Learning to Choose Joy & Practicing Contentment As a Way of Life

“Mama, I love it when you are happy. It makes me feel like life is good and we are going to be ok.” (from an unmentioned Clarkson child.)

Lately, as I have struggled with too much—too much work, pressure from life, needs of family, deadlines, meals to make and dishes to wash and expectations from those who love me, I have probably cast a shadow on my family and been a force of negativity. But I have realized that when I struggle out loud, my children feel like they need to rescue me or take on my burdens. I am the mother, and I need to be careful not to pass on guilt, and unnecessary pressure to my family. I can choose to keep some things to myself and to learn to be content as a way of life. It is something that has been a long time coming.

Writing and speaking challenges me to grow more deeply in love with God each day. There is something about having the responsibility of telling others the true concepts of God's word and seeking to pass on a love for Him that changes me as I do so.  Many years ago, writing Dancing With My Father changed me deeply. I have changed even more in the years since I turned in the manuscript!

Learning to Move in the Direction of choosing contentment, practicing joy….(more soon)

To live fully alive, aware, sensing the presence of my gentle, loving Lord every day, in the tiny moments of my day--knowing He is here with me, He will always love me and pursue me, forgive me, help me--these realities that I am taking time to ponder are changing the very heart of me. Entering into His presence intentionally is giving me joy even in the midst of the many pressures of my life. I know so much more clearly now that all of my days have purpose in light of eternity and God's desire to bring me more and more to freedom.

I pass on just a few thoughts from my book that I pray may be of some encouragement to you, today.

"One of the greatest obstacles was my response to disappointments, frustration, and the day-to-day interruptions of life. As I evaluated these things in light of my commitment to walk in joy, I could see that, in reality, God had used many of my difficulties to create in me a deeper, more compassionate heart, I could see that the hand of God had faithfully met me at my need and somehow sustained me instead of letting me go under. I also realized that he had used these challenges to loosen my grip on the worldly, temporal things I had previously looked to for security and stability and instead compelled me to rely on him and seek eternal answers."

And then, later, I saw a Biblical story of dancing with God from a person who had learned this dance of joy in the privacy of his own life, where on one saw but God. "Here was my picture of joy: David, having faithfully waited through years of anguish, danger, and humility, never lost his true focus on his ultimate Source of joy, his God, who had been with David every day, through every circumstance.

Over 25 years of running away from Saul, losing his wife, having his children captured, attempted murder on his life, loneliness through battles from within and without. When he came to be king, his focus was still on His God and celebrating HIs presence in front of all who would follow Him as king. And with his heart focused on the Source of his joy, David could leap and dance "before the LORD with all his might" (2 Samuel 6:14). This out of heartfelt celebration.

I believe that David saw in God great freedom -- that his God created pleasure, color, beauty, food, love, sound, taste, and deep happiness. David was not tied up in knots of religion and rules, pretense and performance. Instead, he enjoyed and delighted in the God whom he knew to be his close friend and Lord. His dancing was a genuine expression of what he felt in his heart for his most beloved and intimate companion.

Where had he learned this? Out in the field, alone and free to ponder and live before God without pretense, being in nature with the stars and storms, seasons and changes. He'd been daily alone, living in the beauty of a world that displayed God's glory and handiwork. He'd spend many hours writing music about it, thinking about the Great Designer, and singing to an audience of one."

Today, as I am living in my own "field" of life, I may learn to hear the music of His voice speaking to me in my circumstances through the miracle of a child singing and giggling; the buds opening up on a tree, daffodils blooming; the heavy breath of an angel baby, fast asleep; the warmth of snuggling under the blankets on a cold, snowy spring morning with the companion of my life; the taste of hot coffee with sugar and cream—all these from His hand, a part of His art in my life, so I can see His presence and be aware of His provision.

May the field of your life bring you the joy of His presence today.

Francesca Battistelli, Her New Album, "Own It!" & A Podcast

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Ten Years ago, Joy, my daughter, competed in a national acting, singing and performing competition. She practiced and practiced and had such a great time. (Joy was made for performance since she came out of the womb.) For her solo, she chose a contemporary Christian song called, “I’m Letting Go!” by Francesca Battistelli. Joy practiced the song over and over and over again until even I could sing her cover song for the competition in my sleep. But I loved the song and at the beginning of her career, I became a fan of Francesca.

Fast forward a few years, and a long time friend of mine who is a music producer and song writer emailed me and said, “Francesca B. is reading and enjoying one of your books.”

How fun! And so we became friends through the internet and I kept enjoying even more of her beautiful songs and enjoyed our correspondence. I thought it would be fun to share her and her newest album, Own It, with all of you.

She is a mama of four sweet ones and has such a heart for the Lord and struggles with the same issues of life that we all have. She collaborates with her musician husband, Matt, and they have the privilege of working through these creative projects together. I knew you would enjoy our conversation and so decided to share this podcast with you.

She is a mama of four sweet ones and has such a heart for the Lord and struggles with the same issues of life that we all have. She collaborates with her musician husband, Matt, and they have the privilege of working through these creative projects together. I knew you would enjoy our conversation and so decided to share this podcast with you.

Last year, she was called to fly to Italy to perform with the famous classical singer, Andrea Bocelli. for a Christmas special for TBN. What a fairly tale story and time it was for her.

Last year, she was called to fly to Italy to perform with the famous classical singer, Andrea Bocelli. for a Christmas special for TBN. What a fairly tale story and time it was for her.

Francesca has won one Grammy and had four career nominations, two K-LOVE Fan Awards, six Dove Awards (including being named the Gospel Music Association’s Artist of the Year) and seven No. 1 singles!

I hope you will enjoy our chat together. I love her heart and her desire that we all find our roots in Jesus to hold us through all seasons of our lives. Be inspired.

Own It
Curb | Word

Enjoy!

Diligence Training (Our 24 Family Ways #13 and Podcast!)

"Patience and Diligence, like faith, remove mountains." -William Penn

Way #13

 We are diligent to complete a task promptly and thoroughly when asked. 

Memory verse:

"The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing. But the soul of the diligent is made fat."

Quitting jobs, quitting school, quitting on marriage, quitting on friendship, quitting on God, just quitting is acceptable in every area of our lives. Often we use the word grace as a covering to all people in all circumstances who make wrong decisions, who fail to be wise, who prove to be lazy.

Just "quitting" has become an acceptable choice, an excusable choice. We blame others for our difficulties instead of choosing to be diligent to overcome our challenges. A lack of godly character is at the base of Christians having no impact on culture. Christians are as likely to except mediocrity as non-believers.

Yet, God gave us the capacity to "muscle-up" in life in order to be conquerers, to defeat the darkness, to work to completion. How many times have I been sorely tempted to give up on some of my ideals--my children have tested my patience and faith. Homeschooling challenged me to the core. Repetitive financial issues have tempted me to believe that God did not hear my prayers. People's negative voices in my life have caused me to second guess my ideals, and tempted me to think they did not matter.

Yet, God's word kept telling me to persevere, to be diligent, to overcome, to keep going. And by His grace, now I am so very thankful that He increased my capacity to work hard when I had grown up lazy. He stretched my faith so that I could live long enough to see His faithfulness. He kept me faithful through the hard times in marriage so that now I have a heritage of unconditional love.

We read that one of the fruits of the spirit is faithfulness--faithfulness is staying diligent to remain at the task or issue at hand. Paul, who suffered so much at the hands of persecutors, knew the importance of diligence.

"Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain."

1 Corinthians 15:58

Learning the importance of diligence in every endeavor of life is essential for fruitfulness in life. Though the world is in rebellion against God and His design, and thus our work is challenging, our relationships are fraught with pain, His spirit of redemption comes alive when we are diligent to complete the tasks we have been given to complete. Diligence is the energy, the inner will of determination to keep going, that provides the power to overcome in life.

I was not prepared to do housework, wake up with littles all night and then be responsive during the day. Diligence is a road, a direction, not a perfect rule to keep. It is moving toward maturity, not perfection.

When a mama trains her children, bit by bit, to work harder, to keep going, to develop an inner sense of integrity in work, faith, service, friendship and love, this child will become strong inside. To have a habit of diligence, to own the value of diligence in one's heart, provides the power, the strength to keep going--to move the mountains in his life.

Daily life is where diligence is trained and learned. As our children watch our diligence, and experience our love, they develop a heart to be diligent as we are. Giving children work to complete develops moral strength. Helping children to persevere in difficult relationships teaches them to be faithful in adult relationships.

If we do our children the disservice of taking them out of all difficult circumstances, then we are guilty of giving them a weak character. Diligence is a gold key to becoming productive and influential in life.

This week's way is crucial to the core of our children's character and will even help them to learn to stay faithful in times of doubt. When they learn to be diligent in one area, it spills into all areas of life. This is why it is crucial that we train this attribute into the very core of our children's values about themselves. We do it by gentle, daily, little by little, consistent training over a young lifetime at home.

But when it grows in the heart of the child, he will become the person who is reliable. This child will get the jobs he hopes for, work hard to reach ideals. If you love your child, you must patiently pursue this character quality in the life of your home and in your own life, and then you will see the ultimate reward of your own faith, as you learn to wait on God patiently and to work diligently in life to bring Him glory. May God find our hearts and works diligent as we see the blessing of His ways, in His time.

Resisting Fear as a Mama--Don't Quit!

“Do not fear, for I am with you! Do not anxiously look about you,  For I am your God! I will strengthen you, I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. “

~Isaiah 41: 10

A young couple decided to kayak from Maine all the way down to Florida. They planned their trip, got sponsors to support them, and blogged and wrote about their trip. With all of the seasons and storms, it took them a year to finish. Storms of great magnitude arose along their journey, sending waves crashing all around them. Often the rain would pelt continuously on their weary bodies and soak them to the bone. Discouragement would overwhelm and they would think, "Why did we undertake this? We will never finish. It is too difficult. No one can do it!"

Once, however, in the midst of such a storm, they made a pact with each other: "We will never make a decision to quit when we are in the midst of a storm." 

A simple, but profound commitment, and one we ought to consider, ourselves!

So many dear friends are surrounded by storms in their lives right now--economic, illness, weariness, loneliness, no support systems or anyone to help; difficult marriages, prodigal children, fear of the future, despair because of the times we are in … The list goes on and on. 

I have been through so many storms in my own life when I felt I could not go on---three out of my four children being asthmatics with constant illness and emergency room situations; 17 moves and the accompanying loneliness; four children to homeschool with very few support systems over the years and years of exhaustion; stress in finances, ministry, marriage; "giants" within our family that caused great difficulty and despair about which I may never write, because I believe in honor and loyalty in family relationships.

Often, I would think, "I cannot go on. My circumstances will turn out for the worst. There is no hope. Where has God gone?"

And yet, it is in the midst of the storms of life, that our faith is most precious. It is in these times when we can say to Satan, "You would have me fear, but I choose to believe in the goodness of God and in His provision.”

May our hearts be as David's, who wrote,

"The Lord is my light and salvation; Whom shall I fear.

The Lord is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread? 

When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, My adversaries and enemies,

they stumbled and fell.

Though a host encamp against me, My heart will not fear.

Though a war arise against me, 

In spite of this I shall be confident." Psalm 27: 1-3

Don’t quit, mama, in the midst of your storm.

The light is coming.

Lifegiving Table Chapter 6: Sunday Morning Feasts, & Podcast

The memory of this story is so familiar and it took place over and over again. I slip a lacy fold-over sock onto Joy’s delicate foot and glance at my watch. Forty-five minutes until takeoff. I straighten her hair bow and kiss her head.

“Do you want to help Mommy set the table?”
“Yes, Mama! And I want to tell you something.”
Joy patters behind me in her Sunday best, regaling me with every thought and feeling she’s experienced in the last twenty-four hours. While she happily chatters, I flip pancakes and murmur “mm-hmm” to each important point she makes.

I hand her six forks and six napkins to fold. I glance again at the clock—thirty-seven minutes to go! I hurriedly drop pecans and chocolate chips into the bubbling piles of golden batter. Pulling out our old faithful teapot, I flick on the electric kettle and go to rally the forces.

The hurricane of bustle it takes to get six people into a car and on their way to church never ceases to amuse and exasperate me. On the very day we all feel compelled to be spiritual, focused, and thoughtful, we are usually rushed, urgent, and—dare we admit it?—a slight bit annoyed.

The more years I’ve lived, the more I’ve come to think that it is better not to fight mornings like these. It is better to resign oneself to the bustle and make room for meaning and delight in the midst of it. Accepting this reality helps soothe my mood, even if it means being five minutes late to church.

  • There will come a day when we arrive on time, I think, but today is probably not this day. So I take a deep breath and flip another pancake. “Breakfast in five minutes!” I shout up the stairs, “Be ready for church!” Within a few minutes I hear the hurried flutter of feet upstairs, followed by pounding on the stairs—a familiar sound to me. Nathan arrives, combing damp hair behind his ears. My two oldest amble in shortly thereafter, looking slightly more ready. Then comes Clay, who was dressed before any of us.

Clay’s “amen” has barely reached our ears before we descend on the pancakes with gusto. Joy likes the chocolate chip, while Sarah is partial to pecan. Soon not a single pancake is left. With mugs full of tea and mouths full of scrumptiousness (if I do say so myself), we listen while Clay reads aloud a Psalm that has captured his imagination this morning. Joy wiggles a little as he reads. But I can see on her attentive face that she is chewing on the words Clay reads out in rich baritone.

Clay thumps the book closed and removes his reading glasses.

“What do you all think?” he asks, surveying the breakfast table. This week’s Scripture focuses on holiness—a lofty topic for preteens.

“I think that if God gave everything to make us His, then we should live our lives set apart for Him. It’s how we should respond to His kindness.”

These words come from Joel, who until this moment has been sleepily consuming chocolate chip and pecan pancakes, leftover from Sarah’s plate. I am reminded once again that it’s hard to know when children’s hearts are deeply engaged. They can be paying attention even when they don’t look it. (Never stop teaching, training, and pouring into your children because you think they aren’t listening. Patience reveals investment.)

Everyone else chips in their thoughts, even little Joy, who was destined from a young age to hear many conversations beyond her years. Then Clay leads us in a prayer, and everyone rushes their dishes to the sink. I decide we’ll finish washing up later and leave them to soak. After a mad dash of socks, shoes, and unevenly tied shoelaces, somehow we all end up in the car. And I don’t even think we’ll be late.

What a miracle!

An Anchor in the Week

We did that every Sunday morning while our children were growing up—a sit-down breakfast with a special treat like pancakes or French toast, a family devotional, and time for us to reflect together on what we had read. In fact, we still do it with whoever happens to be home at the moment.

Even when I am in Oxford, my sweet husband is still keeping tradition and they made pancakes last week when Nathan was home. Life rhythms go on and warm feelings are felt deep inside the heart as each practiced and repeated tradition ties us to the memories and conversations we have had in the same place year after year and builds a legacy of values and faith.

Why is it so important to us? Why did I go to the extra trouble of yet another special meal on yet another morning—especially when church offered doughnuts? Because we are building pathways in our hearts and brains that connect us to thousands of hours spent over years in this way, reminding all of us what we believe and cherish together, what we hold dear, what keeps us faithful through one more table and one more pancake shared over many times of consuming pancakes and French Toast.

Training Children to Faithfulness (Our Family Way #12 and Podcast!)

Way # 12 We take care of what we have, using it responsibly.

Memory Verse

“He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much." Luke 16:10

"Mama, I want to move to New York City. I have a scholarship to New York Film Academy, and I would love to go, but I need your blessing." I never dreamed of sending my children to New York City when they were 19. However, one of the life principles of our family was that if our children were faithful in small things, we would broaden their arenas to bigger places.

Practicing faithfulness in small tasks would prepare them to be faithful in bigger responsibility. Practicing letting our children work beside us, engage in our work, learn to rule over their own lives with decisions and work prepares them to think of themselves as responsible. Having a self-image of being responsible is developed by a life-time of training, day by day.

Part of the daily task of a mom is to teach her children character, responsibility and the stewardship of taking care of all that God has placed into our hands. Part of that process is helping our children picturing themselves as responsible for the world, for sharing the gospel, for the way they invest their time, for stewarding money and for taking care of their relationships.

Learning by real life practices makes more impression on us as well as our children—far more than lecturing them or giving them advice. Engaging in real life builds our self-image.

Many areas of life can become training grounds for children. One area Joy loved learning responsibility in was gardening. When she was a small child, I  brought her with me into my garden when I planted roses, cultivated irises and daffodils, and made our yard beautiful. Though it is very hard to grow plants and flowers at 7300 feet altitude and on the rock base of our land, which is basically a mountain, I have attempted to grow many different plants. I love flowers and am determined to keep trying until I make the perfect garden!

Each year I would take my children, but especially Joy, with me and have them do the work by my side. Now, Joy is still inclined to plant her own garden each year because she gained an appetite for creating beauty, through me training her to be a steward of our home and garden. Even when she returned from college over the years, one of the first things she would do was to buy herbs, tomato plants and a few cutting flowers to plant. The training and breathing into her of these appetites have formed a pattern in her heart for being a steward of beauty.

So it is with other areas. Reaching out to our neighbors to love them and share God's love with our children in tow gives our children a sense of stewardship for ministry.

Giving our children a jar to save their loose change in, builds up to whole jar full, that they can choose where it will be used in giving to missions trains them to feel a responsibility to help support church and missions as an adult.

Counseling our children a million times to make peace with a sibling or helping them learn to work hard with the family to ready the house for out of town company builds a self-image of “I am responsible to be faithful to serve others. It is what “Clarkson” do.

How can you bring your children into the areas you faithfully cultivate and steward today? As you train them to be faithful in their small corner of the world, their capacity and stewardship will also grow as they become better prepared for all that God will call them to as world changers for his Kingdom.

What you teach, model, and practice for your children is what they are most likely to value when they grow up. Give them small ways to be faithful, so they can become strong in exercising bigger stewardship muscles when they are adults.

Faithfulness does not happen all at once, as with other character qualities. And none of my children were perfectly faithful—it takes time to get a concept, train it, explain it and model it. They all grow imperfectly but it is a growing towards the ideal. When we see that they have a sense of their own personal call to be faithful inside, then we know they are ready to extend mature wisdom in making “faithful” decisions in their own personal lives.

Nathan did go to New York, he had a great year, made wonderful friends and came out with his faith intact. He was faithful at home to have integrity with his friends, to work at a job, to go to church and to make wise choices. His learning to practice faithfulness in front of us gave him and us an objective way to evaluate whether we should approve his decision to move to New York as a young man. He passed the test at home, and we were free to trust him to a bigger arena. Remember:

“He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much."

The Urgency of Rest & Restoration & Podcast

Sometimes, Prince Jesus comes to me most personally when I am resting and choosing to be still.

Sometimes, Prince Jesus comes to me most personally when I am resting and choosing to be still.

I was talking to my son, Joel, on the phone today. “I am tired down to my toenails,” I quipped when he asked how I was doing. When we are drained on a regular basis by our family, spouse, friends, circumstances, we sometimes begin to see ourselves reacting in unhealthy ways. Sometimes anger or grumpiness at the smallest things, or crying and feeling sad or just feeling like we will never be able to complete the tasks that are in front of us.

Sometimes, when we have piles of responsibility on our plate, we start to place a lot of energy, worry and fear into the issues of our lives and fret. The last thing that seems productive when life is busy is to rest. Yet, rest may very well be the most strategic thing to do if we have a busy, full and demanding life.

Yet, I have learned that in the marathon of life, if I don’t take care of myself when I am depleted, life will get even harder.

In light of my past very busy years, I have observed that I have not lived a “Sabbath Rest” life. I have not made time for weekly slowing down (sometimes family circumstances seem to make this impossible), and I have not placed margin in my life to refresh. It is a commitment of mine to take care of myself. So after a very rigorous few weeks, I have decided I may have to go “Dark” for just a bit—at least, I may have to take some time off from ministry and commitments to be able to stay healthy in the long run.

Oddly, our whole family has been plagued with respiratory infections and asthma, one after the other, as well as a bout with the stomach flu. So, dear friends, I will be back eventually—(Maybe!)—but I have prepared some podcasts for you and some articles. Pray for me to have space to refresh and renew, as that I have so much I want to do in the future and want to hear God’s priorities.

The following is from some thoughts I have shared before about why we need to make time to take care of ourselves. Hope you can apply it to your own life.

If we do not practice a habit of a restful life, we will end up with serious illness, exhaustion, bad attitudes and fist shaking faith aimed heavenly.

As I have said before, "Fretting leads only to evil doing."

God put Sabbath Rest into the weeks of our lives with a purpose. I have found that when I believe and engage my heart in the goodness of God's character, and put out of my mind, after praying, all that I am carrying and just seek to be still and find joy, I see the miracles bubbling up slowly, surely, as He, my Father, delights to provide.

However, a Martha heart is want to see the miracles, as she is so busy living in the whirlwind of her own meek provisions, she loses all hope and becomes a wretched nag.

The more exhausted I am with life, the more tense, grumpy and tight I become and it spills all over everyone else.

Finding myself at a juncture of exhaustion from giving all that I had last weekend (Thursday-Sunday) to the sweet, wonderful  women in my home, I find that somehow when I try to figure out all of the responsibilities of the next few months, which are huge, I am tempted to be overwhelmed.

Yet, from so many times like this in the past, I have learned a secret. My Prince Jesus comes to me at just the right time, but like the story of Sleeping Beauty, the prince comes, not when she is searching the horizon, pounding her fists, running the floor, but when she is doing nothing but resting.

Resting in Him, choosing peace and putting off responsibilities and recreating is sometimes such grand medicine for my soul, that after choosing to rest and to invest in fun and love and ease of life, my strength is renewed and all issues are able to be faced with grace. I know September is coming, but I will face it with courage if I rest today.

And so today, my plan is to go back to bed, to pace leisurely through the pathway of Monday, to sip and really taste my coffee, to just sit and listen to my sweet girls, and focus on the beauty of their light filled eyes, to stay in comfy clothes all day, to read and pray, and then maybe to rest again, because I know that while I am resting, my Prince is already coming to my rescue.

Peace, be still, the Lord is near.

Ancient Boundaries for Modern Times

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"Do not move the ancient boundary, which your fathers have set. "

Sipping tea in the candlelight of the twilight of evening found me cherishing time with a dear friend who has had a godly influence on my life for many years. We were reflecting on the many ways we have grieved over observing more and more compromise in the lives of young Christians over the many decades of our lives. A weakening of the faith and of the faithful; too many stories of leaders compromising and Christians being yawningly boring, ineffectual, and weak has become epic in our lives—and in the news.

“When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.” Genesis 3:6

Discernment is the ability to judge well between truth and vanity. Discernment between good and evil and the willingness to obey whatever God requires is an evidence of a person walking in the power of the Holy Spirit and following God's word. However, many do not even know what the word of God says anymore, so they follow online wisdom.

I am concerned about the extremes I see on the internet and in situations around me. God's word provides wisdom, boundaries, and insight for each day of our lives. Boundaries and fences and hedges are established for the protection of a land or home, serving as the definition of its realm. When you remove fences and borders, all sorts of havoc reigns. Boundaries provide definition and security. Daily, our culture cries out for the compromise and moving of boundaries in our lives. Without a depth of training in the Word, many are caught up in alluring messages of either legalism and judgment, or to compromise and compliance with less-than-Biblical ideals.

As I have said many times, in the absence of Biblical conviction, people go the way of culture.

When you don’t know what to think, you follow whoever’s voice is loudest or most persuasive. Paul warned us that toward the end times, people would want to have their ears tickled with messages that pleased them.

From the beginning, as with Eve, women and men alike have been seeking wisdom from other places, looking for answers to validate their whims and desires from the world. But even as it turned out disastrously for Eve, and all those who have followed lies throughout history, so it will be for those who listen to and are allured by the voices of the world today. Do not be fooled!

To live a balanced life, between the false promises of a legalistic, behavior, rule-based life or the permissive, “it doesn’t matter---give yourself a break,” culture, we must be women who are seeking the heart of Jesus, the truth of scripture, and the teachings of those who have lived a proven life.

Living in the tension of walking with freedom and holiness requires us to know our God, so that we can resist the voices that sway us one way or the other.

Now is the time to follow Him!

For further study:

1. Proverbs 16:16

"How much better to get wisdom than gold, and good judgment than silver!"

Where do you look for advice and wisdom? Is it a reliable source? Do you know the reality of the lives of the people you are following? Are they seasoned, wise, have lived a story worth following? What areas do you need to find discernment in regarding your philosophy of life, motherhood, marriage? How are you making God's word a priority every day? Plan it in your week.

2.  James 1:5

"But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and [a]without reproach, and it will be given to him."

To hear God's voice requires time invested quietly with Him. How do you need to reorganize your priorities to make time each day to hear God's Word? What areas do you need to ask wisdom of God?

3. James 3:17 "But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere."

I especially love this verse. Pure. peace-loving, gentle, willing to yield--this is what the brother of Jesus said was a picture of wisdom. When we are trusting God, His fruit of wisdom will flow through the moments of our lives.

In what areas do you need to see wisdom grow? How are you growing in the qualities of wisdom mentioned above?

Nurturing God-Sized Dreams in Your Children & Nathan's New Movie & Podcast

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Nurturing God-sized Dreams in Your Children & Nathan’s New Movie & Podcast

When we hold our little new born in our arms for the first time, we cannot even imagine what life they will lead or story they will tell. I certainly never dreamed of Nathan , my third child, second boy, would attend the New York Film Academy, live between New York and Hollywood and create and produce his own films. And yet, God has worked in his life in such a way that he has followed Him into very secular arenas, forged friendships and connections with people from all over the world and produced two movies.

And yet, Nathan says it was what took place in our home over thousands of days that spurred on his dream to become an onscreen story teller. Today, Nathan and I talk about what prepared him to live into the dreams God placed on his heart and how our home became the training grounds for paving the way to these opportunities.

So often, when I talk to women, they speak of being overwhelmed, feel a failure and are looking for a way back to their ideals. Often, they live as though they have no hope. When vision for what mentoring children becomes lost among the flurry of daily life, it seems that it is easy to lose our sense of purpose. Women quit dreaming with their children. When we are limited in our hearts to the tasks of life, to the responsibilities and bills and duties we have, we can become very discouraged.

But when we realize that the Holy Spirit, Himself, dwells in us and wants to bring glory through our lives and create supernatural life and love right where we are, it gives us a whole different way to live. As a trainer of children who could learn to dream and take on the task of bringing God's kingdom to bear on this world, I always looked for ways to expand their faith, to listen to their talents and delights, to speak of how God might use them in this world.

I told my four chatterboxes they had only a few years to bring about miracles of love in His name, to banish sadness and darkness and to bring about light and His life through all that they did. It gave us an excitement about every day, every lesson God was teaching, every story that we heard. The way it played out in my children's lives was different for each one.

Sarah was an incredible reader from the time she was very small. I would read volumes of books to her, and enter her into every reading program, contest and give her lots of opportunity to write. She would fill dozens of journals with her writing. I encouraged her as a message maker who would bring light to many minds. I truly believe that she will become one of the great writers of our times. Her insight and creativity and wisdom for one her age has been blessed by God. She has had to work hard, but I believe her many years of input is beginning to pay off.

Joel, had the same input in soul, with the reading and devotionals, but I noticed that he sang in perfect tune from the time he was 15 months and could do perfect harmony by the time he was three--it came naturally to him. Consequently, we encouraged him to play guitar like his dad, exposed him to lots of different music, took him to concerts, and gave him all the software and instruments we could afford when he wanted to try to produce a small album. The last years, he has composed music and worked in Los Angeles with a well-known composer, and has produced 3 albums and has now moved into creating choral music and getting his PHD at St. Andrews..

Nathan, our very extroverted child, loved people, activity and performance. Clay took him to Christian magician conferences to stretch his own skills as a stage illusionist. Sending him to the New York Film academy when he was 19 was a faith risk, but just this week, he is producing his second movie that he wrote. Because of his stepping stones to practice living into his passions, he learned to work hard to create a place where he could act, produce movies and write books that would being inspiration to his world—my Different Child, (We wrote the Different Book together), pursued his own path to bring light and hope to his world. We provided training in discipleship as he followed all of these areas in hopes of having a ministry to his generation through the arts.

Joy literally came out of the womb loving a stage. She has grown up at our conferences and never flinched when she stood up in front of hundreds of people--in plays, musicals, conferences or anywhere else. When Joy performs, I feel God's gift and pleasure in a marked way! We allowed her to have one semester of competitive speech and debate, because she is such a natural. (The other years, we had our conferences and could not do speech and debate.) Now, fast forward, Joy is completing her PHD, has developed a popular podcast and twitter following and speaks as a way of life. (He podcast is Speakingwithjoy)

We just pray for our children and support their efforts because we want to encourage them to live by faith and to invest their lives, and to own the gifts God gave to them.

I see so many moms, whether in Classical school, homeschool, public school and private school, become bogged down with the work load and curricular demands and they become hyper-focussed on “filling in the blanks and dotting every I” but they have lost the bigger picture

But I meet few, who have invested much time in Kingdom dreams with and for their children. David became king of the slingshot--was that according to His mother's hopes and dreams? He also came to court because of his great music. Gideon was a grape stomper. Esther was a pretty orphan. Peter was a working class man. Paul was an academic. But the thing they all have in common, is that they used who and what they were for God's glory--to make a difference in the world for His kingdom.

Proverbs tells us the from the heart flow the springs of life. Jesus wanted us to live from the wells of life springing up in and through our hearts from His Spirit. If we are to take the world by God's force and light, we must learn to be dreamers, empowered and inspired by God, to bring His light to the darkness. We do this by cultivating the dreams and passions of our children's hearts.

NATHAN’S MOVIE: THE UNLIKELY GOOD SAMARITAN



I will write and speak more about this in the coming months, but Nathan and I have recorded a podcast for you that we hope will encourage and inspire you to breathe in the peace of God while you exercise the hope and faith that He is at work spinning great hearts and lives while you are living and building values and messages in your every day life.

This week, Nathan’s new movie, The Unlikely Good Samaritan, comes out in a debut in a theatre in Colorado Springs and you can pick up your own copy on Amazon or in your local Walmarts. Hope it inspires you—and look for Clay and me as we play a tiny cameo appearance. So fun.

The Unlikely Good Samaritan
Starring Eric Roberts, Nathan Clarkson, Meggie Maddock

You're With Your Children, But Are You Present?

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"Mama, all I want to do is to be with you. Let's spend as much time together as possible," Joy said before she returned to a far-away home at the end of one long visit. Being together and being friends is what she longed for--the comfort of being with someone who knows you, validates you, loves you with all of your warts and takes time to listen.

Over and over again in the Gospels, we read that the disciples were "with" Jesus. Our Lord developed the hearts of his followers by spending time with them—instructing them, advising them, modeling right behavior. He spoke with them one-on-one and in small groups. He included them in His ministry and in His daily life. But what we never see Him do is sign them up for activities and programs!

In contemporary society, we tend to value activity, and this is certainly true for most Christians I know. We don't want our children to miss out on anything. We take them to church on Sunday, to a Wednesday Bible memory class, and perhaps to a Sunday night youth meeting. We are on the go for God. We are busy doing may activities and going to this meeting and that seminar and one more lesson.

Church discipleship and meetings can be great. My own children benefited greatly from Awana--but it was at home that they learned to believe the verses, to love the God they were studying, to take to heart what God was speaking because we were appealing to their heart through our daily love.

How many minutes every day does the average woman spends with her eyes glued on a screen,looking to see if someone else will have thought of her or validated her? I also wonder how many moments each day a mom looks into the eyes of her child in order to be present, to listen, and to hear the unspoken hopes for a time alone with mom. How many opportunities do we miss to cultivate that friendship as we pass through the wasteland of busyness and distraction?

 All of the "going" in the world will not make us or our children spiritually deep and alive. It is only by coming to the living God and developing intimacy with him that we will really draw near in our hearts to Christ. What many in our culture don't understand, and many more forget, is that a relationship with Christ is best taught through a long-term personal relationship with someone who knows the Master, and reflects Him personally in all the moments of life--not through activities organized around lots of people in impersonal and distracting instructional situations.

Jesus didn't meet with his disciples once a week for Bible study and then say, "I'll see you next week!" or "I gave you your 15 minutes today."

He gave them his whole life. He lived with them, slept with them, traveled with them, and lived out a life of godly maturity before their eyes... In the same way, our children will learn righteousness best by seeing it lived out in every possible way in our lives, moment by moment, in the context of normal life. The first principle of reaching our children is that we have to make the time to be with them--so that when they grow up, they will want to be with us!