Because He extends love and grace…

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“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

As a little girl, I remember learning the above verse and being told to put my name in where the word “love” is listed instead. For example:

“Angela is patient, Angela is kind. She does not envy, she does not boast, she is not proud…” Yeah, applying scripture like that and making it personal can well…make one a little uncomfortable. Am I all those things? Do I love like that? Sadly, the answer is “no.” I’m not always patient…especially when I’m running late and trying to get my 3 girls out the door in time. How about the “keeping no record of wrongs?” Yeah….just ask my husband…I struggle in that area too.

Sally and I end our book: You Are Loved with a challenge…now go and do likewise! Love others like God loves you.

“God is patient, God is kind. He does not envy, He does not boast, He is not proud…”

Now that we have a deeper understanding of how dearly loved we are by God, He challenges us to live lives that are stained with His love for others to see. God’s love should change us, transform us and make us stand out from the world. We are called to love differently. We love when it hurts. We choose to keep no record of wrongs even though our mind makes it hard to forget. We choose to be kind even though the person hasn’t been kind back. We choose to trust, have hope and persevere even when it’s hard and we’d rather throw in the towel and give up. We choose love instead.

God’s love is what colors our life differently. People see it in the way we smile at them. In how we choose to respond to criticism and how we trust God in all things. They see it in the hope that we have at the doctor’s office despite the report, or when we choose to hold our tongue even though we have a great comeback ready to launch at a moments notice. They see it in the patience we extend to our children, husband and friends even though we are feeling anything but patient at the time. We realize we are not perfect, we have our flaws, our short comings…yet despite all of that, God still chooses to love us.

We extend love and grace because love and grace have been extended to us.

“How you live your life today in choosing to love others will determine the way your children, non-Christians, your family, and friends learn what God’s love is like. To leave a legacy of love is to leave a fragrance of His love wherever you go.”- Sally Clarkson

Sweet friends, may the beautiful fragrance of your love fill your homes, hearts and lives today! Who do you need to reach out to with the love of God?

“…the more I humble myself to love others no matter what, the more my love and worship of God has grown because I realize how much it cost Him to be humble and give to a totally rebellious and ungrateful world. Practicing love increases your love for God.”- Sally Clarkson


I’d like to take a second and thank YOU for joining us this summer as we read You Are Loved together! Thank you so much for joining us and digging into God’s Word together! I pray God has used our book mightily in your life and you can now see how dearly loved you are, and let His love transform your life!

Love God Greatly!

Announcing Storyformed!



My heart is overjoyed today, as I am announcing that Storyformed (Sarah’s exciting new website) is now officially live and ready to visit! The heart of Storyformed is this: to get great books into the hands and hearts of children everywhere. Sarah’s goal is to help parents and educators discover the best children’s books to be found. She is here to celebrate, and defend, the soul-forming power of imagination, story, and beauty to form children to love what is right, hunger for what is good, and grasp what is true. To read a great story might just be to start living one too.

To that end, is both a literary online resource, and the home of a new publishing imprint, Storyformed Books.

Storyformed Books will be republishing excellent out-of-print classics, releasing new fiction by contemporary authors, and publishing a series of essay collections on reading and imagination. Sarah’s book, Caught Up in a Storywritten largely to explain the Storyformed worldview, is the first to release with the imprint. Below, you can read an excerpt from the introduction to Caught Up in a Story:

“I have written this book, Caught Up in a Story, because I believe that every child should grow up to ask that question and I think that great stories lead them to it. Stories challenge us to see our lives as the narrative in which we have the chance to live all the beauty and bravery we can imagine. What hero will I become? What great thing have I been created to accomplish? I believe those questions of heroism are the driving force behind a life of virtue, creativity, and purpose. The great historical leaders, artists, teachers, inventors, and even martyrs, lived in fidelity to a cause larger than themselves. Search deeply enough into the history of any real life hero and I am convinced that you will find a story, imagined or actual, on which that hero’s life is largely based, a narrative that opened their eyes to the part they were called to play in the story of the world.

Great stories teach us that we are called to live a great life story.

Stories are a powerfully formative force. They furnish children with rich vocabulary, broad imagination, and the spirit of possibility necessary to purposeful living or heroic action. The great tales of literature both inspire heroism and demonstrate what actions must be taken if the world is to be conquered or creation accomplished. Great books are richly stocked with the characters, scenes, countries, and crafts that form an expectation of what is possible in a child’s imagination. Stories are rich in the kind of description that teaches a child to see, and to wonder at the artistry of the world. They shimmer with song and firelight, castles and dragons, inventions and quests, kings and queens all stocking the heart of a child with dreams.

But I have also written this book because I know that a storyformed life is a gift, one that rests in the hands of inspired parents. A childhood filled with great books is something that only a parent can provide. Parents are the storytellers who narrate the opening of their children’s lives, choosing the books, images, and ideas that will outfit their minds. They are also the story-givers who create the rhythms of home life in which great books can be read again and again. I am convinced that the storyformed childhood my parents gave me was one of the greatest gifts I have ever received, and this book has come from my deep commitment to help other parents give that mighty gift to their own children. But before they can offer that gift, I think many parents today need a fresh understanding of the formative value of stories.

Exposure to the great tales of literature or even Scripture as a story itself is rarely listed as of primary importance when childhood training, formation, or education is discussed. Rather, parents today are often presented with a list of facts and skills they must pound into their children’s heads. Childhood formation, according to many models, seems to be about the filling of a mental bucket rather than the forming of a whole, vibrant soul ready to act justly, love beauty, and bring goodness to the world. We tend to think of childhood in terms of data acquisition; what children need to know, and what they must be able to do by the time they reach adulthood. I think this is a deadening view of childhood. While knowledge and skill are, of course, vital, they are only the skeleton structure of a great life. They will remain inanimate until the child who possesses them is kindled to passion and movement by a vision bigger than a list of accomplishments.

Stories are the lifeblood of existence. They are the heartbeat that pumps vision into a child’s developing imagination and hope into his or her soul. A storyformed child views life as an epic tale in which he or she must live as hero or villain. Storyformed children grow to adulthood understanding that they have been specially formed by a loving God, destined for his kingdom, specially crafted to love, create, and conquer. They have reason to respond to their parents’ training, to work and learn, hope and know, because stories assure them that right choices and brave actions are the force behind happy endings. A storyformed child understands exactly why hard work must be done and goodness attained, why beauty is a prize to be sought and love is a treasure worth the cost of their whole lives.” -Sarah Clarkson, introduction to Caught Up in a Story


Storyformed is filled with beautiful resources and information such as: a library, book lists, bookstore, blog, research, and so much more. The official big launch of Storyformed will be in late August, complete with giveaways and other exciting news! You won’t want to miss out on any of these updates, so be sure to sign up for the Storyformed mailing list. Sarah’s book release for Caught Up in a Story will release simultaneously with the website in late August, so be sure to stay tuned and check back in!

Loving As a Way of Life! The fathers love always pursues

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“So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”

-Jesus (Luke 15:20)

I am so happy to be able to share my son, Nathan, with you today, since the last story in the last chapter was about him. Nathan has grown so much in his compassion for those who are lost, separated from the love of God, that he wrote a script, produced a movie and now has a message of the love of our heavenly Father that I know will reach many all over the world.

As we come to the end of our study, You Are Loved, I know that each of us has been confronted, once again, with the amazing, powerful, faithful love of God. God’s whole story is a picture of a Father providing, loving, comforting, helping, and redeeming  His precious children. And then to think, He is preparing a new heaven and earth that will be even more beautiful and wants us to celebrate our homecoming with a wedding feast as the end of time.If we allow our hearts to be touched by His amazing love, it will leave us changed.

But each of us has a choice to make.

Will we come to Him and allow His love to humble us, stretch us so that we can take His love back into our worlds for others who need to know Him? Or, will we hide in our insecurity, our excuses, the places where we are uncomfortable. The world will give you permission to compromise the love that Jesus teaches. However, if you choose to follow God in seeking to love others actively, even if it is just taking baby steps, His love will grow and swell in your heart and your walk with Him will be more wonderful each season of life.

Nathan’s living story modeled so much to me. He did not run away from the people God placed in his life. He chased after God, and then shared His God with those in His life who needed to know Him and had never clearly heard about His love.

As we all well know, any relationship in our lives, over time, will experience stress because it involves 2 sinful, limited people—me, the first sinner and fallible person,  and whoever else is my friend, child or spouse–or in relationship with me! Consequently,  every relationship will be tested. Am I going to demand that my friend be perfect, even if I cannot be perfect? Or am I going to allow God’s precious love to wash my heart clean and allow me to be a model of Him to everyone I meet.

Love is messy at times, and we cannot always control the behavior of others. But we can choose to love, forgive, pray for those with whom we have experienced. And we can release our mysterious relationships into God’s hands and ask Him to work. He is faithful to work and will bring grace, wisdom, healing and understanding in His time. And no matter what, when we choose love and prayer and forgiveness in our own hearts, we find healing and peace-even if though we cannot control the reactions and choices of others.

As Nathan shared in the video, God has been expanding his own desire to reach out to others by producing a new movie called “Confessions of a Prodigal Son,” which showcases the profound love of God through a very personal story. God is always the shepherd going after the one sheep who is lost while the other 99 are in the fold. He wants to love through us, reach out through us, extend His healing and amazing love through our lives.

All of us fail, but God is merciful and always looking for us to return to Him. He celebrates our return as we are so dear to His heart. As we come to an end of this study, how will you choose to respond to what you have learned? Will you walk in the light of His deep love for you and accept His love for you? Will you grow in the knowledge of His grace and learn to give His love to others?

As I wrote in my last chapter:

Love is a muscle that grows with use. The more we practice humbling ourselves and giving love out of obedience to God, the more loving we shall be.”

Each of you has been in Angela’s and my prayers throughout this study. We hope each of you will walk in the freshness and generosity of God’s amazing love—knowing that He forgives every part of your past, that He loves you in spite of your flaws, that He is for you every day and ready to bless and that He wants to use you to spread this love to others. May you ever be blessed as you live into these truths.

Sweet Lord, I thank you for each person who has been bathing themselves in the amazing truth of your love through this study. Help each one to know how very special they are to you, as you crafted them from your own hands—they belong to you! Let them know that you see them every day, that you are like the Father in the prodigal son story, always looking for us to return to your open arms. Help us to have wisdom in knowing how to live, through our lifetimes, growing in the knowledge of how to live a life of loving wisely, generously and trusting you through each relationship, each season of life. You are the Lord who redeems and restores. We give ourselves wholeheartedly into your hands and we come to you in the precious name of Jesus.

Confessions of a Prodigal Son:

Nathan Clarkson:

Beauty: The Bridge to Awakening hidden places of the soul

The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives. Albert Einstein

Children are born to wonder, to explore,  pry, to ask, to pretend, to believe, to trust, to celebrate, to giggle, to laugh, to create, to love. When I pictured my children’s souls, I pictured them as a treasure chest to fill with jewels of beauty, truth and wisdom and experiences that would make their hearts, souls and minds so rich, that they would have a wealth of treasures to draw from the rest of their lives. A rich soul must be filled intentionally with elegant masterpieces of creation, magnificent compositions of music, alluring feasts, gentle touch, exquisite art, masterpieces of thought, spiritual inspiration. Then from the richness invested there, fruit will come forth.

Our homes can become that place of creativity, where a meal can become a candle-lit half-hour that creates life-changing conversation, as in the above tea time I made for Joy a couple of weeks ago when we had been far too busy and were quite exhausted. (I also used to, and still do make these hidden moments of civilized conversations with my boys, and they liked it just as much. I just considered what food or way of talking them would like, and served them accordingly.) Our souls needed rest and refreshment. It was a simple meal from what was in the fridge, but with candles, and roses I had bought at Sam’s, it became a celebration of our friendship. I even used to do such things in a smaller way when my children were babes.

When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the creator. Mohandis Gandi

This morning, I arose early to spend time with the Lord, and I asked Him to speak to my heart and I poured out my heart with requests and faith and worship. As I was sitting quietly, alone in the darkened room with flickering candle light as my companion, my eyes were drawn to the window and vibrant pinks, purples, deep blues were strewn across the pallet of the early morning sky. The Lord indeed spoke to me and the heavens were declaring His artistry and giving peace to my soul. Beauty draws us to the creator’s glory and fills our hearts with wonder and worship, and puts us in our right place.

When we love our children well, we will paint the exquisite color of His reality in the way we express life art throughout our homes, so that our children can begin to believe that for them, our home is the best place to be. I have lived in tiny, aged 900 square foot homes that leaked water down the sides of the wall, (Vienna); a small but efficient  4th floor walk-up apartment that looked over industrial towers of smoke, (Poland), and  a sprawling, charming cottage with views of land, (Tennessee). It does not matter what the size or shape of a home, it is the artist-creator ceo of the home that brings a place to life.

Friday mornings are the time I take Joy out to breakfast each week, to validate our friendship, to talk about all bubbling up in our souls from a week of be fully alive and to have the opportunity to speak into her soul, even as a young adult. But these moments of pouring in, started when she was small, in the confines and moments of our many homes of 17 moves!

As we awakened, she and I sat on her bed talking about CK Chesterton’s Orthodoxy book and funny incidents in the book, as he is a hysterical man. (For those of you who don’t know him, he was a British Christian Author, whose book Orthodoxy is a classic, challenging Christian book on faith, much like Mere Christianity.)

On our way to the small, French cafe this morning, where they have the best chocolate croissants and lattes, we listened and sang to Rich Mullen’s “Peace I leave to you,” and “Hold Me Jesus” which deeply ministered to my soul–what an artist he was before he was killed in a car accident. He is a friend of our family because the kids grew up with his songs playing through hours of driving in the mountains.

While munching on our warm croissants, Joy told me the story of C.S. Lewis’s “Till We Have Faces” and how much it really changed her perspective of suffering this life.

Then, on the drive back home, we sang to Phantom of the Opera at the top of our lungs, because we had fallen in love with the music when we saw the play together last year. The songs are breath-taking-ly beautiful! My boys like Les Miserable, and we all used to wash dishes to Josh Groben, which I would play loudly as the kids were cleaning. (Also, some up-beat Christian music was a favorite to keep them on track!)

These rich tastes of life came from years of living fully, engaged in the best I could find. I was not educated in these areas until I began to make it my goal to become familiar with some of the best in music, art and literature as a portion of what I would put into my children’s souls. I became civilized and educated as I sought to civilize and educate them.

I remember in the Anne of Green Gables movie, there is a part when she is visiting with a wealthy Aunt of her best friend, Diana, in the Charlottetown, one of the larger cities of Prince Edward Island. Anne had just made a comment to the Aunt that even though she was having fun in the big city, she preferred her small town. Then a soloist sang an aria from Opera that thrilled her soul. After she heard the song, Anne remarked, “I will never be the same again.”

And so it is when we open our children’s souls to fine tastes of the beauty of life. The picture of Christians as those who can compose the finest music (The Messiah, or Bach’s worship music), the greatest literature, (C.S. Lewis and others), live the best stories, (Hudson Taylor opening China), be the best testimony, (Eric Liddel in Chariots of Fire or Wilberforce in the movie about his life), follow the best heroes by listening to Bonhoeffer’s history in the Focus on the Family radio drama), then they develop their tastes all the best and most beautiful in life and become what their own souls have been fed.

Consequently, each of us has the freedom to live within our own means and by our own personalities and preferences. Creativity must not necessarily be extravagant or demanding.  But the passing on of beauty and love and excellence as we see fit, cultivates in them a vigor and love for life that will last them throughout their lives. Investing in their souls, with the art of God,  speaks to them deeply and satisfies them surely and assures them of the abiding love of a civilized mother.

When loving someone is hard! No one sees me, I am lost……

Jan Verhas

Precious is the innocent moment when a tiny child, confidently proclaims, “I’ll bet you can’t find me,” while his feet or body are conspicuously sticking out in a very openly exposed place. But, we pretend, for the sake of the child’s innocent heart, that we cannot see him and we say, “Where could Johnny be? I can’t find hin anywhere?”

We allow him to play at being real, and honor his developing ability to interact with life.

Snickers and giggles abound as we look high and low while so very near to the beloved child.

And so, in comparison to God’s transcendence, He allows us, as mere toddlers,  to play at life and seek to grow and explore and exercise our limited human authority to bring about our goals and purposes in life and to expound on our own prowess. But sometimes, He knows, our lives will come crashing against conflict, difficulty, brokenness in this fallen world And He has planned to be there to walk each step through the dark, mysterious times when we simply do not have black and white answers.

As our divine parent, He knows, at times, we will be broken hearted and He sees us  cry and is sad when we hurt and His loving arms extend His love and grace to cover these places where we cannot bring wholeness. It hurts to feel lost and to be sad in this, the broken place. God knows this is not the place where we will ever find perfection, completeness or where our hearts or desires will be perfectly fulfilled or complete. We were made to love–yet some relationships will never be whole in this world. We were created for wholeness, but sometimes human frailty and weakness and fear and lack of trust break relationships. We cannot control the behavior or responses of others, but we can depend on God’s response of love and compassion to us, His children.

Hebrews tells us that Jesus was tempted in all the ways that we were tempted. He is a God who can sympathize with our weaknesses, because He lived subject to the darkness of the world He entered. It was his own people who rejected Him–His love, His truth. His leaders–the Pharisees, the ones who most studied His words, were the deceived ones–those who sincerely thought they were following God, but in reality were caught in their own rules of religion. It was a form of religion without the heart.

And so sometimes, we weak humans are subject to the same kinds of broken relationships.  There are times when love must be firm-not giving in to compromise and at this time, separation happens. Other times love is not reciprocated or equal or is rejected. There are times when God, because He wants to sanctify me in my own life–to make me more like Jesus, has to say no, has to discipline. He disciplines that we might grow, and share in His holiness.

And sometimes us loving others means a separation even as Jesus felt separation from those He wanted to redeem.

He patiently leads, guides, comforts  and attends to us as we slowly mature and gain perspective and wisdom of how to be shrewd as serpents but innocent as doves. But when we are lost and feel alone,  God is never lost and we are never lost to him. He always sees us wherever we think we are hiding or in the dark.

“Where can I go from thy spirit or where can I flee from thy presence? Even the darkness is not dark to thee and the night is as bright as the day.” Psalm 139


Eyes wide, glancing out from a weakly attempted smile, my dear friend was making a noble attempt to greet me with a cheerful heart. Cherished time with friends far away is a gift indeed.

Embracing her in a round body caress, I whispered, “You are so very dear to me and to our precious Lord. He loves you more than you will ever know. He sees you, He is with you and He will hold you and guide you.”

Tears filled and burst over her dark black eyelashes as she whispered,

I feel so lost. I can’t find my old self anymore. I don’t know how to come back to the light.”

“You feel lost, I said, but God is not lost and He has not lost you. Just wait and be still and in time the light will come gently pouring into your heart,” my voice whispered with as much love as I could pour into her darkness.

God’s ways are always best and bring health, joy, beauty and real life–eventually. He shares our grief, frustrations and grieves with us in our broken hearts.  However, as a loving Father, He must interfere with our own limited expectations of how we falsely believe that we can find true joy and happiness in this world if we just try to control it enough.  But I have had to learn that  I am a toddler who has so little perspective, think I am hidden, or perhaps at times, in fear of being lost, can pretend and play and at times, pour out tears of sorrow at the difficulties and barriers He allows in my life.  We are all  immature, short sighted and limited,  being held fast by this earth, that God has to pry our hands free from our strong clutches on this world, to force us to look more heavenly and more astutely towards eternity where we will live forever and ever in His true light.

We may feel lost. He is never lost or has lost control over us.

“I am with you always, even unto the end of the earth.”

Until we close our eyes here and awaken into His lovely presence.

Rest in this. You are seen. You are loved. You will never be alone.