April 19, a historic day--Nathan's birthday
Gentle breezes fluttered the blooming white rose bushes as the pink and gold light of the setting sun began to reflect on the windows of the ocean side patio. A sumptuous favorite boy-meal of grilled steak, baked potatoes, grilled corn on the cobb, and all the trimmings had been eaten with relish. But the best part was yet to come. A perfect evening as a setting for a poignant memory that would last a life-time.
Thoughtful friends had invited our family to come to their California home for the evening of Nathan's birthday so that we could be together to celebrate his special day since the year before international travels for the rest of us had left him quite alone.
Nathan lives in a very challenging place where Christianity is ridiculed, immorality is freely accepted, excused and practiced, and young adults are tempted to fall away from the faith they learned of God in their homes, now far away from home. Hollywood......
Yet, the treasure chest deep in Nathan's soul, is filled with gems that shine and bring brightness to him in his dark moments that help carry him through these passages of the choices he has to make every day to keep walking with God.
What are these gems?
Words--thousands and thousands of them--words that he stored up in the deep recesses of his conscience, soul and heart
Words about how much we loved him, valued him, believed in him, words from scripture, words in personally hand written notes, emailed words, texted words, words prayed over him, with him--and of course our habit of spoken words in the presence of each other for many years.
And so, Nathan was deeply appreciative and genuinely excited and so very thankful to have our family gathered to invest more rare treasures that he might have for the coming year.
We quieted ourselves and began one of our favorite family traditions. Each birthday, each family member (and friends who want to participate), tell the birthday person why they appreciate them, how they have seen them grow, how they have been blessed or encouraged, ways they have observed godly character being exhibited through their lives and ways they are thankful for that special one being celebrated. Each year, the ritual has become more precious and personal.
Joel began and mentioned integrity by staying faithful to God, taking initiative and exercising faith to write his own script in Hollywood and to take a risk in order to put out honoring material onto the screen in Hollywood. We all lavished our best words onto his heart--our love for him, how dear a friend he is to all of us and the ways he shows it, and on and on. As with each year, I could fairly see Nathan's heart fill to bursting, his eyes softening and his sweet man smile responding to us. But this year, I could tell he needed these life-giving words even more.
Finally, we asked him what was most on his heart and how he wanted us to intercede for him.
Gathering closer as the darkness of night penetrated the soft voices of our sharing, we gathered around him and placed our hands on his back, to touch him as we prayed before the throne of God on behalf of Nathan's deepest heart desires and live dreams. Prayer for his life, his future, his movie, his walk with God, his friendships, spiritual growth followed the sharing of love, as each year we dedicate the birthday child's year into God's hands with blessing and faith.
Nathan on his 24th birthday night this month.
“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Words have power, the ability to influence, to inspire.
They also have the ability to demolish, destroy, discourage, to tear down faith.
How important it is that this ideal of training our children to true, godly, heart-filling words as a way of life is practiced and reached as they grow up in our homes, with life-giving words surrounding their every day.
All of our children have faced many temptations, challenges, discouragements and loneliness as they have forayed out into the world to work or go to school. And yet they go with messages stored up that speak to their minds in the midst of all the moments of challenge.
Words of life, light and love can be such an anchor to what matters to our children when they are out in the storms of life.
Many people think nice thoughts about those they love. Yet even as the 10 blind men were healed but only one returned to thank Jesus, so many people neglect to practice saying words and so the hearts of our children often bear their burdens in isolation.
Practicing saying words of love and life start with the mom who is training her children. It requires a plan. But teaching and training our children (and husbands!) to be comfortable with expressing these important words starts with habits and traditions of giving words of blessing often.
Writing cards, emails, texts of love and short thanks for what you did today.
Leaving notes on pillows
Writing on bathroom mirrors.
Having dinner times of, "Let's tell one person in this room something we appreciate about him today."
Teaching your children to give grace when they feel like giving a curse. (I have taught my children in times of anger, to learn to write down at least 3 things about the offender that they appreciate.
Having a peace-making couch. Making your children sit on the couch, not being able to leave, until they have made peace, said words of forgiveness, and told each other at least 3 things they appreciate about each other before they can get up.
Practicing praying aloud with each other on a daily basis. (Also practicing every day thanking God and appreciating Him for what He has done.
Words bring life, but it is rare that people actually take initiative to say all of the words of love and appreciation they should be saying.
Marriages need daily words of love and appreciation to grow through the dark moments.
Depression needs reason to hope by hearing "Why I believe in you. Why you are not a failure. Why I sympathize with you. Why you are a blessing, words."
That is why this 24 Family Way is so very important:
Way # 6 We encourage one another, using only words that build up and bless others."
Memory Verse: Do not let any unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that is will give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29
We were often heard to say, "Did your words give grace?" And then, what should you have said instead--what is a gracious word? Apologize.
Crassness, sarcasm and cynicism is rampant in our society. If we can joke or make fun of everything and anyone without regard to a need for respect or civility, then we diminish our ability to become gracious.
Training your children to become considerate of their words takes training, tradition, habits, and practice. James tells us that the tongue is like a fire that can burn and destroy. And so, all the more, it is important for us to practice and train our children (and ourselves) to becoming aware of giving gracious words as a product of our lives.
Nathan left our presence filled up anew with the assurance that a whole community of Clarksons believes in him, supports him, loves him, prays for him, because he heard all of us take the time to say it out-loud with him and then to say it over him in God's presence.