are older, I’d especially love to hear any insights you might have from your vantage point.