Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dancing With My Father: How God Leads Us into a Life of Grace and Joy

Dancing With My Father: How God Leads Us into a Life of Grace and Joy

Book by Sally Clarkson, Review by Virginia Knowles

After I found Sarah Clarkson's Read for the Heart (see review here), I was delighted to see that her mother Sally had written a new one, too! She was kind enough to ask the publisher to send me a copy of Dancing With My Father: How God Leads Us into a Life of Grace and Joy  to review for you.

It is just what I needed right then! I especially appreciated the fact that Sally, who has been in Christian ministry for over 30 years, candidly shares her own sense of disillusionment and discouragement, and then her path back to joy in a less-than-perfect world. This is not a "mid-life" book per se, but it sure hit that spot for me. I guess we all need to know we aren't alone, that others share our struggles and feelings. I love a good story, and Sally weaves a lots of them from her own life into her encouragement for all of us.

While Poland was still under Communist rule, Sally and her friend Gwen enrolled as students at Jagiellonian University so they could, as missionaries-in-disguise, proclaim the joy and hope of Jesus to people under dreary oppression. Their hearts filled with excitement and satisfaction about their strategic kingdom work, and marveled at how God miraculously came through for them during the challenges of surreptitious gospel ministry. Decades later, on a visit back to Poland, Sally realized that in many ways she had lost that joy, adventure, and innocent expectation of a child. And she determined to get it back, not by conjuring up fake feelings, but by nurturing an intimate, joyful relationship with our Heavenly Father as he lovingly leads her (and each of us) through the twists and turns of life. Using the extended metaphor of dancing, as well as the exuberance of King David, she shares this journey to joy, and exhorts each of us to celebrate, listen, trust, and follow our Father. Often, this means we have to let go of things which hinder us from wholehearted living.

"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."

"Here was my picture of Joy: David, having faithfully waited through years of anguish, danger, and humility, never losthis true focus on his ultimate Source of joy, his God, who had been with David every day, through every circumstance. 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). 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 expressions 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 withthe 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."

At the end of each chapter, you will find a short prayer and several insightful discussion questions. Scriptures and short inspirational quotes are interspersed within the pages. Two of my favorites:

"We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” C.S. Lewis

"God's voice speaking peace is the sweetest music an ear can hear." Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Sally Clarkson is the mother of four children (a teen and three adults) and the co-founder with her husband Clay of Whole Heart Ministries. Here is the web page for Dancing With My Father: How God Leads Us into a Life of Grace and Joy. Clay and Sally also wrote Educating the Wholehearted Child, which first laid the Charlotte Mason foundation in our family 15 years ago, and is about to come out in a vastly expanded 3rd edition. Sally's other books include Seasons of a Mother's Heart, The Mission of Motherhood, and The Ministry of Motherhood.

Be sure to check out Sally's blog, I Take Joy. I get it delivered automatically via Google Reader. I was so relieved to read her post, "Balancing life is oversold!", as I prepared to go out of town to speak earlier this month.

Virginia Knowles

This review is featured in the newest issue of my e-magazine, The Hope Chest.  To subscribe, you can send any e-mail to the automated list manager

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