FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Finding Joy in Family Devotions

with Tim Shoemaker | December 10, 2019
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Who says family devotions can't be fun? Tim Shoemaker, author of "The Very Best, Hands-on, Kinda Dangerous Family Devotions," tells families how to fully engage with the truths of Scripture while also having a good time. Shoemaker realizes that kids are really good at pretending to pay attention. That's why he encourages parents to change things up and try something more active, like shooting a potato gun or instantly freezing a hot dog. By engaging all their senses, you'll have more opportunity to share spiritual truth.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Tim Shoemaker tells families how to fully engage with the truths of Scripture while also having a good time. He shares some examples, like shooting a potato gun or instantly freezing a hot dog.

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Finding Joy in Family Devotions

With Tim Shoemaker
December 10, 2019
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Bob: Tim Shoemaker always felt, as a dad, that he ought to be doing some kind of devotions with his family; but he wasn’t prepared for what God would do when he started to do it faithfully.

Tim: There were some surprising things that happened that I never expected when I started doing family devotions. One was this—it became easier to talk about spiritual things in everyday life. It was the Deuteronomy example—as we talked about it once a week, it became easier and easier, just as we’re sitting around the table/as we’re doing something, we talk about spiritual things. That was fantastic; it was coming up in conversation.

The second thing that happened that caught me by surprise—I changed.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, December 10th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. There are a lot of benefits that happen in a family when we start having regular conversations about spiritual things. We’ll talk today about some creative ways we can do that. Stay with us.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I had a real dilemma as I was thinking about this program. The dilemma was: “Who’s going to get more excited about this—Dave Wilson?—or Ann Wilson?” [Laughter] The subject we’re talking about—devotions, where you use object lessons, and where you get creative, and you have fun with the kids—this is something that’s right down the fat part of your back for both of you guys; right?

Ann: Yes, because we like to have fun. Joy is important. We feel like God’s Word can be packed with great truth, but also it’s creativity and fun. We can make God’s Word come alive.

Bob: Yes; there’s something about creative and fun—there is something I feel like we’ve not brought our listeners in on this yet. Dave Wilson is—you’ve been playing guitar for how long?—how long have you been playing guitar?

Dave: I went to the Hard Day’s Night movie when I was seven years old, and I was in love. I didn’t have a guitar until then, but I’ve had one ever since.

Bob: When we first talked to you about being on FamilyLife Today, you said, “There’s got to be a guitar in the studio, or we’re not doing the program.” [Guitar strumming] So we’ve—

Dave: —we got one.

Bob: Speaking of creative and fun, and while we’re here in the month of December, and we’re encouraging our listeners to make a yearend donation to support FamilyLife®, you came in today and you said: “I’ve got a song. I have a song for this”; right?

Ann: Dave always has a song for something.

Dave: Yes; I wrote this just the other day, Bob. It goes a little bit like this. [Laughter while Dave sings]

Give a little bit;

Give a little bit of your cash to us.

Bob: I don’t think that’s the right key for you. [Laughter]

Dave: [Singing] That’s pretty high. [Laughter]

Ann: Were those the original words to that song?

Dave: I think that’s how the song goes. It’s a funny little song, but it does have a good meaning to it.

Bob: With your lyric it does; because during the month of December, we’re asking FamilyLife Today listeners to “give a little bit” to help support the ministry of FamilyLife. We have some friends of the ministry, who have come along and said, “We’re going to match every donation that is given to FamilyLife, during the month of December, up to a total of $2.5 million,”—which is amazing.

Ann: Really amazing, actually.

Bob: Yes; to take full advantage, we need FamilyLife Today listeners to do whatever you can do. Make a donation here to help make sure that FamilyLife, going into 2020, is in a great place financially and can continue and expand the ministry that is in front of us. As we look at the need for marriage and family in our culture today, we think advancing, rather than retreating, is what’s needed.

Dave: Yes; I mean, you think about it—we’re having fun with this idea of giving; butut think about this—I don’t think I even understand this—when you give $1, or $100, or $1,000, you change somebody’s life through a program, through the ministry, through a weekend conference, through content. That money, actually, God uses to multiply in someone’s life. It isn’t just, “I’m giving a dollar,” it is literally changing someone’s life.

The neat thing is—you’ll probably never meet these people—but their kids and grandkids are going to have a different life because you decided to follow God and honor Him and give, and there’s change.

Ann: There’s still things that we want to do, too—dreams that we have that we want to continue to take great material, great content, great radio into people’s homes.

Bob: We may meet these people one day and hear the stories of how the money that was given—God used it, and they came into the kingdom as a result of that. If you can help with a yearend donation, knowing your donation is going to be matched, dollar for dollar, go to and donate online; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make a donation. We’re grateful for your support and look forward to hearing from you.

We’re talking about having devotions with the family today. Dave, if you had had a copy of the Very Best, Hands-On, Kinda Dangerous Family Devotions, by our guest today, Tim Shoemaker—Tim, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.

Tim: Thanks, Bob.

Bob: —if you had had this, back when your boys were little, who would’ve used it more, you or Ann?

Dave: That would’ve been a fight.

Bob: Yes; it would’ve been; wouldn’t it? [Laughter]

Dave: She would’ve been battling. You know, the fun thing about it is that there are 52 weeks or 52, and we would’ve split it up. There would’ve been some I’d done; but you know, she was the one—I remember, one time, preaching at church and like, “My family’s not here!” I come home; I’m like: “Did you guys like—did somebody get sick? Why weren’t you there?” She goes: “Oh, no! We had Boys’ Day Out.” [Laughter] I go—no—“Boys’ Island”—what was it; what did you call it?

Ann: We had “Lost Boys’ Island.”

Bob: You skipped church?!

Ann: I did. [Laughter]

Bob: A pastor’s wife skipped church?!

Ann: Yes, I did.

Dave: You know, the preacher’s sort of boring; so she said, “I’m going to make it exciting.”

Ann: What happened was—we were on our way to church. We stopped, and we pulled into a restaurant. They said, “What are we doing?” I said: “Along life’s path, you think you’re going one direction and, sometimes, you head—you’re in another place. Sometimes it’s a great place—like: ‘God, look what You’ve done! You’ve taken us on this journey that’s amazing!’ Sometimes it’s a really hard place. The question is: ‘Will you walk with Jesus in both places?—because we don’t always end up on the path we think we’re going to end up on.’”

That was a life lesson day. We didn’t end up making it to church, but we did have some principles.

Bob: Had you planned this the night before in your mind?

Ann: No; I planned it that morning. [Laughter]

Bob: Was it because your hair didn’t turn out the way you thought it [would]? [Laughter]

Dave: She saw my sermon.

Bob: That’s what I wondered—if she’s thinking, “I don’t want to hear this.”  [Laughter]

Tim: I’m sure the kids never forgot that. Dave, obviously, didn’t. [Laughter]

Ann: He does remain a little resentful, I’m thinking.

Dave: No; there was this little cul-de-sac area behind our house that they called Lost Boys’ Island—that was where they’d go. I honestly didn’t go more than once or twice; they had this spot with Mom. It was pretty cool; it was like an island, where they got spiritual truths.

Ann: It has trees, and woods, and we read books. With boys, especially—and girls, too—they like creativity; they like adventure; they like things that are change of pace. That’s what that place became.

Bob: That’s part of the creativity that you’ve [Tim] brought to the whole subject of trying to pass on spiritual truth to the next generation. Had you marked out one night a week that was your night for doing this when your boys were going through their years?

Tim: We tried to do that; yes, we had a set time. That doesn’t always work; so there’s going to be someone listening, right now—they say: “That can’t work for me. We’ve got sports; we’ve got practice; we’ve got all these things.”

You find that time. You find a time where, at least, you can get most of them together. Sometimes you’re going to miss too many weeks if you wait for everybody. You catch up with who you miss afterwards if you need to, but you try to stay consistent. As they get older, it gets tough.

Bob: It does get tougher. Does it get tougher to keep them engaged when they’re 14, and potato guns aren’t quite the things they used to be? I’m saying potato guns because we talked, earlier, about making these spud bazookas or whatever they were. Did you find, as they got older, that it was harder to come up with things that were engaging?

Tim: You know what? Actually, probably not; because it’s not long. You blow up an egg in the microwave; you fry a CD in the microwave—you do different things. You teach little nuggets of truth. You can make a fast-freeze solution; we give the—you may—

Ann: I like how Tim’s face lights up as he’s talking about these things.

Bob: —a what kind of solution?

Tim: A fast-freeze—it’s like where you can freeze a hot dog or a pickle in a minute—solid!

Bob: How do you—with some kind of solution? —you put the hot dog in?

Tim: All you do—

Dave: Here we go!


Tim: —you pick up some acetone—A-C-E-T-O-N-E—from the paint aisle in the hardware store. You put a little of that in; and you get some dry ice, which you crush, and you put that together—you’ve got it. The freeze level of acetone is so low, it gets super cold. You could put a pickle in there or a hot dog—boom! The whole idea there is—we talked about how fast a heart can go hard. It doesn’t take much time for a heart to go hard and how we have to protect against that. That was the basic lesson on that.

Bob: This whole approach to devotions—there are some parents, who are listening, go: “This feels a little gimmicky to me. I mean, what’s wrong with just sitting down and opening up the Bible, reading a chapter of the Bible, and then saying, ‘Do you have any thoughts?’ and praying about that? Isn’t that a more spiritual way to do devotions?”

Tim: Okay; there’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s not necessarily more spiritual. Here’s what happens. Most kids are pretty good at looking like they’re engaged, especially when they get a little bit older because it’ll end sooner, if they act like they’re engaged. [Laughter] They pretend to be there, but their mind could be far away. Our job—as parents and, even, grandparents—we want to teach this next generation, so we have to make sure we’re getting through.

If somebody’s doing something like that, on a daily basis, I say: “Don’t change it. That’s great. But one day a week, switch out and do something more active/more object-lesson oriented; because I guarantee: ‘Their kids won’t check out.’ I’ll know that, at least, I’ll get that one nugget of truth a week, even if they’ve been checking out the other times.”

Then there were some surprising things that happened that I never expected when I started doing family devotions. One was this—it became easier to talk about spiritual things in everyday life. It was the Deuteronomy example—as we talked about it once a week, it became easier and easier, just as we’re sitting around the table/as we’re doing something, we talk about spiritual things. That was fantastic—that was very organic; it was just coming up in conversation.

The second thing that happened that I think was really—it caught me by surprise—I changed. When we’re teaching kids, often the Holy Spirit will nudge us; and we make a little adjustment. Over the course of a year, I knew my life was different than it would’ve been.

Bob: When you knew you had a Thursday night—“We’re going to do family devotions on Thursday night,”—and it’s Tuesday, and you don’t have anything to come up with; I mean, there’s nothing—no object lesson that has come to mind.

Dave: You just went to the hardware store? Is that what you did?—started walking the aisles?

Tim: You could do that. [Laughter] Often, I would pray; I would just pray, “God, I need an idea,” or “I’ve got this cool thing I’d like to do, but I have no idea how to tie it in.” Often it would come that way.

You could walk in a store—the hardware store/a camping store—that’s where I found fire paste.

Dave: Fire paste.

Bob: What is fire paste?

Tim: It’s like petroleum jelly; it comes in a tube. You use it to light damp logs for camping. It’s a great tool for camping; but it works for devotions, too.

Bob: For what? What is it illustrating?

Dave: What do you light on fire first?

Tim: You know what?—just take a little piece of wood—like a piece of plywood—in fact, I had three of them. I had three pastes in a tube: one was toothpaste; one was Desitin®; one was fire paste. I put tinfoil around them, so you couldn’t see what it was. Had each one of the boys pick one; make an “X” on the board; then we tried to light it. You can light it with one of those stick lighters, or you get the little plumbers torch—you know, the little blue propane thing.

Dave: I knew you were going to say that.

Tim: Yes; yes. You get a blue flame coming out of there, and that’s cooler; definitely.

Bob: That’s cooler. [Laughter]

Dave: —and a little more dangerous.

Tim: You try to light the toothpaste—you know, it’s not happening; it just melts. The diaper—

Bob: Desitin.

Dave: Desitin.

Tim: —you get it to spark a little bit when you hit it with a blue flame, but it won’t light. Hit the other?—Ohhh! It lights up real nice and just keeps burning. We talked about:

You know what these represent?—three kinds of Christians. These are the three Christians I see in here. The first one: what is—oh, it’s toothpaste—that’s the Christian who wants to look good. It’s just all about the smile, and they’re all just a happy Christian; but you know what? They’re not on fire.

Here you have diaper rash, and that didn’t light either. You have the baby Christians—they just never mature. They might have been a Christian for 30 years, but you still have to feed them; you still have to clean up their messes. They’re not on fire on themselves.

Ahhhh—the fire paste. You ignite them, and they keep burning. Boys, that’s what I want for you.

Ann: What I’m imagining, too—if you’re going to pick, as a family, your devotional time—your day, whatever works best—I’m thinking it would be really great to make this evening a great evening with food, especially as your kids get older. Teenagers love food. If you create an atmosphere of joy/of anticipation: “We’re going to have a great meal tonight. We’re going to laugh. We’re going to have fun,”—whether our kids remember the actual principle, they’ll remember what it felt like to do family devotions.

Bob: So like: “Thursday nights are our family devotion night, and we make it a special night,”—you’re branding it; you’re marketing it; you’re selling it to your kids. You’re also building memories.

Ann: Exactly.

Bob: We did something every year at Christmas time. We had a special family meal for Christmas Eve. Mary Ann came up with the idea that we were going to have a special Christmas meal for Christmas Adam, too. Do you know what Christmas Adam is?

Ann: No.

Bob: Adam came before Eve, so Christmas Adam is December 23rd, and Christmas Eve is December 24th. [Laughter]

Dave: The things I learn from Bob Lepine.

Tim: I’ve never heard that!

Bob: On Christmas Adam, she would have a shepherd’s meal. Shepherd’s meal was potato soup and homemade bread, a very simple meal that she would serve by candlelight. We’d turn off all of the lights. We’d have this bowl of potato soup and this homemade bread. We’d talk about this simple meal and: “What were the shepherds eating?” Sometimes the boys would put on their robes and come to the table, dressed like shepherds.

We have, now, this stored bank of memories. Now, as adults, they remember shepherd’s meal on Christmas Adam and can kind of maybe tie to the spiritual principles we talked about there. They also remember what was important and the fact that we made something special out of this.

I think it’s a great point that you can dress it up a little bit and build some anticipation on the part of your kids.

Tim: I like what you said, too, about the whole idea of food, especially if you have teenagers/especially if you have boys. They’ll listen better if they have food.

Bob: Did you always do this, or did your wife pitch in? Did she ever take charge of this and say, “I’m doing family devotions tonight”?

Tim: You know, I think it was pretty much me. She was a terrific support. She encouraged me when there were those stop times, when I wasn’t doing it. She was good—help me get back into it—so she was a great support.

Bob: Cheering you on when you’d done a night—she went, “That was awesome—what you did with the kids tonight.”

Dave: Did she ever caution you?—like, “Don’t get the potato—

Ann: “Don’t hurt our kids.”

Dave: —“with the probes”? You know, seriously, did she like say, “Wait a minute; be careful”?

Tim: Yes, she did. Like with the probes—I know some people get concerned about that. But I’ll ask them, “Do you keep your car keys on the counter?” “Yes.” “I’ll tell you what—if your kid takes that car, that’s going to be awful.”

Bob: The time you said, “I’m going to take the boys on the roof of the house.” She said, “No. We’re not going to do that one.” [Laughter]

Ann, I’m wondering—because there are a lot of wives, who are going: “I wish my husband would do this. Do I just buy the book and put it by his bedside table?” If a wife is wanting her husband to do this, does she pray?—does she ask him? Or does she start modeling it for him—and do it for awhile—and then he takes over? What would you recommend?

Ann: I think I’d have a discussion, first of all, of saying, “I listened to this radio program” or “…podcast today, and it was fascinating.” As a wife, if you gave the illustration of blowing up a pickle, or the toilet paper, I think that would be intriguing. I’d probably say to Dave: “Dave, you’ve got to listen to this,” or “I came up with this idea. I’m going to try it. What do you think? Would you want to do it with me?” Do you think that would be good for a guy to hear?

Dave: Yes; I would get a slingshot and slingshot the book at him. I’d say: “Do you think that was fun? There’s a bunch of those in it.” No, I’m kidding.

Ann: I’d probably—even at dinner, I’d probably read the ideas to our kids and say: “You guys, what do you think of this? Should we try it?!”

Bob: Yes; that’s cool.

Ann: The other thing I was thinking—for single parents—there’s a lot of single parents, that maybe you don’t have a husband who will do it or a wife that’s encouraging you. I think it would be great to pull some of my single friends together and do this kind of thing together, where you maybe have a little group of kids together and you do some of these. There’s a bonding experience with that as well.

Bob: Here’s what I want moms and dads to hear—I think we can play this for our listeners. We did an interview with Don Whitney, who’s a professor at Southern Theological Seminary. He is big on family devotions/family worship. He’s written a book on doing this. He said that he always felt like this was going nowhere, like his kids weren’t paying attention. He was faithful to do it, but they weren’t paying attention—until there came a moment, where he went, “This was having more impact than I realized.” Here’s how he described that.

[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]

Don: At the Christian school where she graduated, it was the tradition for the parents to present the diploma to the graduate/to their child. Then they would make some remarks, encouraging the child and congratulating them as a graduate and blessing them there. Then the graduate would, in turn, speak some prepared remarks to the parents, thanking them, and so forth.

My daughter thanked my wife and said a number of very precious things to her. Then she turned to me and she began by saying how much family worship had meant to her, but she never got finished; because she just collapsed on my shoulder, in cap and gown, in tears. I am not exaggerating when I say she wept harder than I had seen her since she was a preschooler. The picture of us together is my favorite picture of the two of us.

She gave me, later, the transcript of what she had prepared. It was thanking me for what family worship had meant to her. Lest your listeners misunderstand, they may think that that means, when we had family worship, she sat in rapt attention with her hands folded. I mean, not one time, ever, would I have walked away from family worship, saying: “Oh, the Spirit of God came in great power upon us tonight. We were on our faces before God. The Spirit’s presence was just atmospheric in our home.” Never would I have said that.

Most of the time, I would walk away, saying: “I wonder if that did any good whatsoever. I wonder if anything happened.” There was nothing remarkable—ever. You know what it’s like, until this day? She’s married and has a first child of her own now. When you have a family in the family room doing family worship, they do what families do in the family room. The three-year-old’s are rolling around on the floor; they’re being real families. Yet, you do this, night after night, year after year, and the Word does its work. God may do things that you never imagined He was doing.


Bob: Well, again, that’s Don Whitney, talking about family devotions in his home. We were listening to that, and smiling, and nodding our heads. We’ve all been there; right?

Dave: Yes.

Bob: But the truth is—you do what God prompts you to do. You share His Word; His Word does not return void. You be faithful as a parent; and your faithfulness will mark your kids, maybe, as much as whatever the spiritual principles you’re teaching do.

Ann: We were together with our three sons. I remember saying, “You guys remember some of those great devotional things that I did?—like those big props?” They said, “No.” [Laughter] I said, “Wait; you don’t remember one?” They said, “Nope.” It was the most disappointing—I just thought, “What’s the use?” Then one of them said: “But we remembered that it was so important to you, and we can remember you crying at times. We can remember that Jesus is the most important thing in your life. That’s what we remember.”

Dave: I’ll add this—our middle son, who has three [of our] grandkids is doing that, at night, crawling in their bed; one of them—crawling in the crib. You watch him do these crazy—they’re not Tim Shoemaker crazy—but now they will be.

Bob: No potato guns with the infants.

Dave: Once he gets this book—they’re going to eat it up.

I would add this—even as I listened to Don there, I thought, “You know, I’m not Don; I’m not Tim.” I can be intimidated—like: “I can’t be that creative. I can’t be that consistent.” But I can be me, and you can be you; so do you, and do something. That’s the key: “Do something. Do it your way. God will honor your faithfulness.”

Bob: Tim, this has been great; this has been inspiring, and motivating, and—

Ann: —and fun.

Bob: I’m ready to get the grandkids and get a pickle and some nails and go to work. [Laughter] If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, get a copy of Tim’s book, The Very Best, Hands-On, Kinda Dangerous Family Devotions, which we’ve got in our FamilyLife Resource Center. Thanks for being on FamilyLife Today.

Tim: My pleasure. Thank you all.

Bob: Again, go to to order a copy of Tim’s book on family devotions. You can order it from us, online, or you can call to order at 1-800-FL-TODAY. The title of the book again: The Very Best, Hands-On, Kinda Dangerous Family Devotions by Tim Shoemaker. Order online at, or call to order at 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

Now, a reminder—we talked about this earlier—the month of December is a critical month for FamilyLife as we approach the end of the calendar year. What happens over the next couple of weeks will determine what FamilyLife is able to do in the year 2020: “Can we continue on this local radio station/on our network of stations across the country? Can we expand the ministry of FamilyLife Today, going forward?”

We think the need is urgent. We’re hoping you will help us take advantage of a matching gift that’s been made available to us. Every donation we receive during the month of December is being matched, dollar for dollar, up to a total of $2.5 million. If you could be as generous as possible and make a yearend contribution in support of the work of FamilyLife Today, however much you’re able to give, your donation will be matched, dollar for dollar. We are grateful for your partnership with us.

You can give, online, on; or you can call to donate at 1-800-FL-TODAY. Please pray for us that we’re able to take full advantage of this matching gift, and we hope to hear from you.

We hope you can be back with us, again, tomorrow. Gary Thomas is going to join us to talk about difficult relationships and how you can know when it’s time to say, “I just need to walk away from this relationship.” Do you ever say that? We’ll talk with Gary about that tomorrow. I hope you can tune in.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas; a Cru® Ministry. Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.


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