Forgiving & Covering An Offense with Love 24 Way 8 & podcast

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Way  # 8

We forgive one another, covering an offense with love when wronged or hurt.

Memory Verse: So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Colossians 3:12-13

All of us make mistakes. We lose our temper. We are selfish and want the best or biggest piece of cake. We become angry over petty issues. We break someone else's toy.

No matter how hard any of us try, we will always always make mistakes and eventually fall short of someone's expectations and disappoint those who love us.

That is why forgiveness is so very essential to the message of Christ. We are those who love the best because we are those who give the most grace, and have been given the most grace. As we love Christ, He leads us to give grace and forgive.

In a world where culture gives us every kind of excuse to quit relationships, to hold a grudge, to become a victim of a difficult life, to gossip, to criticize, the practice of forgiveness stands out like a beacon of light for a defense of Christianity. 

It is not logical to forgive someone who has offended us, but it is supernatural--it can only come from walking in the power of the Holy Spirit. Yet, forgiveness and humility was constantly on the heart of Jesus.

Peter wanted to quantify forgiveness, like we all desire to do! He was willing to be noble and forgive someone, but after all, he thought there surely must be a limit! Perhaps 7 is the number we should forgive, Lord? He asked with a self-justifying heart.

No, Jesus said. 70 times 7--in other words, you must forgive, forgive, forgive, forgive, .........

Forgiving another person who has hurt us, damaged our reputation, who has continually been mean spirited or abused us in some way is one of the most difficult practices to exercise. All of us have been deeply hurt. It is natural to want to take revenge, or even to justify our own position and way of looking at an offense to justify lack of forgiveness.

Yet, it is the way of Jesus--the supernatural way of the Spirit in our lives to extend forgiveness and unconditional love.

"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us," we read in Romans 8.

He who knew no sin became sin on our behalf. II Cor. 5:21

To truly understand Jesus, to worship Him from a grateful heart, requires that we learn to forgive and even to barely take offense when wronged. Bowing our knee and our will to actually forgive someone and expect nothing in return is not natural but supernatural. 

Jesus said that if someone hit us, we should offer him the other cheek. He told stories about forgiveness--the judge who forgave a very large debt of a man, who was not willing to forgive another man a small debt owed him.

In II Timothy 2:24, Paul admonished us:

"The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged."

If we want our children to consider marriage sacred then we must behave as though it is sacred and forgive one another when wronged. Same with family members, neighbors, fellow believers in church, neighbors, everyone.

Forgiveness is the essence of God's heart. It compelled Him to die for us.

So, if we want to give our children a secret to living a life of love, we must teach them this Family Way. If we want our children to be godly leaders in this world, they must see self-sacrificing, humble forgiveness in and through our words, our lives and our actions.

One of the most important values I have come to understand from being a mama, is that when I take responsibility for the shaping of my children's hearts, to teach them truth, I have had to become more godly in order to teach them these life-changing truths.

And so, as we approach this week's way, let us understand that helping our children practice forgiveness over and over again, will establish a pattern in their hearts to remember when they must make this choice as adults. Train up a child in the way he should go--in forgiving 70 X 70 X70 and so on, and forgiveness will become a part of his paradigm for life. If we all loved this way and forgave, the world would indeed become a place open to the heart and message of Christ.

And so today, as you take this into your own heart, remember, that without forgiveness as a way of life in your home, your words about the death of Jesus and His sacrifice may become hollow, if forgiveness is not the rule of your own heart and home.

May God give each of us grace to become stronger and stronger at forgiving and extending love more every day. I think I will perfect this when I am 75! But at least I am working on it!

A Mama's Hands Bring Life

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Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; And confirm for us the work of our hands; Yes, confirm the work of our hands.”

Psalm 90:17

“Mama, hold on to me. I don’t want you to fall.”

Joel and I were recently walking down cobbled roads on the way to purchase groceries at a local store. Bags in hand, list in pocket, we ventured out on a crisp day breathing in the vibrant color of the trees and leaves swirling by our sidewalk.

At way over six feet tall, he is a strong figure of a man, wiling his way through life composing sublime heart-stirring music, writing articles, books and a phd, conducting choirs, and mounting up over the constant demands of life. But this day, he was my little boy, still, my Joel. But now, he is the one protecting me, taking my hand, giving me life, keeping me from falling.

All those years I held his hand from babyhood. Now he holds mine with the same kind of protective love. Hands bless, comfort, give life and for me, bring love. Even as I write this, I remember how far back hands have communicated something to my heart. I remember how my own mother’s hands, all the way back to early childhood were also a symbol to me of love.

Maybe your hands are weary today as you pat heads, fold clothes, stir soup, and scrub dishes.  But the work your hands are doing is priceless work, work your children will remember. 

As I look back to the memories of my childhood, a strong image that comes to my mind is that of my mother's loving hands. I thought they were the most beautiful in the world.

In many ways, I still feel that way.
  Because I had been a premature baby, I was often sick with a variety of respiratory illnesses, including chronic asthma and occasional bouts with pneumonia. My memories of these illnesses, however, are mostly pleasant, because my mother would gently stroke my brow as she talked softly or told me stories and gave me her full attention. I remember feeling very loved from such focused attention.

At other times, when I fidgeted in church services, I remember my mother's hands massaging my own, pulling and squeezing each of my fingers as she quietly played finger games with me. As a young child, sitting next to her in a big overstuffed chair, I would watch her hands as she read to me from an oversized children's book. Her fingers would point to the enticing, heart-delighting pictures and turn the pages of the large volumes as we leisurely sat together and talked and read.

And during the period when I was having a recurring nightmare—one I still remember!—I especially remember the comfort of my mother's hands when she came to my bedside. She would take my hand in hers as she knelt to pray with me, soothing away my fears and comforting me as she entreated God to take all of my bad thoughts away.

Now, many, many years removed from my mother and almost a decade after her death, these memories of my mother's hands are still strong in my heart.  Those hands grew old and wrinkled and aching with arthritis, yet still, as an adult, I often wish for those hands to be active once again in my life. How I long for the ways she would stroke my brow in the midst of illness and exhaustion, to massage away the frustration and boredom of tedious days, to open windows to the world while reading to me in a big old chair, and to take my hand in prayer and cast away all the fears of my life. The touch of a mother's hand and the power of a mother's love indeed has carried me through many moments of my life.

As I look to the needs of children of today, I am convinced they need the same things from their mothers that I needed—and received—from mine. They need not only the gentle touch of a mother's hands, but her focus and her attention on a daily basis. They need a champion and a cheerleader, someone who has the time and energy to give encouragement along life's way and comfort in dark times. They need a directive voice to show them how to live.

These needs are not frivolous demands. They're part of the way God designed children. And meeting those needs is not an option or a sideline for mothers, but part of his design as well.

I do not have her hands anymore, but I have the hands of my adult children who have become to me a comfort of gentle love these last years. Especially since my eye accident last year, they are all more protective.

But as I was remembering my mama’s touch and soothing affection, I realized how fortunate that I was to have had her use them so effectively in my life. How I wish for just an hour when I would have her eyes looking at me with love, her hands squeezing and massaging my own, and her voice of approval and affection. Just one more time with my mama.

But the memories still carry me now, knowing that she had to make choices to give me these memories--choices to "see" me when she could have been distracted or busy with her demanding life. Today, I am going to reach out to all of my own adult children because I want them to have one more moment and touch of my mama love.

May you understand the power of your hands to lay roadways of love in the memories of your children today, and know that you are making a difference.

CS Lewis' thoughts on the Table (Lifegiving Table Ch. #4)

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My life has been so very busy and crammed full of people the last few weeks. Friends from America came to help with a leadership conference in my home and stayed over 10 days; Joel came for 8 days and stayed with Joy and me to work on projects in Oxford and then Clay came for 2 weeks, so it has been 5 weeks since we have had no visitors in our home. What fun we have had and I loved catching up with Clay. This is our year of deployment, only I am deployed. I am taking care of baby Lily each week so Sarah can finish her Masters and Clay is home taking care of the ministry and home. But we are both adventuring back and forth and having fun.

One of the guests who frequents our home is Dr. Michael Ward who lived at the Kilns, C. S. Lewis’s home and is an expert on C. S. Lewis. He did a podcast with name a year ago on “table” nd now today, he has joined me for another mini-podcast on why the table was so important to Lewis and Tolkien in the writing of their books. Enjoy and read below to find out about a year ago when Dr. Ward had joined me the first time to talk about table.

Sometimes God provides a serendipitous gift that delights your heart, but you didn't even know to ask for it. Dr. Michael Ward was such a gift. He was Sarah's first private tutor, (Professor, to us!), and over several years of events that we all shared together, he quickly became a family friend.

So, naturally I thought I should ask him to give us some insight on the importance of "table" in the life of C.S. Lewis, as that is his expertise. He shared so much more. I know you will love this recording of our most recent discussion! What’s even better—I’m also including a recording we did last year when Dr. Ward visited with us in Colorado, so today you have two podcasts in one.

It is such a joy to welcome people to my table, and having discussions about what we’re studying, learning, exploring, and enjoying is an integral part of every meal. Listen in!

If you need a copy of Lifegiving Table or want a Bible study companion as you read …

Invest Words that Give Life & Beauty- (24 Fam Ways #7) & Podcast

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Our 24 Family Ways #7

We encourage one another, using only words that build up and bless others.

Memory Verse Ephesians 4:29

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in the right circumstances.

Proverbs 25:11

No matter how you picture a gold apple, you would probably think to find an apple gilded in gold and wrapped in silver settings something of worth, delightful, an elegant display of a fruit so commonly loved.

That is the magnitude of words spoken at just the right time—of great worth, something that stands out and sparkles, reflects light, gives a sense of beauty and design. So, if we really think about our words and how to aim them at the heart of others, we can have that valuable of impact. Solomon is saying that such words aimed at the heart at the right time with grace will have great value and great impact. Don’t underestimate the value of learning to speak in a loving, encouraging, gracious way. I have been thinking about the importance of words lately - they bring life or death.

Jesus was called the word or “the Message” and His life brought hope and redemption and truth and guidance and blessed all who understood his message with grace and eternal worth.. 

I have met so many young 20 somethings in the past few years who have scars from their parents--mainly, I have heard stories of parents who never encouraged or had time to listen or believe in dreams or sympathize. "My parents never listened to me. They never understood me. They were always angry at me," is often what I hear. 

“I wish you had never been born,”

“You are such a disappointment to me.”

“I hate you.”

“You are so dumb.”

“You embarrass me.”

These words are like knives that cut deeply to the inside of a heart and leave ugly scars on those who have heard them over and over again.

But if we were to look at the Word, Jesus himself, we would see intentional encouragement. "Peter, you are the rock. Thomas, a man in whom there is no guile. The centurion--no one has had faith like you. Mary, your story will be told about you for all times." Jesus always took time to show love to initiate words of life--even to believe in Peter and encourage him as he was about to rebel against him. Peter, Satan has desired to sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you......"

It is almost as detrimental to withhold words, though, as to say angry words.

“I never remember my father saying anything kind about me in my whole life.”

“I don’t remember my mother ever saying she loved me. When I told her I loved her when I was 27, she said, ‘I do, too.’” That was the extend of her love verbalized. I always wanted to know if I was worth being loved.”

A word held back could keep a person from hope, faith, affirmation, a sense of worth. We also know that negative words building a wall, separate friends.

And so words have power and influence over who and what a human being becomes. That is why we must deeply consider how very important it is that we consider how to invest words of love, hope, truth, encouragement and practice saying them regularly. It is also why we must teach our children to ponder what words of life are and how to give them to others, as though we were giving them apples of gold.

James tells us that we should be very careful of our words and that we will be held accountable for them someday. Here are just a few thoughts on words from The Ministry of Motherhood.

Words are powerful; the Bible is full of that message. The whole universe came into being because God spoke the words. God's written word in the form of Scripture is central to his ongoing communication with his people. Jesus himself, God's ultimate form of communication, is described as the Word of God. And the Bible is clear that our words are important too. Many verses instruct us in the importance of words spoken as a source of life and encouragement. A few of these verses from Proverbs describe how precious words can be:

A soothing tongue is a tree of life. (15:4)

A man has joy in an apt answer,

And how delightful is a timely word! (15:23)

Like apples of gold in settings of silver

Is a word spoken in right circumstances. (25:11)

Encouraging and affirming words -- words of life, as I like to call them -- have the power to give hope, to strengthen others to keep growing in righteousness. And if I, a grown woman, need them to keep me going through hard times, my children need them even more. Positive words act as water and sunshine to our souls to help them grow strong.    taken from The Ministry of Motherhood, p. 41

In Proverbs 15:4, how is a soothing tongue a tree of life? How do bitter words stunt growth?

Proverbs 15:23 says a timely word is delightful. How can you encourage one of your children with a "timely word" today? Have you received a "timely word" in your quiet time lately? How did that encourage you?

Gold and silver are precious metals mentioned in Proverbs 25:11. Read this verse to your children and have them illustrate what they think this would look like. Discuss how our words can create a picture of beauty for others. End your time with an apple snack. =)

What about you as a parent?

If she engages herself in meeting the needs of others and reaches out with the redeeming message of Christ, her children will learn not just to hear words of the gospel, but to learn what it looks like to live the gospel.

A mom is a mentor--a coach in all things excellent in life. If she is not growing in excellence, kindness, humility and gentleness, she cannot pass on to her children what she herself has not stored up..

Don't worry so much about the right rules, the best formula, what are the right books to buy. Be concerned instead, for your soul--what are you planting there? What are you watering in the depths of your heart attitudes? Whatever you water will grow. Nothing in your heart will be long hidden--as all things hidden eventually will come to the fore.

So the starting point of your influence is the state of your own heart, mind and soul. If there is purity, wisdom, strength, faith, love and righteousness there, then when you pour out your life, those around you will be blessed indeed.

No money, things, training and activities can replace the importance of Children finding the very essence of Christ spilling out in our lives, and in our words, from what we have carefully taken the time to place there inside.

May the Lord bless you with creative ideas on ways you can speak life to your loved ones this week!

Which Choices Lead to Freedom In Parenting?

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A little over 40 years ago, God called me to give my whole life to him--everything! My possessions, my future, my heart, my decisions, my health, my relationships, all that was dear to me or ever would be--everything. In my young idealism, I told Him I was his girl and I would follow Him anywhere all the days of my life.

Of course I could not have known what it would cost me, but in my sixties, I still want to think about what this means and live this way, as much as possible, every day until I see Him.

Abraham was our example, our model of faith early in Hebrew history. Hebrews says he is a hero of faith--following God, not knowing where He might lead, but choosing to follow Him, no matter what. I believe through Abraham, God wanted to make an impression on all of us--Abraham was the father of the whole nation of Israel. He was the beginning of the history of the Jewish people as God's people, a man with a heart willing to follow God anywhere.

I could not have imagined where this life of faith would lead me personally, and even now I am on some new, untried paths, but still, though I don't know exactly where it will lead, I trust more than ever that the one who leads me is worthy of my trust.

There are obstacles in everyone's lives, however, that would tempt us to question God when it looks like He might have made a mistake in leading us to such interesting and unfathomable places. Abraham had to wait years to have that one son who would lead to him being a father of all nations. Then God asked him if he was willing to give up even Isaac. Abraham did not hesitate. So Jesus did not hesitate to give up His life for us, a fulfillment of Abraham’s foreshadowing hundreds of years before.

Will you give up all of your expectations? Are you holding on to any demands you feel you have the right to make on God?

These are some of the ways I see women struggling—ways I, too, have struggled …

Force

When we try to force God's hand, we tell Him what our will is (our desires, our way) and then we pray again and again demanding He does our will. Often this is expressed by trying to control our circumstances according to our own logic. I see moms who try to control their children, their children's friends, their circumstances, their husbands, their marriages, who their children will marry, etc. etc.— and they want God to cooperate.

This is not God's way. He will not be manipulated and is not free to work in the life of someone who will not follow Him anywhere. You cannot control your life, your children's, your friendships, your financial circumstances, the world we live in--to follow God His way means to give up control, even as Abraham did. God will not share his throne and we are not big enough to tell Him how to lead.

Foolishness 

There is a lot of worldly advice in cyberspace that pretty much gives license for about any philosophy you would want to adopt. Much of it says, "Children are resilient, they will bounce back even if you make a bad decision." Parents are given permission to take care of themselves, to do whatever they want, to pursue their own dreams, apart from their children. In the same way that an adult would not thrive if left to fend totally alone, so children are even more sensitive. If left to culture, they will grow up without the oxygen of focused love and training, and will be hindered most of their lives for lack of it. Some philosophies give parents permission to become lazy or passive in regards to parenting. Though there are indeed many ways to live well as a family, passivity and neglect will have the same effects on children as on any other area of life--lack of growth, lack of development, and dependence on whoever or whatever will give them attention.

Formula

So often, I get letters which basically say, “Just tell me exactly how you did it; your schedule, your words, your discipline methods, and I will just copy you. I want my child to sleep through the night, learn to behave, be educated, and learn like yours did, so what are the ten rules that make children come out right?!" We all long for formulas. It seems like they would make life easier.

Now, there are all sorts of wisdom principles in scripture. Yet, each of us has a different puzzle. Each child has a different personality and responds to different kinds of a relationship. We have different personalities and will be motivated differently in our leadership of our children. Children and families are all different and must grow according to their unique makeup.

Even as plants are all different and some need lots of sun and others wilt with too much, so our families each have a unique culture and we must cooperate with who we are and not try to be just like someone else, or to follow someone else's method. It will not work for you. Live into the life you have been given with confidence.

Flesh

Living by flesh requires so much effort. If I just get up earlier, work harder, use my influence on my children, my authority, they will turn out okay. Flesh living requires a perfect mom working hard in all areas, exhausted every day with no rest, in order to check off the list of everything she thinks she is supposed to do right. Usually children raised in this type of family develop lots of guilt because they know they will never, ever be perfect (and neither will their mama and daddy) or they rebel.

Fear

Fear can be focused on multiple things: being afraid of the world, afraid of failure, afraid of possibilities of what may happen. Fear tries to protect children from failure or difficulties or sinful people or the world. Fear overprotects and hides children so they will never hurt or be hurt. But a child who is raised by a fearful parent will never develop their own muscle--spiritual or emotional muscle. God wants our children to practice being strong, little by little, with us as their mentors. Children who are raised by fear seldom learn to leave the prison of their own parents making.

What if my child loses their faith? What if someone abuses them? What if they become disappointed in Christians? What if they get hit by a car? What if they lose their faith in college? What if? What if?

Fear keeps a parent from making forward decisions. It shuts out the power and presence of God and His reality.

Unforgiveness 

When a person cannot forgive themselves for their failures, forgive their parents for a terrible upbringing, or get over the scars life has brought their way, they do not release their lives into God's hands to heal and restore and bring about strength and blessing. Forgiveness in broken relationships is essential. I see so many people tied up by bitterness and blame, and they oftentimes use the hard situation as an excuse for doing little with their own lives. Bitterness steals life, brings death and darkness, and is a never-ending black hole. Others may not change, but God will give you the ability to heal, to restore and to become new if you are willing to forgive and move forward.

Faith is the only choice that leads to freedom.

Faith is what God is looking for. He wants to take us beyond ourselves and all of our formulas, fears, flesh, force, and any other ways we would tell Him to run our lives. God cannot work with a person who is shaking their fist at him.

Have you ever seen a toddler throwing a fit, crying, falling on the ground and rolling around, slapping whoever comes their way? All adults know that a child who gets their own way will grow up to be untrained, undisciplined, and unusable for God's kingdom work. He is looking for a heart soft enough to respond to Him, a heart humble enough to wait on His timing, to trust Him even when life just does not look right. Throwing fits and shaking our fists at God just prohibits us from submitting to Him, finding rest by leaving our issues in His file drawers, living beyond our own potential into His infinite ability to work in our lives.

Faith says, I am not sure where You are taking me or why You are allowing this, but I will trust You and put my burdens and desires into Your hands, choosing to believe that you are good.

I have found in my own life, that when God's ways seemed too much and too hard for me, if I kept going anyway, they became the making of my character, the place where miracles eventually took place.

Each of us is more capable and strong than we know.

My difficulties as a mother gave me compassion for other moms. My challenges in marriage humbled me to understand the generosity of God's eternal love. The disabilities of my children taught me they didn't need to be perfect, they just needed God. He worked beyond what I could have imagined through my frailty and theirs.

So, what areas are you pleading with God to change? How willing are you to entrust them into His hands?

I am praying you come to know His peace, today.

Creating Beauty as a Backdrop for Changing Lives & Podcast Lifegiving Table3

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The love of beauty is taste, the creation of beauty is art.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

“I am the bread of life,”

Jesus

Discipleship principle:

As I sit in the candlelight of a new morning and sip my hot tea, I reflect on the past few days. With 5 weeks of company, people have been in and out of our doors, countless meals made, cups of tea and coffee consumed. Yet the invaluable life and conversations that took place over breaking bread, I am quite sure, was life-transforming for those who were here. Love was rekindled, friendship deepened, new friends created. All over the breaking of bread and seeing Him together as our bread of life.

The celebrating of life around a table, taking time to talk, to rest, to engage could be life changing to a culture that is bent on fast food, busyness, activity and a utilitarian lifestyle. To make time for one another is to live in a humane way. If I could measure the thousands of people, the celebrated events, the myriads of conversations that have occurred at my table, it would become a book with thousands of stories to tell and pages to read. Instead, I give you a peak into this chapter where I relate the gathering of my old table before it had any Clarkson memories. Read the rest of the story in The Lifegiving Table book.

The chill air of a winter’s day breathed on my face as I stepped out onto the sidewalk next to my contemporary stucco apartment building, which stood in striking contrast to the elaborate hundred-year-old buildings on either side. I glanced up at our fifth-floor window, still bare against a gray sky. Excitement bubbled up inside as I mentally reflected on the mission I was about to undertake.

Clay and I had just moved to Austria together to work for a year at the International Church of Vienna. Married just a year before, we were excited about our first international venture together and our new little apartment (three rooms plus a kitchen). But as was common in that part of Europe, the place was starkly empty—no curtains, no closets, no furniture, no kitchen cabinets, not much but empty rooms. (We considered ourselves blessed to have a kitchen sink and a small stove with an oven.) Our first few nights I had spread a small cloth over our steamer trunks and lit a candle; we had sat on the floor for our meals. So I had begun exploring secondhand shops, bargain basements, fabric stores, and the like to find what I needed make our empty rooms into a cozy home.

Today, armed with the Austrian equivalent of about a hundred dollars in my pocket, I was out to get a dining table—somehow I knew this would be the center of life in our home. I conjured up a picture of meals savored, cups of tea and coffee, hearty discussions, life-changing Bible studies, secrets shared—all over warm-tasty treats, comforting bowls of soup, satisfying slices of bread, melted butter and pungent cheese. I could just imagine the memories we would make over the table I would find. (At that point I couldn’t even have imagined the parade of people who would eventually march through those humble rooms—diplomats from South Africa; refugees from Iran; an opera singer and her husband, who played in the Vienna Philharmonic; students eager for a home- cooked meal; many of our Austrian neighbors; and more.)

And so I boarded the squeaky tram, determined to bag my treasure but having no idea where I would find it. Two stops later I dismounted on foot and began perusing the shops along the street. A furniture store begged me to enter, but I left after five minutes, knowing I would need

to set my sights lower. I couldn’t afford even a chair in that lovely shop! I continued on my way, peering in every window shop and wandering down every crooked street, anxiously seeking the place where my table waited for me to find it.

Finally, after two hours of weary walking, my eyes lit on the dark, dusty window of a secondhand store. Through the glass I could see all sorts of knickknacks and odd pieces of furniture piled high throughout the crowded room. As I opened the creaky front door, bells jangled against the top of the door frame.

A stooped, wrinkled old man crept out from an even darker room at the back. “Ja, bitte?”

In my very limited German, I asked if I could look around to find some furniture to fill my apartment. He looked at me questioningly through thick, smudged spectacles and waved me in. My heart raced as I looked at stacks of chairs, bookshelves, dusty books, and miscellaneous items. Then, high up in a corner, I spotted four dark, round oval legs that looked like they were the base of some kind of a table.

“Was ist das?” I asked, hoping he would understand.

He then brought the legs down, went to the back room once again, and brought out a stained, mildly scarred tabletop to fit on top of the base. There it was! I just knew this could be my table.

“Wieviel kostet das?” (“How much does that cost?”) I asked, hoping for the best. It was the equivalent of fifty dollars. I was ecstatic. Maybe I could even afford some chairs. I looked up and down the aisles between piles of stacked items. And there on top of each other, at the far end of the wall, were two charming carved-wood chairs, the seats covered in bronze vinyl that looked like leather. How much, I asked again. Only thirty-five dollars—again, in my budget. How surprised Clay would be to see that we could actually sit down in real chairs to eat dinner. And we could do it that very evening. I had a friend who had promised to help me pile my finds into her small station wagon.

I hope you enjoy the podcast about this today.

We Learn to Serve One Another 24 Fam W #6) & Podcast

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Way # 6 of Our 24 Family Ways

"We serve one another, humbly thinking of the needs of others first."

Memory verse

"And whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all, 'For even the son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many."

Mark 10:44o-45

Giving any person a self-image that they are called to generously serve others prepares them to have close friends, be a better worker, be loved by all sorts of people and have a better marriage. When one thinks of his role in life as a person who serves and shows kindness and help, their story of reflecting God’s love to the world grows powerfully. This is one of the most important mantles we can give to the little ones we are training. I am so blessed now to receive the service of love from my adult children because they had it modeled in our home by Clay and me as a way of life. It was the example they learned in all the big and little moments of regular life—we are called to serve. I saw it taking shape in their lives over time and it was always a gift back to me. Memories like this have become sweet along the way.

The smell of coffee brewing and warm cinnamon bread coming out of the oven was one of the ways I would bribe my children to crawl out of bed on Sunday mornings early enough to get ready for church. Often, I would lay the Bible out by Clay's plate with a favorite verse I had been reading, in case he had not had enough time to pick a chapter out ahead of time.

Especially when my children grew older and activities, jobs, and trips interrupted our previously predictable schedules they had know as little children, I felt it important to gather all of us around the family table to invest in each other.  Sunday morning feasts were my way of gathering us to catch up on all that was happening in our lives. Our church didn't start until 11, so we usually had plenty of time to eat a leisurely breakfast together.

From French toast to apple-pecan pancakes, scrambled cheese eggs to cinnamon rolls, breakfasts on this day were always a pleasure we enjoyed.

Some time ago, after a very active, tiring, but fun week with Joy home from college, I planned to arise to make a fun breakfast before we took her to the airport to ly back to school.

Much to my surprise, when I came downstairs I found the table was set and a pot of fresh tea was steeping. She had planeed to bring it up to me in bed, and French toast from my homemade bread was sizzling and browning on our electric skillet.

"I just wanted to serve everyone one last meal before I took off, to tell them I love them. This has been such a fun week at home, I wanted everyone to know how much I loved being here and spending special time together."

There is almost nothing that means more to me than someone else cooking for me and setting the table or washing the dishes! I was deeply grateful. Even more, though, it has been fun for me to see my children serve each other as a part of their own inner integrity--a grid that they have owned that they are people who God has called to serve and meet the needs of others. What a treat to be served by my own sweet Joy!

Serving others helps children to learn how to think of someone other than themselves. Often, serving others softens their hearts, and when they are the one served it comforts them in times of need, and obviously makes their loads in life easier. Serving is a skill and character quality that is easy to spot because it is so rare in adults today.

Many moms say, "If someone would just take care of my children once in a while, I would be soooo grateful just to have a break."

How relieved many of us would have been if someone had just taken our children and engaged them in play for even one evening! What a service that would be to a weary mama.

If a child grows up serving, it will come as a more natural part of giving their whole lives day by day.

Making " I love you" cards or plates of cookies for neighbors, cleaning a sibling’s room, making a special sick tray when a child was in bed, serving meals at the homeless shelter, and so many more things helped our children to learn to give of their time and effort to ease someone else's life.

Occasionally grumbling, or dragging their feet accompanied the training exercise of serving others. None of us is naturally unselfish.  But serving often created a positive sense of self-worth in our children, as adults would thank them or people would be pleased with their efforts.

Jesus called his disciples to serve along beside him and in this practice, they began to perceive themselves as leaders.

This week, engage your family and even young children in thinking how they might help or serve someone in need. You will probably be surprised at how much they will enjoy being a part of something that makes them feel rather important. The earlier you start, the better, as it will become a part of the fabric of their lives!

Serve away!

Life As An Obstacle Course

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"Every single season of a mom's life is personally and relationally taxing. Being a godly mother demands our emotional energy, our spiritual wisdom and walk with the Lord, our brains, and our time and our resources as we focus on investing love, encouragement and wisdom into our children's souls. Because the nature of motherhood is to always give out, her mind, soul, and body are always expending resources." -The Mom Walk

Life seems to me, sometimes, an obstacle course. How I face each dip that must be straddled, each curve that must be managed, each barrier that must be jumped, will indeed determine the outcome of my race. There is rarely a reprieve, and I always have to be on the alert so that my soul stays in the place of peace and hope.

When you tango with the issues of life, where does your mind run? What is the source of your hope? When you feel despair and discouragement and the weight of stress, where do you go?

My own quiet time is truly one of treasure hunting. Most every morning (of course the time of day has been different through the various seasons of life) I have set aside moments just to seek God. It must be when no one will talk to me or disturb my reverie. Very early has served me best--creeping in the dark of night so no one will hear! I light my candles, brew a cup of tea, and enter into the presence of the Lord. Usually I just sit for a few minutes and take in the peace of being quiet and still. Sometimes I stew and fret; sometimes I just sit and try to gather my wits and soul about me; sometimes I cry out; and other times, I just dig for new truth and knowledge. He is the one Friend whom I go to every day. Without Him, there is no solution for me. Without His help and strength, I will find no path and no peace.

There is no substitute--not books, not friends, not church-- just Him. He is the counsel I desire. He is the love I seek. It is in Him that we find our life.

This life is a day by day adventure. My own “inner room” helps see me through. It is a one-woman sanctuary, in the darkness of a pre-sunrise room, where through prayer and the living Word, miracles are taking place and the Father is whispering His love and assurance to my heart day by day, month by month, and year by year. It is a story of great blessing between a fragile child and a gentle, patient, strong Father who cares.

“This I call to mind, therefore I have hope … the lovingkindness of the Lord never ceases, for His compassions never fail, they are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul. ‘Therefore I have hope in Him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait on Him, to the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of his soul.” -Jeremiah 3:21-26

Take a moment to complete the reflection and application below:

• “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:6 Developing a habit of praying in secret is essential to a life lived well. Have you come to believe the truth here--that your Father sees what is done in secret and that He will reward you? Pray that He will help your unbelief and increase your faith.

• “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” Matthew 6:7-8 The Father knows what you need. Are you talking to Him as you would a friend--having a conversation, rather than repeating someone else’s words?

• “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” Matthew 6:14-15 Sometimes the reason we don’t feel free to draw near to God in prayer; the reason we aren’t believing He hears and will answer, is that we know we are hanging on to resentment toward someone. Search your heart and see if there’s bitterness lodged there against someone you may need to forgive, so you may receive God’s forgiveness.

I pray for you, dear ones, that you may know God’s wisdom, love as you face the obstacle course of your own life. And may you have His peace that passes understanding.

Faith by Feasting: Giving Life to Your Table & Sarahstrone (LG Table #2!) Podcast

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Table-Discipleship Principle

Creating a lifegiving table is an intentional act of gathering, blessing, eating, sharing, and serving.

This week, I have had Sarah, Thomas, Joel and Joy (and sweet Lily) at my table for meals, tea time, breakfast and snacks in between. To hear the ideas they are swimming in—theology, the ever present and ever powerful love of God even in an evil world, the need for hearts to be reignited, the importance of education and helping people know how to think, why liturgy and arts are so important in imagining the vastness of God’s beauty and creativity and how that shapes our lives and so much more.

Again, I have been struck with how it was the verbal environment, the pleasure of talking over thousands of meals, the cooking that had to be done, the planning and shopping that took place, and of course the dirty dishes at the end—were, well, endless. Yet the fruit of such friendships, the fruit of their passion for God and His word and for writing and speaking and passing on legacies of messages came from the many years spent at our table, one little meal, one little conversation, one little community of imperfect Clarkson seeking to be intentional at a time.

The story of the Clarkson family has been written at tables. Not with pen and paper, but with words and people, food and fellowship, talk and time. Whatever kind of table it might be—breakfast, lunch, dinner; picnic or deck; plain or fancy; small, tall, wood, metal, or rock; bare or cloth-covered; even the ground—it becomes our family table when we sit down together to eat and drink and be and belong. The delightful fruits of God’s creation we share together fill and fuel us as God’s life- breathed and image-bearing creatures, and our shared story grows from the table’s Spirit-infused life coming alive in us.

I believe that’s true for all of us.

When we sit at our tables, we’re not just an aggregate of individual family members eating and drinking to stay alive; we’re a congregation of communing souls hungering and thirsting to experience the goodness and beauty of the life God has designed just for us. Even the simplest supper, meal, snack, or teatime can become, in some way, a feast—a lavish celebration of the living God’s life and goodness. It’s not just about the physical act of eating, but about sharing and enjoying life as God designed and gave it to us. That is the essence of the lifegiving table.

Yet, something that I have realized and talk about in today’s podcast is that in order for this life to take place:

our hearts must be prepared every day, every meal, every opportunity to share, from the fullness of my own heart, the truth, the encouragement, the affirmation, the challenge that I have cultivated over the years in order to pour into my children as a wise experienced mentor would do.

I fill my heart so that I can give wisdom, extend love, challenge their ideas and beliefs and shape the way they think about life.

Where there is no intentional host of a lifegiving table, it could just be one more meal eaten with no life passed on.

Our table time contains several key elements …

Bless: We Thank God

Eat: We Break Bread

Share: We Open Hearts

Serve: We Give Ourselves

Join me for a podcast discussion of these ideas, today!

Here’s a family favorite recipe …

Sarahstrone
A recipe I like to make when I’m in a hurry—one that seems to fill up the hungriest of my family—is a soup Sarah invented years ago on the spur of the moment. This was a great summer treat for us and definitely pleasing to my boys! Cornbread or muffins are a great addition to this satisfying meal.

2 links turkey sausage, sliced thin (We usually buy organic Italian sausages that are about the size of hot dogs and keep them in the freezer until needed. If you prefer smoked sausage or kielbasa, you’ll need about 7‒8 inches.)

1 onion, chopped
1 heaping teaspoon minced garlic or garlic paste
1–2 tablespoons olive oil
1 29-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 full can or a little more of water (Less water will yield a stronger tomato flavor.)

2–3 zucchini, thinly sliced

1 15-ounce can navy beans, drained and rinsed (We have also used other beans, such as pinto.)

1–2 teaspoons salt, to taste
1 heaping tablespoon dried Italian seasoning Grated Parmesan cheese and sour cream to garnish

Sauté sausage, onions, and garlic in olive oil in a large soup pan until onions are soft and sausage is slightly browned. Add the tomatoes, water, and zucchini and simmer 20–30 minutes until zucchini is soft. Add beans, salt, and Italian seasoning. Simmer at least 15 minutes more. (I think it tastes better if you just leave it on to simmer while you are doing other things—the flavors blend together better.) When ready to serve, spoon soup into dishes. Sprinkle each serving with grated Parmesan cheese, add a small dollop of sour cream, and enjoy.

Serves 6–8, depending on size of serving.

And find the books below!

Love One Another (Our 24 Family Ways #5)

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Way #5 

"We love one another, treating others with kindness, gentleness and respect." 

Memory Verse:

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

I John 4:11-12

It is sooo much fun for me to be with little Lillian. I am in love. Because she reaches her arms out for me when I walk in the room and smiles from ear to ear, I think I would give anything for this little girl who has wrapped herself around my heart. Love is irrational, isn’t it? She has done nothing to deserve my love except just being born. But because she is mine, I give my time, my sleep, my self to loving her and to loving Sarah by caring for Lily because they are mine. Its how God feels about you, beloved friends.

But then loving is not always so very easy, is it? That’s why we have to make it a commitment and make it a practice of faith, so that we can give even when we do not feel like it. Aren't there people in our lives that just rub us the wrong way, every time we are with them or in conversation? And we try to get along peacefully, but then, ... !

From the beginning, I could see that the personalities of my children clashed. Yet, one of the most foundational principles we practiced was that we belonged to one another as a family. We would choose to practice unconditional love for each other no matter what. Joy and Joel for some reason were often like oil and water. Sarah and Nathan would have power run-ins. And then, Nathan and Joel were so different, and then, …, and on and on.

Harmony in the home is not natural with immature, self-centered people. Yet, harmony doesn’t mean you have to sing on the same note, you just have to practice learning to “blend your notes” together so that their can be unity and beauty of expression.

Over and over when I would bring them together to say, “Were you gentle? Kind? Do you think your words were respectful?How could you have asked for help from your sibling in a different way? Let’s practice this now.”

Yet, some of my best memories the past few years have been seeing Joy and Joel come to the piano again and again--playing, singing, harmonizing for literally hours--as they are both singer-songwriter types; seeing Joel coach her as she practiced speeches and then spending hours judging at her speech and debate tournaments; coaching and encouraging each other through life, loves, thoughts, and becoming real, down deep friends; even sharing a flat as they study in Scotland. I never thought it would happen.

Moms often say to me, "When are they ever going to stop fussing? Will they ever be friends?"

One day.

Slowly, but surely.

Love must become a trained habit. Living by feelings is not a choice. We must help our children to "become strong inside" by choosing what is right, beyond negative feelings. Living in submission to the power of the Holy Spirit and choosing to practice love is what is at necessary here. Obedience to practicing love and learning to forgive is a pathway to maturity.

What we model as adults determines whether we have integrity as we teach our family  to follow "our 24 ways".

Choosing to love one another and practicing this love over and over again, shapes our expectations that we are each personally responsible for seeking peace, being loving, giving generously in relationships. When loving becomes a habit of thinking and acting, maturity follows and will be extended in all relationships.

Even in irrational relationships with family, believers, and others who perhaps will not speak to you anymore, or have decided otherwise to be at odds with you, you must model restraint and show respect because you are a child of Jesus. Show your children what it looks like to respect even those who have offended and sinned against you. When you model unconditional love in front of your children, they know deep in their hearts that you are choosing to control your feelings in order to sow love--and guess what? That is exactly how they will behave when they are tested as adults, because they learned integrity from you!

Oh no, you mean I even have to model this way in marriage?

All marriages have ups and downs. This is the main training grounds for parents to practice unconditional love in front of their children. Way 5, loving because He first loved us- is not an ideal which only the children are required to follow; we, too must follow our family ways, especially in marriage, sowing love and grace, kindness, gentleness, and respect with our spouse even when our feelings disagree.

When they hear the truth of the way and learn the verse, and then see that in their home, forgiveness is practiced over and over again; apologizing when necessary, offering respect, restoring the relationship, they are better prepared to:

Stay loving and faithful and forgiving in marriage

be a loyal and faithful friend

get along and learn how to honor and handle others at work

In short, training a child to choose to love by showing kindness, gentleness and respect will prepare them to go before kings or paupers and to become leaders in their generation. This is one of the most important areas of training, so our children can learn how to influence people with the messages of Christ--it starts with an attitude that says, "God has designed me to love people, to be humble like He was, to show respect and kindness."

Did fussing irritate me? Of course--it drove me crazy!

Did I ever wonder if my children would get along? Thousands of times.

Did I wonder what I was doing wrong? Of course I did.

But training is a matter of process and maturity. And it really is going deep into their hearts.