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Reading 2012: The Ministry of Motherhood

March 6, 2012

In The Ministry of Motherhood: Following Christ’s Example in Reaching the Hearts of Our Children, Sally Clarkson looks at Jesus’ pattern of teaching and training of the disciples and makes application to the discipling of our children through the ministry of motherhood.

Sally divides the main portion of her book into five parts–five “gifts”–each comprised of four chapters and then a study and discussion section at the end of each part.

Part One: The Gift of Grace
1. Out of a Boat–a Model for Grace
2. The Grace of Time Together
3. The Grace of Encouraging Words
4. The Grace of Forgiveness in Action

Part Two: The Gift of Inspiration
5. On the Mountain–a Model for Inspiration
6. Inspiring a Sense of Purpose
7. Inspiring a Sense of God’s Powerful Presence
8. Inspiring a New Kind of Love

Part Three: The Gift of Faith
9. Enough for a Lifetime–a Model for Faith
10. Faith in a Living God
11. Faith in God’s Living Word
12. Faith in the Spirit’s Power

Part Four: The Gift of Training
13. Persistent Miracles–a Model for Training
14. Training Children to Think
15. Training Children to Pray Effectively
16. Training Children for Tribulation

Part Five: The Gift of Service
17. Compassionate Harvest–a Model for Service
18. Serving with a Willing Heart
19. Serving with Hardworking Hands
20. Serving in God’s Strength

Throughout the book, Clarkson takes the reader back to specific stories of Jesus and His disciples and brings out application to motherhood found from those “models.” Similar to the writing styles of Elyse Fitzpatrick (e.g., Give Them Grace) and Sally Lloyd-Jones (e.g., The Jesus Storybook Bible), Sally Clarkson uses a bit of purple prose to fill in the details of what it might have been like to have been an active participant in the Gospels’ depiction of Jesus and His disciples’ interaction. While this writing style is not my favorite and at times makes me uncomfortable, it is generally only present in the first chapter of each of the five parts. (I also know that others greatly enjoy this type of writing, and may benefit from reading Biblical narrative in this style.)

Sally also draws from her experience as a now “older mother” of four and the many lessons she has learned from her seasons of motherhood. In that way, it is helpful to glean from the practical wisdom and experience of a gentle, kind, older woman, as Titus 2 depicts. The book is well-arranged and easy to read. Apart from a few minor applications that I may not see eye-to-eye on in the specifics, I found this to be a very warm and encouraging book as I am in the early stages of discipling and nurturing my own children. In a time when many books on the parenting shelves (at least, books from within the last 100 years of Evangelical Christianity in America) make application to parenting from an authoritarian, parents-are-as-God to children perspective, it was also refreshing to read a book from a perspective that sees some of the parenting parallels in Jesus’ discipleship relationship with His disciples.

Excerpts: 

“After all, though I desire to live righteously and perfectly for the Lord, I know I will never be able to live up perfectly to his standards or even mine. That is why the grace of God has meant so much to me.” (53)

“Extending grace to our children not only gives them a living picture of God’s love, it also lays for them a foundation for healthy relationships. The greatest commandments, remember, are summed up by Jesus as loving God and loving people (Matthew 22:37-40).” (55)

“Knowing the limitations of my responsibility as a mother has actually been quite freeing to me. I can be God’s agent for cultivating the hearts of my children; in fact, I’m supposed to fill that role. But only God can give them life, strength, and divine guidance.” (132)

“Giving our children the gift of service is not really a matter of teaching them what to do. It’s more a matter of helping them looking at other people through Jesus’ eyes and respond as he did. It really is that simple–though it’s often not easy.” (181)

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  • Julie March 6, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    I facilitated a book study on this book two summers ago through the AP moms group. We enjoyed reading it and always followed up with practical “toolbox” ideas. Overwhelmingly, though, the moms felt Sally’s life seemed too peachy perfect. We wanted her life to a tad unruly from time to time.

    • Keren March 7, 2012 at 10:08 am

      Ha! I’d have to agree on that. I (personally) think the writing style is a bit “flowery,” and it’s probably an apt description of her life anecdotes, as well. Thankfully there’s helpful stuff beneath the flowers. I’d love to hear what other books you did. 🙂