“Daddy, can we read from the blue book today?”
My oldest daughter asks this every night, which should tell you how much she enjoys going through Long Story Short: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God by Marty Machowski. Although we’d been consistent in reading stories from (more or less) age-appropriate storybook Bibles since Abigail was about 18 months old, we hadn’t yet tried out “doing devotions” with her. I had no idea how to really get started and I really wasn’t sure if she’d be interested at all. (At this point, our 2 year-old, Hannah, participate all that much, but still likes to hear the “Bible stowies.”)
When I was first recommended Long Story Short I was intrigued. This devotional covers the entire Old Testament through 78 weekly lessons, showing how it all points to Jesus. The format of each week is simple: days one and two are spent in your primary passage, day three typically looks at a New Testament passage that directly relates to the main story, day four returns to the main story for its conclusion and day five is a reading from either the Prophets or Psalms that talks about Jesus. And like the subtitle says, it really does take only about ten minutes a night to read the passage, go over the brief explanation provided in the book and wrap up with a few discussion questions.
Since November, this has been our family’s practice at dinner time; so far, it’s been a big hit. The content is solid, Abigail loves the discussion, and we’re seeing real growth in our family’s worship of Jesus in a couple of interesting ways.
First, our family devotions have caused us to address subjects that we might prefer to downplay or ignore to all of our detriment. We’ve recently been going through the story of God’s judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19). Reading through this chapter has caused us to talk about the concepts of God’s justice and the reality of eternal punishment. (And if that freaked you out, don’t worry, we kept it very age-appropriate; no nightmares at the Armstrong house!) Before this, we’d not talked in great detail about the consequences of sin—a concept that is essential to the gospel! God’s judgment for our sins was taken from us and put upon Christ, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). This is something we can’t not talk about if we intend to be honest with her about the Christian faith and the consequences of sin. And although it can be uncomfortable, it keeps us pointing back to the gospel as the source of our righteousness before God, rather than our good behavior.
Second (and this is probably more shocking to some than talking about hell with a five-year-old), it’s given us plenty of opportunities to confess our own sinfulness to our children. Maybe it’s just me, but it’s really tempting to let my kids believe that I’m above sinning. But John warns that “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). So we tell them the truth, giving age-appropriate examples of things that we did as a child or even that day to remind them that Mommy and Daddy are sinners in need of God’s grace, too.
One of the big questions that will likely cross many parents’ minds when they see this book is, “Do I want to devote the next year and a half to this?” The short answer: yes, you do. While I would assume that most parents know this, our families are our primary mission field. God has placed our kids in our homes so that we can teach and disciple them in the faith. For some of us this comes more naturally than others. Long Story Short has been a great blessing to our family in this regard and an opportunity to teach our children about God’s grace. I trust it will be to yours as well.
Title: Long Story Short: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God
Author: Marty Machowski
Publisher: New Growth Press (2010)