Nathan and Joel-on their way to a Ranger Game!
Where there is no guidance the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory. Proverbs 11:14
What did Abraham Lincoln, John Quincy Adams, Napoleon and Jesus all have in common? They had mothers who believed in them and their potential to serve a purpose in their world. Within the heart of every child that is ever born, within you, within me, is a vast potential waiting to be lived out into a life of great glory to God. He made each of us a little lower than the angels, as we read in the psalms. Every one of us has an amazing capacity to live deeply, to live intentionally, to inspire greatness of faith in others because we have the ability, in the power of the Holy Spirit to bring life, inspiration and vision to others. We can love generously to bring about healing and life as we live into our spiritual calling. We can work diligently to become excellent at mentoring our children with the attributes of spiritual leaders and servants. All of this amazing potential exists inside of us because we were made to be like Him, we were made with His imprint on our souls, brains, hearts and bodies. We were made to flourish.We were created for "good works to walk in."
Mothers, especially, are given the capacity to touch eternity and to influence each time they receive a child into their arms. Each little baby, like the Lord Jesus himself, has such God ordained capacity to grow strong morally, spiritually, emotionally in order to live into a significant life serving God and living for His glory. Yet, people do not accidentally become great of heart, mind or soul. This greatness is a spiritual reservoir waiting to be tapped. Training in character, instruction in righteousness, and giving words of hope, wisdom and affirmation are foundations to building forward into a child for what he or she might become. The influence we bring is not about force or pushing, it is about releasing our children into God's hands and giving the the heart belief that they are gifted to serve Him.
As those designed by God to call our children into the greatness of the potential God has given them, it is so important that we develop a vision for what our children might become in their own generation. When we see into the future of their lives and proclaim God's purposes over them, we begin to build dreams, visions into their hearts and souls so that they will grow up expecting that God has created them to make an investment in their world in their lifetimes.
These dreams are built gradually, slowly through the days of life. As we greet our children in the mornings with love, appreciation, gentleness, their hearts open to ours and they listen to our words. As we instruct them in all the moments of life and believe in them, encourage them, give them stories to imagine for themselves, they begin to believe in the dreams of who they will become and the kind of spiritual work they will do in the world.
Speaking into our children's potential futures is a work of Christ. The one who spoke to Peter and told him he would be the Rock, helped Peter to become that disciple that would organize and carry on the call of discipleship in Jerusalem. He reminded Thomas of his Integrity, the one in whom was no guile. He verbalized often that John would be the relational giant--and he gave John the responsibility of his mother when he was dying on the cross. John, you are my beloved friend.
And so, in the most mundane of moments, visions are built, dreams are inspired and in our hands is the future of the whole world, when we grant vision and character to those who will become leaders in their generation. But building a little soul into a confident adult takes intention and investment every day. And prayer and a dependence on God to give us eyes in our hearts to see the gifts he has given and the personalities he has granted uniquely to each of our children. This weekend I was pondering these things, as a great even occurred in our own lives, that caused us great joy. It was a memory of what it took to build these dreams into the life of Joel, my gentle, loving child.
This article is not about bragging, but about believing in the importance of you, the mothers, who have the ability to serve God by building into your children faith, love, vision, character. Our children are the ones who will carry on the values of our hearts into the next generation. But it only happens when a mom takes the hard calling of serving Christ by serving His purposes in her children's lives.
Squishing his sweaty, little boy body as close to me as he possible could next to me on the small couch, Joel plopped down hard. As my gentle, creative boy sat next to me, I exhaled some of my exhaustion out and breathed in the pleasure of his gentle affection. "Mama, I just LOVE being with you and reading our fun stories together. I think this is my favorite time of day."
I was hoping that he could not see how I was really feeling. Three o'clock in the afternoon, weary from a day overflowing with issues--Joy's ear infection, the dog chewing a hole in the new sweater I had just bought, dealing with a hormonal teen's tears and just the regular stuff of life, found me NOT emotionally excited about our time today because all I wanted was some caffeine and then a nap or 10 minutes all to myself.
Learning that my introverted, little renaissance boy needed my time, alone without competition, I had put aside "Joel" time several times a week to be sure I knew what was bubbling up in his heart. Competing for attention with the other three, Clay, the dog and whoever else was in the house, made him a little harder to draw out and to know just how to personally influence.
Today, we read a book about an astronaut, one he had picked out at the library.
"Mama, I just love reading hero stories with you every day, because I think some day I want to be a hero like he is. Mama, do you think I will live a brave or important life some day?"
My weariness momentarily subsided, as his childlike innocent heart touched my own and softened my mood. "Joel, you always pick hero stories, and you know what, I think some day you are going to be a hero in your lifetime because you have such a true heart. Maybe you will be like Daniel and have great faith in your generation to lead a godless nation to Christ. Or maybe you will be a composer who will write glorious music that will inspire many to worship God, or maybe you will write a great book or story that will inspire people to live courageously. I believe so much in the man you will become some day, and I am so happy we get these times together."
"My sweet boy, God has made you to do something significant with your life. People all over the world need someone to give them hope, to love them well, to live with strong integrity, to be brave to help them fight wars against evil. My Nathan, I just cannot wait to see how God uses you in your lifetime."
A smile filled his whole red face and he looked as though inside he was sizing up just what kind of hero he would be.
"Mama, every hero needs to know someone believed in him before he had the courage to be one. Mama, you are my hero-builder and I just love and love you."
He hugged me tight as he could, gave me a wet kiss and was off to play with the dog.
Years flew by and more hero stories were read, discussed and sown into his heart. I couldn't always tell if he, or the others, were really listening, not just with their ears but with their hearts. There were lots of days I had to really use my imagination that he was listening and still remembering. The teen years were particularly fraught with questionable moments of push-back and strong reminders of who God had made him to be. Yet, as he grew, so did his integrity, his vision for life and his desire to help people.
Joel, conducting an orchestral recording in Mexico.
Fast forward even more, a miracle for my gentle giant, now grown, got into Berklee school of music in Boston, by the skin of his teeth, and by God's miraculous grace, but worked and worked and worked to make up for the lack of music lessons through out all the years of moving too much. Sometimes I just didn't have the energy from one more move to find a good music teacher and other times we just didn't have the money.
But the discipleship training, the emphasis on character, the many hours of reading and talking about "the cost of being a hero is hard work" and faith, pushed him on to work hard, as he carried 2 jobs outside of the classroom to pay bills and was internally driven to graduate summa cum laude. He met with professors and asked for help, he lived in an international house where Christ was shared with those from all over the world who came from countries they had never heard about Christ.
Over time the pronouncement came, "I want to write the kind of music that will bring glory to God--that will remind people that He is a God of beauty, worthy of praise." And so, his dream continued to grow, slowly, little by little, while working at an Apple store every day and composing on the side when he had spare time.
God heard his prayers, saw his heart, built his character over the seasons of years, and then, God opened doors beyond his imagination. Yesterday, his piece was performed in the Vatican in Rome, as a part of the celebration of sacred contemporary music in the Vatican as a part of a festival celebration. A lengthy standing ovation was celebrated as the audience was captivated within the glory of the performance.
The most amazing gift was God giving Joel the opportunity to work with truly talented and godly composer who has helped him learn so much in this industry, Joseph Julian Gonzalez.
His wonderful partner in the composing of this piece was a provision from God. Joseph Julian Gonzalez, the composer generously said,
"I have to sincerely thank the immensely talented Joel Clarkson for re-orchestrating Misa Azteca over the past year. Joel started orchestrating for me in my film and TV scores about two years ago, and I recognized a young man of immense talent and the best orchestrator I had ever worked with. Joel took my film and TV compositions to another level and worked as a cool head in the stressed-out world of the industry. Joel has a spiritual depth to him that comes out in his work. I knew that I had found the right person to take Misa Azteca to another level."
Tomorrow in Rome, at the Basilica of St. Ignatius, we will present the final version of Misa Azteca. It is ready to go out into the world! This performance was about the faithfulness of God to work in the life of a little boy growing up with faith and hopes and dreams and His faithfulness to bring His work in our lives to fruition.
What began as little boy dreams as we read hero tales, is becoming the dreams come true, to compose for God's glory.
When Jesus sat with his disciples on the mountain in the cool breezes of a morning, as he was about to go back to God, He commissioned his little band of followers. "Go, therefore into the world and make disciples of all the nations," Matt. 28:19 He sent them into the world to bring his light and to build committed followers.
So, we did not force our children to do anything. We released them to find what God had made them to do. Clay and I had no designs for them, they were loved, trained in character, but we did teach them that God had designed them with a purpose and the ability to live purposefully and that He would be with them.
When our children were 16, we commissioned them through a private family service, attended by the closest of friends. In the service, we reminded them of what we had invested in their lives, of our core spiritual and family values and we, like Christ, commissioned them to go into the world to make live their lives for God and to do their work of bringing his kingdom and redemption wherever they went. All gathered around in a circle and dedicated this child, the one celebrating this day, to the Lord and we prayed God would open doors, give wisdom, expand borders and walk hand in hand with child to leave them to serve Him and to fulfill the purpose he or she was designed to fulfill. Our training was intentional, our sending them into the world to be lights was the end of a lifelong heart message that had been built through all the years.
All of our children have a huge capacity to become ambassadors for HIs kingdom in their lifetime. But we are the conduits for His messages to be delivered to the hearts of our children that they might live into the dreams and callings God has on their lives.
How will you build that message today? How will you cultivate the vision He has for you as a mama? How will you choose to see beyond this moment to understand the scope of the work God will have for your child? Each will be different, each will play a different role, but each was called to live into God's purposes for their lives.
So excited to share my new book with you, coming in January!