Soul Food: Family Devotions

soul food chickenI am a southern girl!  I was born and raised in New Orleans, Lousiana, and I attended Louisiana State University (LSU) in Baton Rouge, so to say I love me some good southern soul food is an understatement.  My mama made the best fried chicken east of the Mississippi River, and my aunt’s pot of Monday Red Beans and Rice made my tummy smile.  Southern Soul Food is so good even the comedian, Tim Hawkins, said Cracker Barrel’s biscuits are “slap your mama good!”  If you are from the south, you understand that cliche; it’s no hyperbole!

When my son was a toddler, he was your typical squirrely little boy (and then some)!  He also had a nasty habit of eating everything, and I mean everything.  We would try to do school and he would eat the markers, the crayons, the chalk, the pens, anything he could get his hands on.  When we tried to do morning devotions, he interrupted in any way he could.  Sometimes on purpose but most times just because he was that curious or that active.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne day when my son was buckled into his little chair at the table, his hands were busy and his mouth was full. I noticed I had his undivided attention!  I read from our Bible storybook and watched in amazement as my son listened.  It was the best family devotion we had ever (well at least since my son became an over-active toddler)!  From that day forward, instead of doing our devotions as our first lesson of the day, I did them during breakfast time.  I started calling it our Soul Food Time because I was feeding their hearts, minds, AND tummies all at the same time.

For our family, meal times, particularly breakfast, are our best family times.  This is why for our family, we do devotions and Bible study in the morning at breakfast.  However, we have friends that do devotions during their morning basket time or at dinner time so dad can participate too.  It doesn’t really matter when you have your family devotion or Bible study; it’s just important to do devotions and dig into God’s Word as a family on a daily basis.

When we first started homeschooling, I would save devotions for later when we had more time, but we never seemed to have enough time.  The enemy saw to that!  So I stopped saving devotions for later and put them first thing in our day.  “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt 6:33).  God is faithful.  I noticed that when I made the time and gave bible study priority, God multiplied our time.  Somehow the other things got done too.

soul food logo place settingWhy do we study the Bible and share God’s Word with our children?  Well, we want them to know God’s Word, but studying God’s Word is not just about gaining information but about transformation.  “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Mark 8:36).  We need to make a choice.  What is more important in our homeschooling?  Do we want our kids to go to Harvard or Heaven?  The reason most of us homeschool is so we can teach the Word of God, learn subjects with a biblical worldview, and help our children come to a saving relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ.  We want them to love the Lord (not the world and all of its empty promises) with their whole mind, heart, body, and soul.  Academics are important, but for most homeschoolers they not first on the list.

When we read the Bible with our children, we want God’s Word to get into their heads, their hearts, and their hands.  We want them to know God’s Word so they can recognize truth from lies.  We want them to have a head knowledge of God’s Word so they can recognize the counterfeit.  This is why memorizing God’s Word is a fun, easy, and important thing to do with our kids.

We also read God’s Word with our children so it penetrates their hearts.  We read and study the Bible to change hearts and to transform hearts.  We want to change the way our children see the world.  We want them to see people, events, laws, etc from God’s perspective.  We want them to see people the way God sees them.  We want God’s Word to convict their hearts, to help them obey, to change, to repent.  Over 70% of Christian students leave the faith after their first year of college.  Consistent family devotions and Bible reading will help revert this trend.

fran costa rica dancingHowever, our ultimate goal of sharing God’s Word with our children is to get God’s Word into their hands.  We want our kids to be so moved by the Word and by the Spirit that they take action!  We want them to not only be hearers of God’s Word but doers of God’s Word.  In Matthew 9:36, Jesus saw the crowds, their hunger for food and for the truth.  Jesus was moved to the core.  He was moved with compassion.  He was compelled to do something about their physical and spiritual hunger.  Ultimately, we want our children to have the same reaction.  Knowledge puffs up but James 2 reminds us to show our faith by our works.  “Faith apart from works is dead,”  We not only want our kids to talk the talk but to walk the walk.

I have found the best way to make Soul Food Time impactful is to keep it simple!  We never used a fancy or expensive Bible curriculum.  For most seasons of our homeschooling, we only used the Bible and the “Three Question Method.”  During breakfast time, I would read from one of our illustrated children’s Bible and then I would ask the kids three questions:  (1) What was the passage about? (2) What can we learn from it? (3)  How can we apply it today?  That’s it.  These three simple questions help the passage get into their heads (knowledge of the story), into their hearts (truths from the story) and into their hands (put into action).

dk bibleWe used DK Illustrated Family Bible when the kids were younger.  It is a 2-page spread with illustrations and pictures as well a great mixture of actual bible verses and story-telling. Let’s say you read the story of Gideon from Judges 6-7.  After reading the 2-page illustrated story of Gideon, I would ask my kids what is the story about, who is in it, where does it take place, when does it take place, and what is happening and why?  If there were facts I needed to fill in, I would then take some time to share it with them. Before the kids got up during my personal quiet time each morning, I tried to read the same passage we would read later as a family from my Bible.  This way I was prepared to share information that wasn’t mentioned in the children’s Bible or to try and answer their questions about the story.

Then I would ask what do we learn from Gideon?  Are there any promises, commands or warnings in this story?  Are there any examples to follow (or not to follow)?  What do you think is the main lesson of this story or why do you think God put this story in the Bible? Did you learn anything new?  Did anything surprise you or confuse you?  What attributes of God do we see in this story?  I was always amazed at how simple yet deep their answers were.  The less I spoke, the more the Holy Spirit spoke to them.

Finally, I would ask them how could we apply what we learned TODAY?  We would talk about our day’s schedule, what we were doing, where we were going, and who we might encounter.  Was there an ongoing problem my daughter was facing that she could apply Gideon’s actions or prayers to?  Was there a weakness or challenge my son was working on that he could use Gideon’s responses or actions?  Was there someone they could share the story of Gideon with that day to encourage or help them?  Then I would pray specifically for each child before we closed our Bible.  “Father God, Joseph often feels like the weakest and smallest kid on his team.  He often feels like he can’t do much and is bullied for it.  Help him to see that like Gideon, God has chosen him to do big and mighty things.  Even though he is small, God sees him as strong.  Give him God confidence today as he practices and help him to overcome the taunts and mean comments if they are spoken to him today.  Help him to be a Gideon for you at home, on the baseball field, in classes, and with his friend. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

There were some years we used a devotional.  There is no need to make it complicated or too hard.  Here are some of our favorites:

  1. The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name (ages 3-8) by Sally Lloyd-Jones.
  2. The New Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes (ages 3-8) by Kenneth Taylor
  3. God’s Amazing Creatures & Me:  Devotions for Boys and Girls Ages 6-10 by Helen Haidle
  4. The One Year Devos for Animal Lovers:  Cool Things Animals Show Us about Our Creator by Dandi Mackall
  5. Window on the World by Daphne Spraggett
  6. Hero Tales:  A Family Treasury of True Stories From the Lives of Christian Heroes by Dave & Neta Jackson (Vol. I, II, III, & IV)
  7. Simple Truths:  A Journaling Devotional for Teen Girls by Therin  Fenner
  8. The One Year Sports Devotions for Kids by Jesse Florea et all
  9. A Year With Aslan:  Daily Reflections from the Narnia Series by C. S. Lewis and Julia Roller.
  10. The Story of Christmas:  Story Book Set & Advent Calendar by Mary Packard
  11. The ADVENTure of Christmas by Lisa Whelchel
  12. Benjamin’s Box:  A Resurrection Story by Melody Carlson

When the kids got older and could read and understand the Bible on their own, we still did Family Devotions together, but I encouraged my tweens and teens to develop their own habit of personal quiet time with the Lord.  It has been a process and it hasn’t always been easy but now I see the fruits in my eldest who is an adult.   Being consistent, flexible, and showing through my own example have reaped eternal rewards.  I taught each of them how to do inductive studies and character studies by reading and digging into the Book of Esther and Book of Ruth with my daughter and by reading and studying the Book of Daniel and the Book of Jonah with my son.  I also let them read books such as Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris and Shaken by Tim Tebow as devotionals too.

Bible and coffeeThe most important thing to do when developing your own Soul Food time is to be consistent.  Read God’s Word somehow every day.  God’s Word never comes back void.  I always tell new homeschooling moms and discouraged homeschooling moms, “If all you did today was read from THE good book (the Bible) and from A good book (read aloud time), then you had a pretty good day!”

May God richly bless you and keep you and shine His face upon you as you read His Word for His glory,

Carrie

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