Sarah, 26--author, Nathan, actor in Hollywood 21; Joy, 15, singer-songwriter; Joel, 24, composer, Boston.
"I will make you to become fishers of men." Jesus to his disciples
Having lived long enough to observe many Christian families--with every kind of educational choice, I have pondered, "Why is it that some children stay faithful to God and some children give in to moral pressure?"
I have pondered this question a lot, because I know so many wonderful parents, who have raised their Christian children with a great education, good training and Biblical ideals. It is not an easy world for our children to enter into and I know that there are no formulas.So, I do not pretend to have all the answers.
I get lots of questions about what did we do to reach their hearts? Mostly what we have written in our books. But I do try to acess those principles of family, that I think could have contributed to our children growing up to love and serve the Lord. I have no guarantees that they will stay on this path, but I do feel that there are some wise ways that have helped to give them foundations that have served them in the wide arenas where the Lord has taken them.
I think that often times parents inadvertently have as their goals to train their children to become moral, (not get pregnant or get on drugs), to know all the Biblical stories, or to understand how to make good decisions. And yet still miss the heart of our children--that they want to be loved and they want to know their life has meaning and purpose to God. Post moderns do not accept hypocrisy or rituals just because we have done them for many years.
Education presents another issue. We so much want our children to excell that we can also get distracted on these issues. It is easy for homeschooling parents to be so focussed on what curruculum to buy or for all parents to focus on SAT scores or lessons, opportunities, training, that they can leave out the real purpose of parenting--to build our children into godly leaders to who will be faithful to the gospel messages in thier life time. This is the only goal worthy of reaching their heart's cry for purpose and meaning in such in immoral and lost world.
What they must know-God has created us to be stewards of His kingdom messages
However, I think that in order to make it in this world, we must understand that our children need something more vital. We must captivate our children's heart with a vision that gives them a foundational calling on their lives--to give them something bigger than themselves to live for.
It is what Jesus did with his disciples. He didn't say, "Follow me and I will make you law-keepers."
Many unwittingly do this with their children and I see when we focus on keeping all the rules, we are in danger of building "Future Pharisees of the World." But Jesus purposefully pointed his words to their deisre to become leaders--to be those who would influence others.
From the time our children were born, we taught them that they were born with their unique personality, drives and dreams to bring God glory in and through their lives. We have said, "I wonder how God will use you in the world to show people His light?"
When practicing piano, "Maybe God will use you to bring great music to soothe and comfort people."
Or, look at Daniel. Even though he lived in a foreign country that believed in idols, he was so godly and used his position with such wisdom and influence, that 60,000 non-jews wanted to return to Jerusalem to worship the God of Daniel. I wonder if God will use you as a Daniel in your life-time.
What they must be--servants
But then, our children need also to see us using our lives to bring truth and redemption into the world. They need to see that we invest our money in missions, for the homeless, in our church, to help the poor. They need to see us teaching Bible studies or sharing Christ, or serving children, using our home as a center for life and ministry.
What they must do--serve and reach out alongside us while they are growing up
If we want our children to have as their self-image, someone who has a call on their lives, then we must give them an opportunity to practice while they are with us. Our children have served at Homeless shelters, hosted so many different types of outreaches in our home (Bible studies, Christmas parties to reach our neighbors, kids parties, giving up their bedrooms for guests, serving meals, make dinners for sick or lonely people, serving at our conferences, praying alongside us and then serving and giving up their time and money alongside us.)
Another tradition we implemented in our lives was Family Day.
Why do you always have your children fly home in August--it isn't Christmas or Easter? This question we often hear from our friends when they find out we save the end of August to be a family.
Clay and I got married on August 30, so we dedicated a weekend day every year around this date to celebrate "What it means to be a Clarkson!"
We have a feast of a breakfast--homemade cinnamon rolls, cheese, bacon, scrambled eggs; and drink of choice. Then we spend the next couple of hours reading through the passage in Joshua 4:1-24, remembering how God wanted the Israelites to document and remember what He had done in their lives to show His strength and reality.
Following the reading, we all participate in a time of telling and writing down the ways we have seen God work in our lives through the year--prayers He answered; provisions He made when we needed Him, blessings He gave, ways that He led. And every year we are amazed, when we take the time, to see how God has worked. This year, there seemed to be a constant thought of God being with us all in our specific places--providing and leading in ministry, in Boston, in LA, in decisions--God with us through all that we needed.
We then pack a picnic of homemade fried chicken, Texas chocolate sheetcake, baked beans, chips, deviled eggs, and head up to a national park where we hike, and take a zillion pictures and have fun. It has become a tradition over the years to stop on the way down the mountain at a Starbucks and get a favorite drink. This day usually ends in a game night or movie night.
Sunday afternoon, we have a family tea time and spend the next couple of hours sharing what our needs are, telling each other our prayer requests, and then spend time praying for each other.
It has given us a sense of history as a family about how God is working in our lives and telling His story of faithfulness through the details of our life.
Intentionally Reminding them of their roots and of their ideals
Then, when my out of town children are home, I always take them out for their own time. I encourage them and tell them how much I have seen them grow and how I see God moving in their lives. I tell them I pray for them every day. Often, if the Lord brings to my mind areas in which I feel they need encouragement to grow, I share that as well. Become less selfish, more of a peacemaker, reach out, cultivate more discipline in reading the word every day, and so on. And then I have a time of praying blessing over them.
Yesterday, as I drove Nathan back to the airport to return to Hollywood, he said, "You know, these times at home with the family help to keep me anchored--just to be with "us", our ideals, meals, fun, times in the word and to remember who we are helps me so much. Thanks for flying me home--and just keep praying for me!"
It does take our time--cooking, cooking and more cooking. It does take our energy--no sleep, lots of noise, messes and so many discussions. It does take planning and giving up our normal schedule and putting things aside for a couple of weeks, while we are all together--just as I put my whole life aside when they were small. But, I think, even as Jesus gave up his 3 years to build and teach and refine and remind his disciples, it is the same intentional process that builds and nourishes souls who will understand God with them, God working through them and God as the provider for them.