FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Focus Your Effort. Here’s How: Karl Clauson

with Karl Clauson | December 14, 2022
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Pulled in 52.7 directions? Author Karl Clauson has compelling, practical ways to focus your effort, draft a mission statement, and reconnect to your passion.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Pulled in 52.7 directions? On FamilyLife Today, Dave and Ann Wilson host author Karl Clauson, who’s got compelling, practical ways to focus your effort, draft a mission statement, and reconnect to your passion.

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Focus Your Effort. Here’s How: Karl Clauson

With Karl Clauson
December 14, 2022
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Karl: God, through Moses, said this—we would think wise people redeem time, right? In fact, we probably told our kids that: “Oh, wise people redeem time”; no—Moses said people, who redeem time, become wise: “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Here's what's awesome: “You want to grow in wisdom?”—learn to redeem time.


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 or on the FamilyLife® app.

Ann: This is FamilyLife—


Ann and Dave:Today!


Ann: Okay, so I'm going to ask you: “Have you made any resolutions lately?”

Dave: Yes.

Ann: Oh! Do I know about them?

Dave: Yes.

Ann: Okay.

Dave: No; I did make a resolution and that was to draw your heart out. I don't know how I'm doing, but that was months ago.

Ann: You know what? I've seen you do something, and I thought, “I bet—

Dave: Oh, yes; whatever/what else is she going to say?

Karl: No,—

Ann: No, I thought—

Karl: —I think she’s giving it straight.

Ann: —I thought you were going to say that you have decided to be more present in our house, because I've seen you/—

Dave: —almost the same thing.

Ann: —you haven't been on your phone as much; like you are—

Dave: —as much. [Laughter]

Karl: Hey, we’re taking baby steps here.

Ann: Yes! No, you really are. Even when we're with our kids/the grandkids, you're more present; and I thought, “I wonder if he made a resolution.”

Dave: I want to know if you've made any resolutions.

Ann: No, I don't usually make resolutions like that.

Dave: You just live, all out, for Jesus. [Laughter] You just do; you are never

Ann: I mean, my res—

Dave: —not sold out for Jesus. It’s the greatest thing about you; I love it.

Ann: I probably do need to make resolutions.

Dave: Well, you already heard this voice on the other side of the studio; Karl Clauson is in the house.

Karl: I love just listening to you guys. Good to be here, guys.

Dave: —because we just get into arguments, right here on the air. [Laughter]

Karl: This is great.

Dave: And obviously, Karl, you wrote a book called The 7 Resolutions. I can't even say the word.

Ann: I'm going to make a resolution after this time together with Karl.

Dave: What is it?

Ann: I don't know; I'm going to see where God takes me.

Karl: Oh, yes; maybe resolve not to resolve again. [Laughter] You know, the byline to this book is the most important: Where Self-Help Ends and God's Power Begins. Two weeks after January 1 of every year, studies say 85 percent of resolutions have been broken; two weeks.

Dave: Yes.

Karl: Resolutions are great if you're agreeing with God to let His power work in you; they can change everything. But if you're just playing: “I'm going to suck it up. I'm going to bootstrap this thing,” you're going to play spiritual Whac-A-Mole®; because you may win in one area—but whoop—“Here comes a critter over here”; and it's going to eat your lunch. [Laughter] God wants more for you.

Dave: Yes, so we've walked through—you know, you've got seven—I think we've walked through, at least, four or five of those. You can pick any one you want us to hit on today. Which one you going to hit?

Karl: Well, let's begin with why I'm even here. About 20 years ago, God allowed me to get a mission statement for my life.

Ann: You've had it for 20 years.

Karl: Yes, 20 years.

Ann: Has it changed at all?

Karl: Never.

Ann: Wow!

Karl: It did for about two years; because I started working it, and honing it; working it and honing it. But I remember hearing a wise man say, “You’ve got to hone in on how God's designed you”; and I started working that plan: “I exist to inspire a spiritual revolution within the church that reaches the world.”

I'm a church man at heart—my heart is the church—but here's what I've learned: some people have said, “Oh man, you’ve got this heart of an evangelist.” I have a heart of an evangelist, but the thing that fires me up most is watching the church so on fire—that it's doing what Paul said I'm supposed to do: equip the saints to do the work of ministry—that we're creating this movement/this cresting wave, if you will, of people, who are out there, reaching this world for Jesus; that fires me up. It gets me out of bed in the morning.

When I talk about focusing effort, here is the beauty of this—let's just get really practical—“When you know what you stand for, you know what to say, ‘No,’ to.”

Ann: That's good.

Karl: I went to a Waffle House® with a friend in Little Rock. First time in, he goes [southern accent], “You ever ordered the hashbrowns here?” [Laughter] I said, “No, I haven't, man.” He goes, “You're going to love these hashbrowns.”

We sit down in the booth; and the young lady walks over, says, “Can I help you?” He goes, “I'm going to order for him; give us two orders of scattered, smothered, covered.” [Laughter] And I'm like, “What in the world is this?!—'scattered, smothered, covered’; ‘scattered, smothered, covered.’” Well, I found out scattered is a bunch of hashbrowns on the grill, scattered; smothered is onions; and covered is cheese that binds it all together. [Laughter]

Ann: That actually sounds really good. [Laughter]

Karl: It's also got another nickname; “heart attack” is the other nickname. [Laughter] No; but scattered, smothered, covered.

Here's why I get a kick out of that story: that's our life—we're like Waffle House hashbrowns—God wants us to clear this up: this resolution of focus effort, I am rabid about, and here's why. I think the complexity of life in America today is more complex than even 2,000 years ago. Now, I'm not saying—

Ann: Yes; what do you mean by that?

Karl: I'm saying just the phone alone has got multiple opportunities for spiritual compromise/for frittering away time. One of the greatest lines I ever heard was from a man named Gordon McDonald—he said it, and he's right—“Unseized time flows to our weaknesses.”

You can't begin to—and we might talk about redeemed time in a moment here—you can't begin to redeem time until you've got a focused life. Some people might freak out right now, going, “Oh, I don't have a mission statement; more stuff I got to do. Every time I listen to Dave and Ann, I got more stuff I got to do.” [Laughter] No, slow the roll; everything's good here.

I will encourage you, though: when you were in your mama's womb—all the days that were marked out for you God had penned them down—everything. You were knit together in your mother's womb: there's a uniqueness to you; there's a unique design. And then, when Christ ascended, according to Ephesians 3, He took captives captive, and He gave gifts to man. You’ve got this unique design—"I’m made in Mom's womb this way; I am the way I am.” That's great: “I have certain passions.”

By the way, Christian, could I just say this right now?—quit apologizing for the passions that God puts in your heart. Don't do that anymore. If God places it there, and you've got good friends, [whom] you've chosen, who are around you, who are helping be guardrails or wise counsel, go for it.

But you combine the unique purpose and design that God's given you, when you were designed in the womb, with the spiritual gifting you've been given, and you begin to massage those things with a few keywords: you get a mission statement.

Here's what's awesome: I don't do anything in my life—I don't do a job that I work at right now; I don't take meetings; I don't take appointments—that are outside of my primary focus. I have a mission statement; I stick to it. Here's what sweet: it shows me what to say, “Yes,” to and “No,” to. I get more joy; and actually, I am able to be a much better husband; because I'm not out there—scattered, smothered, covered—like fries at Waffle House. [Laughter]

Dave: Yes; I remember when I first got in ministry, I thought, “We should develop our weaknesses; that's what we should do.”

Karl: Oh, yes; yes.

Dave: You know what I mean?

Karl: Yes!

Dave: And of course, there's some truth to that; but I realized, over decades of ministry: “No, no, no, no, no. God made you with strengths and gifts: milk them; use them; live in them.” I remember one of my first preaching classes ever in seminary—we had to do like a ten-minute little trial sermon—and the students then gave feedback, right?

Karl: Yes.

Dave: I get up and do my little deal, and I sit down. I'll never forget this; the teacher goes, “Okay; go ahead, guys and gals, tell Dave what you think.” And they went through their little things; and basically, they said, “You're a good storyteller; you're not a very good teacher.”

Karl: Whoa!

Dave: You know, “You don't/things aren't clear about…”

Karl: You didn’t link the stories to the text.

Dave: I'll never forget—I'm sitting there; I'm sort of discouraged—and the teacher goes, “So Dave, what did you hear?” I said, “I heard I shouldn't preach.” He goes, “Dave, you heard the wrong thing.”

Karl: Yes, you heard the wrong message.

Dave: I go, “What should I have heard?” He goes, “You're a good storyteller; milk it. Every sermon you give should have stories. [Laughter]

Karl: Yes.

Dave: “Make sure you have stories. Now, the other part—explaining—you can get better.

Ann: —"and exegeting.”

Dave: “You’ve got to learn how to get better at that.

Karl: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

Dave: “But you are never going to preach a sermon without stories, because that's what you're good at.” Well, guess what?—40 years later, he was right. I always make sure stories are in there, and I had to get the other part better.

I think we live in this world, where we think “I’ve got to make my weaknesses better.” Yes, of course, you want to get better at that; but you want to live and thrive in what God’s gifted you to do. That's what you're saying!

Karl: I've got a young team. It's really funny because, when we get our staff together, and they get in a room, the average age is about 28—

Ann: That’s awesome.

Karl: —until I walk in; and then, it goes to 49; [Laughter] no joking.

But here is what I love—and this is what being 62 does for you—you've lived enough, where you go, “Okay, we've bumped along,” and I did that. I went to them, and I said, “Listen to me. You guys have gone through this. You know your mission: ‘Stay in your lane,’ for two reasons:

  • One is: Excel at how God's designed you—focus on that; go after your strengths—don't focus on your weaknesses so much.
  • And here's the other reason: God puts someone else around you, who’s excellent at what your weak at!

Dave: Right! Exactly.

Karl: “That's called the body of Christ.”

Dave: Exactly.

Karl: So yes; focus effort: “Get a mission statement.” That's one of my passions in this book: I want to show people how to do that.

Dave: I mean, I love—and it's what you're saying, out of Ephesians 2:10—“We are—

Karl: —"God's workmanship.”

Dave: —"God’s workmanship,”—poiema—we’re a poem, created in Christ Jesus, to do what?

Karl: —good works.

Dave: —good works, but He's prepared beforehand. That is a mission statement—it's like: “That's what I'm designed to do; specifically, what's it mean for me?”—that's what you're saying.

Karl: Yes.

Ann: But I think that's the key: I think, in the church—and I know this happens with women—is we become jealous. And then, we become competitive; and we're like, “Oh, she has so many gifts, and I don't have any gifts.” And then, we get jealous of the gifts; and we try to become like someone else, when there's enough air that we can all breathe it. There are enough gifts that God's given us that we can all live in and really just grow in our giftedness and our passions.

I'll say to people: “If you want to know why you were here, look at what you're passionate about; look at what you're good at. But look, also, where your pain has been;—

Karl: —big time.

Ann: —because sometimes, that pain can lead us into that gift.

Dave: Okay, what's “Redeemed time” mean?

Karl: Ooh! This is one of my favorites; this is it for me. Now, I've always been a Franklin Covey Planner dude, okay?—

Dave: Yes.

Karl: —ever since I read 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Ann: Yes.

Dave: Oh, yes.

Karl: —at 33,000 feet, flying back from South Africa. [Laughter]

Dave: Really?

Karl: Yes, true story.

But we think, sometimes, time redemption is something that Franklin Covey or Og Mandino invented. No, no, no, no; go back to Moses. The only song he wrote—he wrote a song—and he said, “Oh God, teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

Whoa! Well, here's a profound thing here; it gets me so giddy I feel like jumping up and down. God, through Moses, said this—we would think wise people redeem time, right? In fact, we probably told our kids that: “Oh, wise people redeem time”; no—Moses said people, who redeem time, become wise: “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Here's what's awesome: “You want to grow in wisdom?”—learn to redeem time.

Gordon McDonald said it, years ago in a book; and he's right: “Unseized time flows to our weaknesses.” And the reason we have to seize the day today is that I've got distractions coming at me like, I mean, every which way; it's like, every angle, they're coming at me.

Dave: Right.

Karl: So we've got to be able to redeem time. Now, I want to put a cautionary flag because my bride is in studio, listening in right now. [Laughter] I can hear what she's thinking right now; I want to be careful here.

This is not about becoming a workaholic or getting crazy, just hyper-focused on: “Oh, is every moment redeemed?” You can take a nap to the glory of God; you can take a grandkid to a ballpark and talk two-year-old to the glory of God; you can go on a date, and the date could take longer than you had planned to the glory of God.

All I'm saying is this: “Redeeming time is God's idea.” It's clear, if you go to the book of Ephesians, the Apostle Paul says/teaches: “Redeem the time”/Paul says, “Redeem the time, because the days are evil.” You know what the context of that passage is?—sexual sin. I am absolutely convinced that what Paul's saying here is that unredeemed time, especially in men's lives, unseized time flows to the weaknesses of sexual temptation.

Dave: King David—

Ann: Yes.

Karl: It happened to him.

Dave: —supposed to be at war.

Karl: Yes.

Dave: Sexual sin—and he's wasting time and not using time the way God wanted him to do—and we do the same thing.

Karl: Oh, my goodness. I used to drive myself crazy, trying to be busy. God broke me and caused me to repent of that; He used my bride to do it in a sweet way. But now, I live to be led by the power of the Holy Spirit so that moments are redeemed—whether I'm working hard, playing hard, going on a date, an unexpected call that's going to glorify God—it maybe isn't by my day planner, but it's redeemed time.

Ann: But Karl, it sounds so exhausting because—no, I'm serious; because some people are like: “Life is busy. Our kids are in the house; we're exhausted. All I want to do, at the end of the day, is sit in front of the TV and watch Netflix®. Do I need to plan out every minute?”

Karl: No, but I will say this: “Did you know I believe it could glorify God?” Some people are going to go, “Oh, my circuits are going to blow.” [Laughter] It could very well glorify God that you sit down and watch a Netflix with your spouse. “Oh, you're kidding; I thought that's the time that's just kind of totally unredeemed, and God just kind of tolerates it when we do that.” No, God knows how we're wired; He designed us the way we are. Sometimes, God's great with those restorative moments; and sometimes, it's in front of a flat screen; and it's okay.

Dave: Well, I mean, I'm thinking you're saying redeem time also means redeemed Sabbath. Sabbath is God's gift to man. He gave us a gift called rest. Redeemed time isn't just: “Get busy, busy, busy; and always be on mission.” The best way I'm going to be on mission, sometimes, I need to recoup and refresh.

Karl: There's no doubt. I got a Holy Spirit gut check here; you guys ready for this one?

Ann: Yes.

Karl: Here we go: the statistics that I have about media usage—and some of the raw numbers that I have about where people are at with their calendar in a day—we've got a lot of unredeemed time.

Ann: Oh, yes.

Karl: I did a seven-day challenge. I had a prof walk into our class—a pastoral minor class in my Bible college—and he said [authoritative voice], “Gentlemen,”[I’ll] never forget you—"Gentlemen, I want you to be good pastors. If you're going to be good pastors, you're going to redeem time.” I'm like, “Yes”; because I was raised by a dad, who worked his booty off. My dad knew how to work, and he taught me how to work; so I knew how to work.

He says, “Here's the deal, men. We want/I want you to take a challenge. I'm going to give you this calendar—everyone, take one home—it's filled out by half an hour. Now, I don't want you getting too crazy on this one; but I want, as best you can, to account for every half hour of a day. When you wake up in the morning, just for one week, I just want you to do this redeemed-time challenge. Who's up for it?” I'm/my hand’s first in the air. [Laughter] Well, then peer pressure: everyone's hand is in the air.

Let me tell you something that happened to me. Here I am—I'm newly-married—we got a little boy. I'm a youth pastor, making 450 bucks a month; [Laughter] I was bringing home the cheddar, man. [Laughter] And I'm building decks on the side; and I'm a full-time student. That's a lot.

I start out on this redeemed-time challenge. You guys might know where this is going. I start in: first day, every half an hour filled. Second day, every half an hour filled; but I'm starting to notice something. I've been knocking down the ducks so well I'm starting to pull things from Wednesday into Tuesday. Wednesday comes; knocking down ducks pretty well; but uh oh, Thursday’s starting to dry up; I'm starting to invent things. Things that are taking 15 minutes, I'm saying/I'm lying, and I'm going, “That took an hour.” [Laughter] Friday comes, I'm like, “Oh, Sabbath day, rest—got to have a Sabbath—this is it!” Saturday comes; I'm back on the treadmill.

Here's what happened: I found that, even though I was a busy guy, there were some hours in my life that were yet unredeemed. And God doesn't want us busy—no, God doesn't want us busy; no way!—but He wants us out of [those] squeezable hours that get frittered away.

Ann: —especially, on our phones. I can be on my phone for a long time, scrolling.

Karl: You ready for this?—national average on phone, outside of work/national average: five hours—

Ann: I believe it.

Karl: —a day.

Dave: —a day,

Ann: —a day.

Karl: I'll tell you: this has gotten so convicting for me, because I found myself/I got to be up early to do radio at 5:00 a.m.

Ann: What time do you get up?

Karl: Too early; let's just say that. [Laughter] I need 7 1/2 hours sleep.

Ann: Yes.

Karl: I found myself taking a phone and being on it too late. I found two friends—and you know what they have?—they have gone into my iPhone®, and they've gone into my settings that blocks my phone out. You know what?—my smartphone becomes a totally dumb phone every night at 7:30 p.m. There’s no way to access the internet.

In fact, I had it blocked out so bad: one night, I was driving home from an elder meeting with my bride. [Laughter] I didn't know how to get out of this neighborhood. I go to plug in my maps. My maps is shut down! I'm having to go home the old-fashioned way! “What's this cross street?” “What's that cross street?” [Laughter] I mean, it was horrible; but man, it has served me well, just having that accountability to redeem time to get to bed.

Ann: Yes.

Karl: Whoo! Makes life so much better.

Dave: You know, as I listen to you, even the last few days, this is what hit me: “How bad do you want it?” That's what just hit me: “How bad do you want to walk with God?” “How bad do you want your life to change?” “How bad do you want to make a mark on eternity?”

This is your moment to say: “I want this, and I'm going to make the resolution,” and “I'm going to get some accountability, choosing wise friends to help me do it,” and “My life’s going to change by the power of God.”

Karl: Dallas Willard is one of the greatest authors on spiritual formation. He's gone on to his reward, but he said this—I was reading his book again/rereading one of his books—and he said this: “Our behavior always follows our belief.”

Dave and Ann: Yes.

Karl: Dave, you're right. To the listener, who’s out there: “I don't ask that you let your behavior start shifting. Get a belief boiling that there is a gap between where you are today and God's promises, and go take hold of those things! Go get them!”

Shelby: You're listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Karl Clauson on FamilyLife Today. We're going to hear from Karl, again, in just a second; but real quick, his book is called The 7 Resolutions: Where Self-Help Ends and God's Power Begins. We've got copies of Karl's book available at You can also order your copy by calling 800-358-6329; that's 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

You know, we asked Karl Clauson his thoughts about this ministry, and here's how he enthusiastically responded.

Karl: Hey, while I'm here, can I just say how much I love FamilyLife and how grateful I am for this program? Dave and Ann, you are both so genuine and honest; and this kind of authenticity is so rare and, yet, you do it on a daily basis. It's so cool.

I know this month there's a huge thing going on where every donation to this ministry gets matched, dollar for dollar. That's awesome; that's phenomenal; that's God at work. What an opportunity to bring real help and answers to hurting families. Here's my challenge:

If you're not in a position to contribute right now, you're off the hook; don't worry about that. That's okay; no pressure.

But if you can, and the Spirit of God is prompting you, I want to say, “Contribute with zeal and gusto. Let's invest in the gospel. The time is now, and investing in the lives of families is critical.” I can't think of a better place this month to give than locking arms with FamilyLife and making a generous gift. Would you do that? You will be making a difference.

Shelby: Thanks so much, Karl. And right now, when you do give any amount, we're going to send you, as our “Thank you,” four copies of Bob Lepine’s book called The Four Emotions of Christmas—four copies; one to keep for yourself, and three to give away to a neighbor, a friend or a family member. It's our “Thank you,” to you when you give today.

Again, thanks to some generous Ministry Partners, any gift that you give will be matched, dollar for dollar, until we hit $2 million. That's for a one-time gift; or if you become a monthly Partner right now, your monthly gifts will be doubled for the next

12 months. You can give today at; or again, you can give us a call at 800-358-6329; that's 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

You ever find yourself having a tough time relating to people in conversation? Every introvert went, “Uh, yes.” Well, tomorrow, on FamilyLife Today, Dave and Ann Wilson are joined with their guest, Heather Holleman, to give actionable items for greater connections.

On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife, a Cru® Ministry.

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