Are you raising warriors or refugees?

Nathan, a warrior for His kingdom, bringing light , beauty and innocence into the dark places  of Hollywood.

“Sally, how can I be sure that my children won’t be tempted by all the evil in the world,” a sweet mama asked me.

“You can’t.” I replied. Part of your job as a mom is not to hide them from the world and scare them about what is in the world, but to arm them with the purpose of becoming a warrior for God’s kingdom in dark places, so that they will not be overcome or surprised by the challenges they will encounter as adults.”

Warrior, running toward the battle to take ground for God’s kingdom.

Refugee–running away from the battle and seeking to escape engaging in the fray.

My children’s stories definitely stretched me–but God was with me and He was my protector and guide through each step of the journey.

What, Nathan? You want to move to New York City and attend the film academy? You are only 19–it is a difficult place? You really want us to pray about this?!”

I do not ask you to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.” Jesus, about His disciples, in John 17: 15

And so send him, we did. And Joel and Sarah to Cambridge, Joel to Boston for school, Sarah to Oxford, and trusted them to God’s call on their lives–and Joy to an out of state college.

Not too long ago, a friend whispered to me at a conference, “Sally, there are all sorts of women that I know who attend your conferences because they are encouraged, but they are criticizing you behind your back. They are asking the question, ‘How did the Clarksons allow their son to move to Hollywood, such a wicked place,  if they have such high moral ideals?’ They think you are living a compromise to your life as a Christian.”

I am not surprised at statements like these. We get them all the time. I have always told my children that if you stand up to lead, you automatically become a target.

Yet, I also understand the concerns of these people who are criticizing us.

I have also been criticized for over-protecting my children. But the over-protection was for shaping their foundations when they were young and vulnerable. (keeping them innocent, giving them g-rated hero stories, giving them protection from peers whose values are worldly at a young age so they can develop their own foundations–before sending them out!) Keeping them loving what is good, true, honest.–And then as they begin to ask questions and grow and learn and show maturity–you take them with you in ministry, little by little, was the philosophy we followed.

I did not ask God to send my children into difficult, morally challenging arenas. But I did ask Him to help Clay and me build them into godly leaders who would take His light to a dark world. And, since they are adults and we released them into God’s hands to follow what road He put on their heart, (with input from us all along the way), I spend a lot of time on my knees every day and ask for God to guide, intervene and protect my children.

Yet, I think at some point in the Christian life, regardless of  peers, our church’s stand, our friend’s opinions, blogs, loud voices giving pontificating statements, we must decide just who we think Jesus is and how His life and words should influence the way we live and the choices we make.  There are few radical Christians and yet,  He calls us to live radically–even if that means staying at home with your children to disciple them or serving Him in in the world in an unusual places–we must follow Him, not anyone else.

Jesus does not call us to a safe life–but to follow His life.

Jesus, the exact image of God, related to prostitutes and offered them a clean slate of forgiveness, and allowed them to touch Him and wash His feet.

Jesus, touched the infirm and contaminated–the lepers, the woman who was unclean, the blind, the sick.

Jesus looked out on the multitudes not with condemnation, but with compassion and told us to pray that God would send laborers into the harvest. He also sent His disciples into the world to redeem it.

Jesus did not exalt and affirm the Pharisees who had rules and laws for everything and stayed away from the “wicked” folk. Instead, he told the parable of the Good Samaritan, one of the “unacceptable” from a religious point of view, but the only one who was able to please God. He honored because he got involved,  because he lived in a compassionate way and gave of his life to save the beaten man, a victim of thieves, unlovely and in the dirt.

I think serving Jesus will, at some point, make all of us uncomfortable.

And so, I had to confront my own belief in what I thought was most Biblical in philosophy for raising children.

I wanted an Anne of Green Gables life that was safe, protected and always g-rated. But, that is not the world God into which He placed me.

So I had to consider, “What is your will for my children.” He answered, “To follow Jesus to the cross, to be willing to give up their lives to redeem the world for His glory–to become a warrior for Christ’s kingdom.

A warrior is one who sees the battle in his land, and is willing to sacrifice his life to protect those he loves, to save them from harm and to engage the enemy in battle. Battle is rough, costly, difficult and requires sacrifice for the sake of the people who are being warred against.

Now a refugee, on the other hand, is one who runs away from the battle, in order to protect himself or his loved ones. When there is no defense against the enemy, often, people are forced to flee. But in fleeing away from the battle, they leave no impact, no defense, for those left in the wake of the raging enemy army.

Often I see parents who raise their children to run away from the cultural battles and to stay far off from those who are lost and broken and who have scars and difficulties. They find it easy to criticize those who are engaged in bringing the light of Christ into the arena of darkness–this is the place in which our family receives criticism.

I will admit that the world can be a very fearful place to be. And I spend a whole lot of time in prayer for my young, idealistic warriors!

But, God has asked me, as a mom,  to live by faith, not to look to the limitations of my own life and this wicked world we live in, but to the God who tells us to overcome evil with good, to remain faithful, to endure.

So, as a mom, I had to ask, “Would He have me do anything less than send my own children, as God sent His own son, into the world to redeem dark places?”

And so when we read in the Psalms,

“Praise be to the LORD my Rock,who trains my hands for war,my fingers for battle.

He is my loving God and my fortress,my stronghold and my deliverer,my shield, in whom I take refuge,

who subdues peoples under me.” Psalm 144: 1-2,

we would pray with our children.  “Lord, these are your children created by you with a personality and a purpose. Train our children for the spiritual warfare in which they will engage. Prepare them for the battles they will confront. Be their fortress, their stronghold, deliverer and shield. They are not ours to hold on to, but ours to prepare for your kingdom purposes.”

Depending on what you decide, preparing one to run away from the battle or to engage in the battle, will require a very different parenting philosophy.

But as for the Clarksons, we will seek to engage in the battle, and rub shoulders with the lost, because we cannot do other than what our Lord and savior showed us to do–to go into the world to make disciples, to see the multitudes with compassion and to become workers in the Harvest field of the world.

Nathan has chosen to answer the call of God and engage the warrior story that was written on his heart. Recently, he has written a study with the 10 aspects of what it means to become a hero. You can find his book here (available in print or on Amazon).


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  1. Melissa Morris says

    Sally, you always raise the bar higher, point us deeper into the race we are running, and challenge us to build a fortress of faith with every blog post. Thank you for being bold. Thank you for taking criticism. Thank you for championing the way of the warriors. He has not given us a spirit of fear; and neither should we give one to our children. They can do ALL things; and they will. As the world becomes darker, may their lights shine brighter, leading the lost, showing them the way to hope. You are much loved, dear Sally!

  2. Stephanie DeMink says


    Amen. Thank you for sharing your vision and living radically, I want to do the same with my kids. My children are still young, though I pray they will be world changers and burden lifters. I pray the Lord will give me courage at the proper time to release them, as you have done with your kids. It’s what Jesus calls us to do. The harvest is plentiful.

    I was just at the CA Conference, my first one. Wow, I left SO encouraged! I’m recruiting now for next year. What a treat to “meet” your whole family. You (all) and the Holy Spirit make a great team! Thanks again.

  3. says

    Thank you so much Ms. Sally for standing up for Jesus and for showing us how to stand strong also. Yes God did not call us to run from the world,

    He said “and do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God”Romans 12:2

    We have to live in this world and God is calling His people to transform this world but how can we do that if we are hiding at home or hiding our children at home under our wings.

    God as a plan for us and for our children we only need to trust and obey.

    Peace to you.

  4. says

    Sally what a wonderful post! Such encouragement for me a mom with four young ones. I never thought of the connection that we should be like Jesus and shine our light in this dark world and we should want that for our kids…seems simple and when I read it I thought of course that is what we are suppose to do, I had just never thought of it that way. Your wisdom, encouragement and example are so helpful…as I navigate throughout this world trying to keep the focus on Jesus. You always point us back to the Truth…Him. I can’t thank you enough for all your writings…they are so helpful as we make our way in the world with children we are leading. Thank you!!!!

  5. Melanie says

    “I wanted an Anne of Green Gables life that was safe, protected and always g-rated”

    This is so me. As my children are getting older I am learning that we need to get out and change the world instead of hiding from it but it is a hard transition.

    Thanks Sally. This is a very timely message for me. The Lord has been showing me that I have made way too many decisions in my life based on fear instead of faith. I am trusting Him to change me and learning to trust Him with my children-especially now that ones 18!

    Many Thanks,

  6. Jacklyn says

    Thank you for a timely message that touched my heart this morning. God’s truth will guide us in raising warriors for him!

  7. says

    Sally, Thank you for this post. I have been critized for not being more restrictive with my kids. I always thought they had to be prepared for the world and how ot respond. I ahvent always been happy with some of their choices but I do beleive the decisions were made after some critical thinking. Sadly at this point, I am not sure prayer is always part of the process though they would still say they are Christians. which makes me constantly evaluate what scripture says, the parameters God sets for us and what that means in our current culture. To be ostriches means head hiding and no wings. Not all conservative parents are this way of course. Being parents and really trusting God for His sufficency for our kids is not always easy!

  8. says

    So beautifully written and packed with truth! Thank you for both your conviction and perspective.

    As our family was reading about Dietrich Bonhoeffer last night, we asked the boys if it was better to obey God and trust Him wherever He is calling you even if there is danger or to play it safe and stay put. They said it is better to trust and obey Jesus and go where He calls you. We pointed out that even though it cost Bonhoeffer his life, what He gained was even greater as He entered heaven and heard well done good and faithful servant! And today, we still have his books and his example that the Lord has preserved to teach and encourage our lives. God used him in a mighty way.

    If you read missionary story after missionary story, or story after story in God’s word, it is very clear that God stretches, tests and expands our faith by asking us to step out of our comfort zone and follow Him. It is then that we see like we never have before His mighty hand at work and His power to do the impossible. He is the Almighty God and nothing is too difficult for Him. We can trust Him with our lives and with our children’s lives when we listen for His voice and obey.

    We just purchased and received Nathan’s book in the mail and are excited to read it to our two sons. Please thank him for being obedient to the Lord’s call on his life and for setting a strong example for our boys. For him to share his heart in order to build into the lives of other young boys/men is evidence of beautiful fruit produced by a heart that longs to follow hard after Jesus!

  9. says

    I really admire what wonderful people your children have grown up to be! I’m so sorry to hear that people are critical of you and Clay, especially when the results of your efforts at raising your children have been so good.

    Hoping to make it to a Mom Heart conference next year, if there is one on the East Coast :)

  10. says

    I just listened to a sermon this morning about John the Baptist and how his life was really very short (so was Jesus’). Our pastor made the point that John did in that short time what He was called to do. So did Jesus. None of us knows the length of our lives. Are we fulfilling what we are called to do? Are we allowing our kids to fulfill what God created them to do in this short time we are on earth until those who believe in His name will all go to our true home. Let’s live radically so we can share Christ with as many people as possible in this short time we have to do our part in His power to expand His kingdom.

  11. Sara says

    While I am not criticizing your decisions as I think we must all make our own choices, I must disagree with this. A lot of times I hear the arguments of why we should eagerly send our children out into the world because that is what Jesus did. I know all the things Jesus did. I know he ate with sinners, let prostitutes be in his presence and wash his feet. However, Jesus was around 30 years old. He wasn’t an 18 year old, wide eyed kid. The person I was at 30 years old was like a different life from the person I was at 18. I just… Totally disagree with this. I still love you and of course will still read as I can’t agree with everyone on everything :), but still I strongly disagree. It doesn’t matter what my opinion is here I know, but I also don’t like the arguments from Christian parents who send their children into public schools so they can be “salt and light.” Being “seasoned with salt” generally refers to a person being aged and wise….not a little kid, or a tween, or even an 18-19 year old.

    • Sally says

      I understand your concerns, Sara. However, I did not put my children in the public school system, but homeschooled them until they graduated from our home at around 16-17. I gave them an innocent childhood in terms of giving them values for goodness, beauty, truth, love and fidelity. Their foundations were established, we are the closest of families, Clay and I their constant advisors because they love and trust us, and we have walked them fully into very adult places.

      Yet, though I wish this was just a g-rated world, the hard reality is that I knew the world would find my children even if I was trying to protect them from it. A warrior learns the ways and strategies of his battle so that he can stand strong in the battle. By God’s grace, all of my children have been able to go out as adults, little by little, into an arena where there are great challenges, but they were not surprised by the temptations or battles because we had helped them to understand what they were up against. There is a time for secluding our children in order to build and train, and then, we must trust them as adults, and with our guidance, to go back into the place where righteousness and darkness must meet. As Jesus said, “I send you as lambs amongst wolves.” and “I do not ask you to take them out of the world but keep them from the evil one.” I think the problem is that many adults send their children into the world when they are young and have not fully grown into Biblical values and they are confused by the messages they are receiving from the secular arena vs. the more conservative values at home. I appreciate your comment, though as an older parent of 4 children, know that the world is there when our children become young adults, and so I am grateful that God helped us train them ahead of time. Each of us must follow the Spirit’s guidance and train with wisdom and truth.

      • Allison says

        Sally! Sally! Thank you for this wonderful and necessary message! I admire and respect you and your family so very much. Thank you for believing the God of the Bible for who He says He is and for taking an unwavering stand as light in the darkness…. wherever that darkness may be. As a mother of a two-year-old boy I am aware I am training up a warrior, not a coward who seeks self protection. THANK YOU (with much heart felt emphasis) for all that you and your family communicate to help affirm and equip those of us who share your heart and desires for our families, children and The Kingdom. Sending hugs… Allison

      • Jennifer says

        We had no intentions of putting our kids in public school. However, my long difficult illness didn’t give us a choice. Yes, we heard from others about how we should of made a way, but families that offered to take over didn’t last very long. My husband and I weren’t at peace with public school, but we were at peace that it was God’s plan.
        They entered fourth, sixth and seventh grade and attended for two years. So thankful that my boys had been in scouts with public school kids, but there were still shocking incidences. The first year was brutal on my daughter.
        It is too long of a story for this post and most your neighbors don’t want to admit what is going on in the local school. But as Christians we got an instant course in how to break out of our Christian bubble. We had lots of conversations, the kids were happy when they could be homeschooled again and none of us are the same. I guess I’m trying to say…there aren’t guarantees that if I do this and not this, my kid will be like this.
        Sally, I’ve been praying for over a year that my sons will be warriors and worshipers. Thank you for your blog.

  12. Judy says

    This is wonderful, Sally – whenever did Christians dream up safe Christianity? Of course, guarding and instructing the hearts of young children so they know Who it is they serve and trust is essential – like the Page training of medieval times- but the purpose was/should be preparation for battle. We need to teach the skills of battle, but heroes of faith are only born in adversity that requires courage.

    Joshua and Caleb, David, Daniel, Stephen, Paul and Silas and so many more brave warriors of the Bible all show us that faith can be dangerous – there will be opposition even as God does his work. Just looking at this list, I am struck by how many of these Bible heroes were young men.

    On a separate note – I sent an email to with the heading ‘Nathan’s book’ a couple of weeks ago. I just wanted to be sure you received it. I’m praying his insights will bless and inspire Christian courage in many lives.

    • Sally says

      Thanks, Judy, for your comments. I do not receive all of the letters sent to our office–especially during conference season, but I will be sure to look for it. I was just thinking this morning that I wish we were not in a battle-filled world–that everything could be easy and all would be innocent. Just not the world Jesus gave to us–it is for us to be faithful in this time we have been born into. Loved your words. They encouraged me today.

  13. Sally says

    Thanks for all of your great comments. I understand that this is more aimed at the mamas of older children. But our philosophy must arm them as they are growing up so that they will not give into the battles but stand firm because they were mentally and spiritually prepared for what they faced–and all children must learn to withstand peer pressure and be willing to stand alone–that is why we teach hem about Joseph, Daniel, Esther, Mary, Joshua and so many others. My children carry these stories in their psyche and heart.

  14. Keri says

    I loved this! People used to tell us that we were “sheltering” our children when they were little and you know what, We did! There are just certain things and words that they don’t need to know about when they are little. You will know as a parent when to share certain things with them if you are asking the Lord for wisdom!

    We now have four adult children in their 20′s! They are out there in the working world now and see and hear a lot. We don’t need to fear!! They are reaching out to a lost world who desperately needs the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!!

    One of my son’s has had multiple conversations with a gay man who I really believe was trying to come on to him while working. He shared his belief and the gospel and was kind to this man but also firm. This particular son has also lost a job due to his Christian belief and stand on some things.
    I have seen him walk out the door to go make an appeal for his job and say to me “It’s okay Mom. I’ve read my Bible this morning, prayed, and I’m ready to go deal with this”. I just about cried when he left. He didn’t get his job back. That was okay and he dealt with it and moved on!

    Hollywood needs young men like your son! We need decent films!! I have a teen son who is interested in this kind of work(media) also and although we aren’t sure where it will take him, we do know that we can move forward and trust the one whom we ultimately raise them for. I’m not sure how old he was when he went out there but I do think it honestly depends on the maturity of the young person and how strong he is in the Lord.

    This was especially special to me as our youngest daughter who is 21..I know people …lol. but she is my baby girl, just went to help care for my brother-in-laws mother for a couple weeks. She is a Shining light in this world and basically I knew in raising her and the others that the Lord was going to use her some day for His Glory.

    Parents don’t need to fear!! Raise them for Him, even in the midst of your own imperfections and He will use them!! Thanks for letting me share this!

    Will you be heading to Florida anytime soon?

  15. Ruth says

    When I was 18, I went to live in Egypt at the second largest orphanage in the world. I was in a high extreme Muslim area, but my parents, like you, allowed me to follow the Holy Spirits leading. So grateful for wonderful parents that allowed me to follow the Lords leading.

  16. says

    I can’t thank you enough for posting this. You reaffirmed what my husband and I believe and feel God’s blessing in pursuing for our children, but hear condemnation from others. We are missionaries to a very unreached area, and our children are ambassadors for Christ in a way that is sometimes frightening to those who calls seem somehow “safer” or “cleaner.” We, as ha a family, are cabled to be warriors. Your analogy is not only encouraging, but so, so true!

  17. Stephanie says

    Sally, I am soooooo in this place right now. Moving from Anne of Green Gables to something completely other. I know our children have a good foundation, but the closer they get to leaving the nest the more fearful I get. I am printing this for future encouragement.


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