Karl Clauson: 7 Resolutions to Transform Your Life
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Karl ClausonKarl Clauson is a husband, pastor, author, conference speaker and adventurer. His passion for spiritual awakening runs through them all. He’s had diverse life experiences, like completing the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race at the age of eighteen, coaching a track team in South Africa, and pastoring churches in Chicago and Alaska. He loves to have conversations about life change through Jesus Christ over a good cup of coffee.
When’s the last time you did something you couldn’t do without God? Author Karl Clauson recalls the fear and triumph of putting yourself in God’s hands alone.
Karl Clauson: 7 Resolutions to Transform Your Life
Karl: Risk-taking is the Christian life. It’s putting us out there, where we can’t do it—whether it’s giving of your gifts, your finances, your time, your life—take risk/take risk—put it out there. You have to get out of the boat, man. You have to take some steps; and when you do, you find yourself in total reliance on God.
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.
Dave: So we’ve never had, in the studio, a participant in the Iditarod [until today]; it’s never happened. It will never happen again either. [Laughter]
Ann: I didn’t really even know what it was until our kids started watching a movie, when they were little, about the Iditarod. I thought, “This is impossible! How could anyone really do this?”
Dave: Yes, but the truth is we have a guy that did a 1100-mile—
Karl: —dogsled race.
Dave: —21 day—how many dogs?
Karl: Well, I started with 13; and I finished in Nome with 7. A lot of people wonder, “Do the dogs die?” immediately. Let me disclaim: “None of my dogs died. But I dropped them at different checkpoints: maybe they’re dehydrated, or they have a pulled muscle, or they have a lacerated pad or something like that/a little cut on their pad. We take good care of these dogs; they’re incredible athletes.
Ann: So you finished with seven.
Karl: I finished with seven dogs.
Ann: And they could do that, they could finish.
Karl: Oh, yes; they’re strong. I had two girls up in lead—they were sisters—they both were born together in a remote village. They trained together; they raced together; and they died together. They ran in tandem lead, side by side, and they had the same name: White Eyes.
I put those girls up in lead. I was facing a stiff wind, coming out of Shaktoolik, headed for the village of Koyuk. We were mushing right across; and actually, I had ignored the counsel of a village elder in Shaktoolik. I got out on that ice, and the wind began to pick up. When I say, “on the ice,” we were on the ocean—from Shaktoolik to Koyuk, you’re running right across the ocean—you’re a long ways away from land.
We were making pretty good time. The storm came in, and blew, and blew, and blew; and those girls were doing great. Then it got to a full whiteout condition, and I couldn’t see beyond my hands stretched out. I’m like, “Oh, no.” I crawl up to my dogs, and I got pinned down for about five hours. That’s where I’d called out to God; and five hours later, I had a break in the storm. I could see just above the ice crystals that were at about a five-foot level—is where they stopped—and I could see the lights of Koyuk just barely off in the distance.
I got those dogs strung out. I got those two girls back up in lead—and I looked at them—I said, “Girls, we gotta go.” I think they knew: “We had our tookie in a squoosher here, folks.” [Laughter] I gave them the command, “Hike,” and we headed out; and ultimately, made it in.
I had breathed in ice particles for that whole time, so my wool face mask was frozen to my face. When I got into the village of Koyuk, there was no doctor; but there was a veterinarian, and that was good enough. He put me over a stove, and we heated it up; and it began to melt. Then he cut the wool-knit face mask up the back and peeled it off. It just took one full layer of skin off my face; so I needed to put some Vaseline® on, sleep about seven hours, and then we headed out the next morning from Koyuk.
Ann: Who are you? [Laughter] It’s/it’s like he’s like a movie character! This is amazing.
Dave: “I had my tookie in a squooshie,”—whatever he said. [Laughter]
Karl: Oh, “I had my tookie in a squoosher.” [Laughter] You’re in trouble when you get your tookie in a squoosher!
Dave: I guess you are! [Laughter]
Well, when I hear that story, I’m thinking, “Okay; it is a metaphor of life.”
Karl: It is.
Ann: So much so.
Dave: The whole race probably is—
Ann: —especially with the two female dogs in the front. There’s something about the strength of women and, even, together.
Karl: Yes, that will preach.
Ann: That sounds good; I’m just going to say it for the women today. [Laughter]
Dave: I mean, we’re talking today and yesterday about The 7 Resolutions that you wrote—a book—your subtitle: Where Self-Help Ends and God’s Power Begins. Walk us through that.
Karl: Yes, self-help: we can do a lot in our strength. I love to tell people in our church—and even on radio in Chicago, where I host a radio show—I love to tell people: “A good prayer to pray is: ‘…just a little bigger than me, God,’ ‘…just a little bigger than me.’” Actually, where I got that prayer was on that ice from Shaktoolik to Koyuk; because it was there when I started to pray—it was beyond me—I could not get off that ice. I did a foxhole prayer that I didn’t mean; but God was extending mercy, and He got me off that ice.
But ever since then, I’ve been telling people this: “Whether it’s giving of your gifts, your finances, your time, your life—take risk/take risk—put it out there. You have to get out of the boat, man. You have to take some steps; and when you do, you find yourself in total reliance on God.”
Believe it or not, I don’t ask people to find an easier path. I actually believe that the blessing of God is found in the toughest times, when we’re in over our heads and we know it. Now, here’s the reality: “We’re in over our heads all the time; but sometimes, God has to prove it to us.” That’s what I live for: is getting out on that edge.
Ann: When I was reading your book, Karl, I put it down for a second after I read what you just said. I thought, “When was the last time I did something so risky that I couldn’t do it apart from God?”
Ann: It’s been a while; I think that we get comfortable. I think that we get older, too, and we don’t want to take the risk.
Karl: Risk-taking is the Christian life. It’s putting us out there, where we can’t do it. It’s a beautiful thing; because every time I get myself in over my head—we planted a church in South Loop in Chicago—and because of what had happened before, in mine and my bride’s life—I call her “my bride”; been married 34 years—because of what’s happened in our life in the past, I thought, “We’re going to build it, and they’re going to come.”
We built it—I feel like I’m preaching better than I ever had, understanding the grace of God—but I realized something—the very thing I’m writing about—and that is: “That this isn’t about your fancy footwork/your ability to preach. God wants to keep us relying on Him all the time.” I’ll tell you what God did in me: He showed me that it’s easier to gather a crowd than it is to make disciples; so that’s my most recent: “Whoa! I’m out on the edge!” Now, we’re planting this church. We’re getting some sweet people—17 different languages spoken in our little church—but I will say this: “They are hungry for God, and we’re making disciples”; and it’s an awesome thing.
“Would I have learned the lesson, had people been showing up?”—no, I think we would have been managing crowds more than discipling people; so I praise God for even difficult moments, doing ministry. It’s awesome.
Dave: When you say that: “It’s easier to bring a crowd than make disciples,”—talk about that in your family—what’s that look like?
Karl: I am so glad you asked that because I think the key for us, sitting here today—and I thought about this—“I’m coming on FamilyLife Today. Alright, what’s the kicker here?” We want to pass off to our kids the right things; but in an Americanized Christianity—and I’ll keep saying this: we have a propensity to bootstrap: self-help; pull it up; we go do it; “We ought to”; “We should”; “Let’s get to church”; “Let’s get plugged in,”—all those words easily come off of our lips. But that’s mainly focused on behavior. Behavior modification will never change anyone.
I was studying, again, a book that I had read, many years ago, called Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard. He builds a case—and I can’t believe I set it down—I ran downstairs, talking to my bride. I was up, studying, and I ran downstairs; and I said, “Babe! Babe, look at this.” Here’s what he says; he says, “We’re going to be stuck in behavior modification until we come to the point where we’re broken, and then we have this huge vision of God.” He says, “Here’s the problem:”—and it’s true—“our behaviors follow our belief.”
For any parent/grandparent—anyone that wants to leave a legacy in the home, Dave, your question—the key is you be boiling with conviction about what you believe about God, first and foremost; because it’s easy to pass off behavior modification to kids, without even knowing it. And the secret sauce of the abundant life that bears fruit—and it’s to God’s glory that we bear much fruit, so He’s all for that—is a life that says, “Oh, God, I’m going to believe You; and I’m going to trust in You”; and then our behavior begins to get aligned with God.
I look at this story in John 15. Jesus said, “I am the Vine, you are the branch. You abide in Me, you’ll bear fruit.” We have a choice—we can either focus on fruit production, which is really just performance or behavior—“I have to have love, and joy, and peace, and patience, and kindness; and that last one, self-control, have to have that.” Or we can focus on proximity to Jesus—but we can’t do both—and we have a choice.
The legacy to leave our kids and grandchildren is that they see mom and dad, grandma and grandpa, aunts and uncles living in proximity to Jesus, stumbling/bumbling along. But don’t even give them a hint of: “You need to be loving,” “You need to be patient,”—no, no, no, no, man—that’s the fruit; that’s the fruit of an abiding relationship with Jesus. And you know what happens?—if we aren’t producing the real stuff, we’ll wind up, as parents and grandparents—and we can all fall into this, by the way; and it’s easy to do—but as much as we can fall into it, God can pull us out.
But when we know we have to be producing fruit—or “At least, that’s what we should have; shouldn’t we?—I mean, we’re Christians; don’t you know?”—and we don’t have it, we’re pasting on fake fruit: fake grapes, fake bananas, fake apples. And here’s the problem: the closer people get to you, the more they know it’s fake.
Ann: The ones that really know are your kids.
Ann: If you’re faking it, they know it in a second.
Dave: So often, as a pastor, like you said—you’ve had the same thing—people come up after a sermon. You’re hoping they’re going to go, “Man, that was the best sermon I ever heard in my entire life!” [Laughter] But that’s not, often, what I’d hear. But often, I did hear from a dad, usually: “How do I get my kids to follow Jesus? I’ve got a 10-year-old,” or “I’ve got a 17-year-old.
Ann: —or “…a 20-year-old.”
Dave: “How do I get them to follow Jesus?”
They’re wondering, and they’re expecting: “Get them in a good Christian school,” “Make sure they’re in the youth program here; we’ve all this stuff going on.” I’ve never said that; I’ve never said that one time. I said, “Are you on fire?”
Karl: That’s it, Dave.
Dave: And they looked at me like, “What?” I’m like, “Are you on fire for Jesus? I can’t even talk about your wife, because that’s up to her; but are they seeing in your home a man, who’s”—what you said just earlier—“taking risks where, if God doesn’t show up, we’re toast. You’re scared to death because you’re stepping out on water; and you’re saying, ‘God, You have to make this solid,’—that brings fire in your soul—because I’m sharing Christ with my neighbor, or I’m giving more money than I should be giving. Whatever the risk is, are they seeing an on-fire dad? Because they’re going to catch it; they’re not going to be taught it. It’s either going to be passed on because they catch it.”
Ann: And it’s so attractive.
Dave: And they just look at me, like I gave them the wrong answer, like, “You didn’t tell me what to do.” I’m like, “Yes, just fall on your face and ask God to stoke something in you that’s real, that’ll be passed on, hopefully, to your kids.”
Karl: It’s actually the only way!
Karl: Somebody’s listening right now, going, “Well, how do I get that again?” Well, I’m going to tell you.
Shelby: You’re listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Karl Clauson on FamilyLife Today. We’ll hear his answer in just a minute; but first, here’s a special message from Karl himself.
Karl: Hey, Karl Clauson here. I want to lay down a challenge, and it’s a good one for you. A lot of us think of different things that we’re investing in, in this world. The Weekend to Remember—whoa!—don’t turn away. I know you’ve heard it a bunch, but you want to see something rock your world?—you want to take hold of God’s power?—you want to get challenged in a way and get hope in a way like you haven’t lately?
Weekend to Remember: it’ll do something to fire those boilers of love in your marriage that, maybe, has been gone for a long time. I’m telling you: it’ll put fuel in your soul, and you will find your marriage radically transformed. I want to encourage you to check it out right now. This is a vital time; it’s like half off on this thing right now, so check it out. FamilyLife Weekend to Remember—there’s got to be one near you—and even if it’s a bit of a drive, it’s worth it. Take the trip!
Shelby: It’s worth it; take the trip—he’s right; it’s totally worth it—register for your Weekend to Remember right now and get 50 percent off at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Alright; now, back to Dave and Ann with Karl Clauson and how to pass on real faith to your kids.
Karl: Go to Matthew 13, and there’s two stories that prove one point Jesus told. He said, “The kingdom of God”—so kingdom life/living in the kingdom, which is power—He said, “The kingdom of God is like a guy, who walked into a field, and he found a treasure.” I have chills right now; whoo!—there’s nothing like the Word of God! So he finds a treasure; and that treasure was so bodacious, he buries it/covers it up—goes home—liquidates all earthly assets to buy that field.
I don’t care what you have to do—go climb on top of a little hill somewhere—but you need to let Jesus rekindle that love that you once had, because that is the stuff that’s going to stick to kids; that’s the stuff.
Ann: I couldn’t agree more. I think, for people listening, that are like, “I want to do that, but I’m not.” You’re saying the first place we go is we bow—we say, “God, I have nothing,”—and our kids see it. They’re watching; and they know it, and they pick up on it.
I want to just say, too, Karl: you mentioned, before we were on air, that you’re discipling a son that’s older because he came to you.
Karl: Yes; it’s awesome. My son is in the tech industry, and he’s a great kid. He’s 6’8,” strapping kid. It’s a blessing to be able to have my adult son—to be coaching him up in the Word of God—even looking back, and telling him, “You know, son, I missed an opportunity to really pour into you; I let it become professionalized.” I almost outsourced some of my discipling of my son to a youth ministry.
Ann: Do you regret that, looking back?
Karl: Yes; oh, yes. Oh, yes; sure, man. I have more regrets: look at that stack of regrets behind me back here, but we can learn from those.
And by the way, it’s one thing to have regrets; it’s a dangerous thing to never share them with someone, because that’s when they have power for something positive.
Ann: So you told your son.
Karl: Oh, yes; say, “Hey, I missed an opportunity, man.” I told him, straight up: “I didn’t disciple you. I didn’t disciple you, son.” And it got that quiet right, right there. [Laughter]
Dave: I was going to say,—
Ann: But it’s never too late.
Dave: —"But you’re not missing it now.
Dave: “You’re seizing the moment now.”
Karl: Yes, we’re seizing the moment; and we’re watching fruit borne out of it.
Dave: What about your marriage? How do you keep that fire?
Karl: We have these talks—where we look, face to face, and we do—this is not checking your man-card, by the way, men—but I look into my wife’s eyes, and I’ll take her hand, and I’ll ask her: “What’s going on?” “How are you doing?” “What are you feeling?” We go to feeling because feelings—oftentimes, we talk in terms of what we’re thinking—
Ann: —or what’s going on.
Karl: —or what’s going on. But you have to get down to feeling.
You know, the first time I ever saw one of these goofy feeling wheels—you ever seen a feeling wheel?
Dave: Oh, yes.
Karl: Oh, my word.
Dave: Oh, yes.
Karl: Oh, my word! I thought, “Oh-oh; my manhood is gone. I’ll never be able to grow a beard!”
Ann: I love the feeling wheel. [Laughter] I love it!
Karl: The feeling wheel was—I’m tongue in cheek here—I was invited to come to a group, oh, goodness sakes, 14 years ago. A guy said, “Yes, come on up. A group of men are meeting in this upper room.” They said, “Be there at six o’clock.” I walk in, and there’s this five-foot-diameter thing in the middle of this circle. [Laughter] And I’m like, “What in the cat hair is this?” [Laughter]
Ann: — “in the cat hair”! You says that? [Laughter]
Karl: And I’m like, “What? What’s going on?” And I sit down, and here we go. Somebody prayed, and then here we go. We have these granite rocks in our hand that were given to us, and we’re supposed to lay this rock down—I’m catching on quick—on the feeling that we have. [Laughter] And I’m like, “Did I miss/who stole the ladies from this room? [Laughter] And what are the dudes doing here?”
And they start, going around the corner, talking about their feelings. It gets to me.
Ann: I’m going to do this at home.
Karl: And I’m like, “Ahh, I’ve got to put a feeling down here.” I forget the feeling that I even put the rock on; but the minute I set it on the feeling, I start crying! [Laughter] And I’m like, “Pardon me. I ran the Iditarod, and I’m sorry for doing this right now,”—I didn’t say that, but that’s what I thought; I thought, “Good grief.”
But this is/all that we’re talking about is getting postured at a point of need before God and understanding how we feel. And for me—to mine that out of my bride: “What are you feeling?”—I can help her process things, in truth, that will help set us both free. And she does the same for me. Date nights are awesome.
Twelve years I spoke with FamilyLife on Weekends to Remember. I remember telling Dennis Rainey, back in the day/I remember coming up to him, and I said, “Dennis, I love these Weekends to Remember; but we need to focus on the power dock because, without the power of God found through brokenness—enough emotional intelligence and space, where we can get in touch with our feelings—without the power of God deposited in those moments, all the rest of this stuff is band-aids; it’s all glitter. It doesn’t matter one bit compared to being broken, and understanding who we are, and our need before God, and let Him meet us there.”
Dave: Yes—as you’ve said so often—it’s where self-help ends and the power of God begins. It’s like: “If you don’t have the power of God”—we say it at every Weekend to Remember—"You can take this manual home—there’s good stuff in here—it’s the Word of God. It will do nothing without the power of God—not a chance—your life will not change.
One of the things Ann said to me, years ago, that she wanted to do in our marriage—and it really does bring fire back—is pray together—
Karl: Oh, big time.
Dave: —every single day.
Karl: Big time.
Dave: There’s part of me that’s like, “Really? Every day you want to…” It’s like: “Do it!” We’ve told couples: “Just start there.”
I think what you just said is awesome. Ann told me, years ago, “When we’re alone, would you just ask me?”—I had to write this down, Karl—“Okay, tell me what to ask you.” [Her response]: “How are you doing? How are you feeling?”
Ann: Oh, I love the “feeling” word too.
Dave: “What? You want me to/what?!” I was like, “Really?”
She goes, “You don’t even know what my life is; you don’t know what’s going on. You never ask.” I’m like: “It’s that simple?” “Yes, just ask.”
Ann: But I think, Dave, too, we get so busy. I think families are so busy, even with their kids.
For me, even, to turn to you and to say, “How are you feeling?”—I want to get that rock on the feeling chart. [Laughter]
Karl: “Get the feeling wheel out.”
Dave: We’re not doing that; we’re not putting one of those in our bedroom.
Ann: But Dave, I remember we were here one time; and somebody asked you a question, like, “Do you ever get lonely?”; and you said, “Yes.” And I thought, “I’ve never asked you that question: ‘Are you lonely?’ ‘Do you feel inadequate?’”
Dave: We’re not going to do it here, honey.
Ann: I’m just saying, I think it’s mutual to really get into the depths of each other’s hearts.
Karl: Boom; boom.
Dave: Yes; and I’m thinking, “Man, if a couple listening right now—you want to do something risky; and one of your resolutions is: ‘Take risk,’— here’s a risk for you in your marriage: ‘Get on your knees, together, with your spouse and pray.’”
Ann: Maybe you’ve never done it.
Dave: And maybe you’ve done it a hundred times. I’m guessing—most couples I talk to, it’s like, “Whoa; get on our knees?”—I’m not saying there’s some special thing about that.
Karl: Oh, I think there is!
Ann: I do too.
Dave: It’s a posture of surrender and humility. When you go down on your knees, you’re low; it’s like: “I need You,” “We need each other.” And if your spouse won’t do it, then you do it; but man, if you two can do it together, it could be a brand-new start.
Karl: —power/God’s power.
Ann: And I’ll say this, too, Dave—as I’ve said this before—if your spouse doesn’t pray with you, there’s something that’s magnificent about you reaching over, putting your hand on your spouse, even in bed, and saying, “God, thank You for my spouse,” and then say the things that are good about them before God, like, “Thank You, God, that he’s a good provider,” “Thank You that he’s kind,” “Thank You that he’s good-hearted.”
You may have problems, at first, coming up with some things; but to speak life, as you pray/saying things that God sees in your spouse, there is power to that too. And then to say, “Help us”; God hears those prayers.
Shelby: You’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Karl Clauson on FamilyLife Today. His book is called The 7 Resolutions: Where Self-Help Ends and God’s Power Begins. You can get a copy at FamilyLifeToday.com or by calling 800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
If you know anyone who needs to hear today’s conversation, be sure to share it from wherever you get your podcasts. And while you’re there, a simple way you can help more families discover God’s plan for marriage and families is by leaving a rating and review for FamilyLife Today.
Now, tomorrow, we’ll be back with Karl Clauson to talk about reigniting your fire for God through killing your sin; that’s tomorrow.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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