Jackson Five Friday: The Mini Pit


My favorite Psalm and one I’ve often quoted here is 103.  Its beautiful picture of forgiveness is familiar to many, but the Psalm also contains one of the most comforting truisms in all of Scripture.  Specifically, the Psalmist writing of God says, “who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion.”  Certainly, this applies at one level to salvation.  God redeems my life from the pit of death, sorrow and eternal separation from Him, from a lack of meaning and direction, from the insurmountable chasm between me and His standard.  I am so grateful for this redemption on the macro, eternal scale, and I am in awe that I will ultimately be crowned with love and compassion.

But God also graciously redeems my life from the pit on a micro level, and He does it over and over again.  I was in a pit just this week.  Why you ask?  Because parenting is %*@&#-ing hard sometimes.  It can be discouraging, especially when I feel like I am trying so very hard to do it right.  But I reached my limit and my dreaded “other mother” roared out of her shell like a rabid hyena.  And as you may know, not much can condemn one to the pit as quickly and as surely as self-loathing.  But somehow God always reminds me that I do not earn His love.  I am not rescued from any pit — macro or micro, eternal or transient — because I deserve it.  No, I am rescued because He loves me.  No matter what.  The absurdity of being crowned with love and compassion is not lost on me.  No, I am downright giddy with gratitude.  It’s better than winning the lottery, better than any prize this world has to offer.  Nothing could compare to being the redeemed child of the One True King.

I hope you too know the inside and the outside of the pit.  In fact, if we are honest, we all know the inside.  So the only real question is do you know the outside?


Jackson Five Friday: The Fall and the Sparrow


It’s been nearly two months since my last post, but in addition to my annual social media fast in August, there’s been a few things going on in Jackson Five World.  My husband accepted a new job in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and although I haven’t been longing to leave the D.C. area nor given much thought to living in Chattanooga before the last six or so weeks, I’m pretty on board with it.  Not surprisingly, our sons are NOT.  Except for a brief, fun, beach-filled eighteen months in Florida, Northern Virginia is all they’ve known.  They love their friends at school, in sports, at church, and in our neighborhood.  Why on earth would they want to leave?  Yet we are.  December will bring a whole new life, and I’m hoping and praying that sometime next spring they ALL three will be able to say, “You know Mom and Dad, you were right, we LOVE it here!”

Because I believe God hears our prayers, and I’m asking God to make it a smooth transition for them — that they’ll keep and cherish the irreplaceable friends here, and add more in Chattanooga.  The thing is if you have lived a life open to God’s leading and direction, then you’ve seen Him provide and orchestrate your life in ways that can only be explained in supernatural terms.  Just recently I was praying about something very, very specific, and very, very big.  It was the kind of prayer where you might be tempted to think, “God could do this, but probably won’t.”  I feel totally convicted about not praying those prayers at all.  And I feel like a miserable lukewarm wretch when I pray them only half believing that He could do it.  Because I know deep down that nothing — absolutely nothing — is impossible with God (Luke 1:37),

But I also live in a world where many feel and live defeated.  I live in a world that is marked by death and destruction, one where beautiful marriages fall apart, where The Fall manifests itself more and more each year (anyone over 40 can attest to this truism, but of all things I found out this week I have a cataract!).  Yes, on the one hand the world is falling apart at the seams and its inhabitants too.  But on the other, He’s got the whole world in His hands, not a single sparrow falls to the ground apart from His plan (Matthew 10:29).  Can you hold these seemingly conflicting truths in tension?  Can you live each day knowing that somehow they are both 100% true?

I can.  I can because sometimes God shows you in a special way how He loves you, how He knows the desires of your heart, how He hears your prayers.  That big prayer I prayed?  It’s still out there.  It hasn’t been answered in the way I would like.  But God showed me in His infinite creativity how He heard my prayer.  It’s one of those things that wouldn’t translate well — it’s a great joy to me, but I don’t think it would be especially encouraging to someone else.  And I honestly I hope you can relate to that.  Do you have signs and wonders you know are from God, but can’t really share in detail because others wouldn’t be able to appreciate the magnitude?  If you don’t have these wonders to cherish and ponder, can I ask you to look harder?  Keep a journal.  Keep your eyes and ears open.  I believe God wants to show you how much He loves and cares for you.  After all, are you not worth more than the sparrow?  Jesus assures you that you are!  He says, “So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31).

I sing because I am happy.  I sing because I’m free, 


Pride Again: Remove the Scales

I wrote last week about how the news just keeps coming, and how it’s a beatdown. I can get so discouraged by it. The frenzied outrage over Cecil the lion’s death in contrast to everyday injustices is perplexing, but it reminds me of a story my uncle told me. He was a high school history teacher and found it disturbing that in watching a movie about the Holocaust that the students would visibly and audibly react to Hitler’s dog’s death more than the horrific murder of millions of innocent human beings. The thing is, I think I understand this now. It’s a simple matter of being calloused. We do not often watch movies or play games or read books about dogs or lions being killed. Unfortunately we are all very familiar with the fictional and real destruction of human beings. We cannot go a day without learning about someone being gunned down, without hearing stories of real live children being treated like utter garbage, or babies being savagely pulled apart in the name of “reproductive rights.” We’re calloused. We’ve heard it all before. But a lion being hunted for the fun of it? That’s a whole new concept. Oh yes, Americans can get their judgment on for that.

It makes a certain kind of self-righteous pride rise up in me. C.S. Lewis observed and condemned this tendency. He wrote: “To avoid a man’s society because he is poor or ugly or stupid may be bad; but to avoid it because he is wicked — with the all but inevitable implication that you are less wicked (at least in some respect) is dangerous and disgusting.”

May we not let ourselves foolishly slip into the prideful posture that we could never do that.  Because no matter what side you are coming from, the “I could never do that” stance may have a certain pleasure in it but it is untrue (you let enough darkness in your heart, and it will take over — just read Romans 1).  That kind of judgment also shuts down the dialog, and sharing the love of Christ means being in relationship.  Remember how Jesus associated with the tax collectors (the most hated class of the day), the partiers and the prostitutes?  Personally, I’m not doing a great job  of building relationship with the crowds Jesus made a point of hanging with.  I need to do better.

Praying today that the scales we all have will be removed, that the thick callouses we’ve grown in response to injustice will be sloughed away.  Jesus asked His disciples, “Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?”  Mark 8:17-18.  May we be able to answer Him, “I do understand, help me understand more.  My heart has some hard and calloused spots, Lord.  Forgive me.  Smooth them over with Your love and compassion.  Let my eyes see and my ears hear.  May I love with Your love.”

Brandon Heath has a catchy song about this principle.  Perhaps you’ve heard it.  It says, “Give me your eyes for just one second.  Give me your eyes so I can see…”  He sings about the brokenhearted and the forgotten.  But he could sing about abortionists and lion killers, because as unfathomable as some of us may find it, Jesus loves them too.  He’s not going to start loving them when they clean up their act.  He’s loved them all along. He loves them just as much as He loves you and He paid the price for every sin they’ve ever committed.

The older brother in the story of the prodigal son was none too happy about the mercy offered to his brother.  But let us not be like him!  May we instead cherish the mercy offered to us and to every person who’s ever lived.  If we can’t do that, I’m not sure we get to enter the party.  Older brother sulking belies an understanding of one’s own need for forgiveness.  Most of all,  may we pray fervently that the gift of mercy will be accepted, and that the life-changing work of Jesus will be evident throughout our world.

See you in September!



Jackson Five Friday: Pride and NPR’s TED Radio Hour


Are you having a fabulous summer?  I sure hope so.  Mine feels like it is slipping away too fast — even faster than usual.  I feel sad that swim season is wrapping up, and that August is nearly here.  And I don’t even want to hear that horrific little phrase “back to school” and yet I know when the time comes, as unfathomable as it is right now, we will probably be itching for routine and order.

So much has gone on in the world this summer, tragic news stories just keep coming, and the world feels like it’s teetering on the edge.  Division along racial, political and religious lines feels unprecedented, at least for my short life, and it’s a beat down in many ways.  But one of the things that I find most discouraging is the lack of thought and logic of many people who join the conversation.

Freedom of speech is threatened, but it’s almost scarier when those with freedom choose to be lemmings.  Pondering and considering arguments appears to be a lost art — to paraphrase Fletch, “It’s all soundbites these days.”  One of my major goals as a parent is to make sure my sons are capable of deep thought, of entertaining both sides of an argument, and knowing that unless there is absolute truth, all of it is just meaningless jibber jabber.

Have you ever listened to NPR’s TED Radio Hour?  It’s a pretty great concept.  The host is Guy Raz whom I find invariably likable — he has a sort of high pitched, dorky voice (if you’ve seen the children’s movie Rio Raz is the voice twin of “Blue”) and consistently engages with all walks of people in such a casual and yet seemingly authentic way.

Anyway, Raz gives context to and discusses TED talks with the speakers themselves.  The shows are built around a topic, and TED tidbits are strung together.  It reminds me a lot of a topical sermon, but it’s totally secular (obviously).  But even when I find the views to be rather poorly reasoned, I enjoy listening — the discussions are always thought-provoking.

One of the programs was based on the seven deadly sins.  Raz said that it is surprising how consistently the seven deadly sins show up in fictional characters from Friends to SpongeBob.  Even Gilligan’s Island appears to be based on the seven deadly sins — Gilligan (sloth), The Skipper (wrath), Ginger (lust), Mary Ann (envy), Mrs. Powell (gluttony), Mr. Powell (greed), and The Professor (pride).  It’s kind of amazing — it doesn’t seem likely that the characters would fall so neatly and clearly into these categories on accident.

But what is befuddling is that even though the entire podcast is about the seven deadly sins, the Bible is disregarded almost entirely.  It is quoted once during the segment on lust.  In fact, most of the program is a discussion of how the list doesn’t really represent “sins” at all (interestingly there was no positive spin attempted for gluttony — secularism is on board with the Judeo-Christian ethic in wholeheartedly condemning gluttony, at least from a food standpoint.  It would be interesting to really unpack that but it’s not relevant here).

Anyway the arguments of the various TED speakers fell short with regard to both coherence and logic, but what I found most interesting was the firm commitment to the absence of authority.  How can you even attempt to talk about sin without acknowledging at the very least a Natural Law or Higher Being?  The word “sin” cannot even mean anything outside of some transcendent standard.  Implicit in using the word is an acknowledgement of a standard, but then that very standard is avoided by all manner of mental acrobatics.  And what’s more is that the charade is acted out as though it has meaning — layer upon layer of absurdity.

Pride is the ugly and tenacious root of so much — people will do practically anything to avoid admitting that God is God, that we are called to live lives of submission to Him.  A moment’s reflection confirms that the seven deadly sins all have an element of pride.  Guy Raz may attempt to rationalize everything away, but that’s just what pride does.

C.S. Lewis said, “As long as one knows one is proud one is safe from the worst form of pride.”  Do you think you are proud?  I know I am.  I hate to be wrong, and I hate apologizing — two sure signs!

But one of the best ways to combat a problem is to face the problem.  I just had a conversation with one of my sons yesterday about forcing yourself to apologize, and how it gets easier when you do.  Humbling yourself and admitting you were wrong feels like a momentous thing…until you do it.

Living a life surrendered to God is the same way, it feels monumental…until you do it.  Saying “Here is my life, all of it.  I’m not holding anything back” is not scary.  It’s freeing.  There is freedom in surrender.  Jesus himself said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10b).  But we have to admit we are not ultimately in control.  We need to acknowledge that we are prideful, slothful, envious, greedy, gluttonous, lustful, and even wrathful sometimes.  It’s freeing to pull off the silly little sin-free mask, and admit who you are, and KNOW deep down that you are LOVED anyway.  What Jesus did on the Cross was declare that, notwithstanding NPR, sin is real and that He is LOVE.

I hope you know that justice and mercy met on the Cross — that they are only meaningful words in relation to each other.  My prayer today on this beautiful summer day is that YOU know these things deep down, that in this crazy world where so little seems to make any sense, that your identity and security are in Christ Jesus.

Not sure I’ll be back here till September since I do a social media fast in August (highly recommend), but please know that it means a lot to me that you take time to read my posts.  May the rest of your summer be blessed.  May we each live life and live it abundantly as Jesus intends.



Jackson Five Friday: Making Known His Deeds


Happy Summer Friends,

I hope you are all kicking off summer break (or soon will be) in a way that draws you closer to those you love.  May the downtime be just productive and structured enough to maintain sanity.  Getting the balance right between rest and structure is a laudable goal, but I hope you’ll give yourself a lot of grace in the coming months to know it is just a goal, and not unlike so many aspects of life, perfection therein is totally, and I mean totally, unattainable.

This week in my devotional I read 1 Chronicles 16:8 Monday through Friday.  I like revisiting the same verses for a string of days because it really makes them sink in.  Maybe read these words through a few times to get a good feel for them: “Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!” (ESV).

Perhaps it is an odd reaction, but I sometimes feel justified in intentionally not making known his deeds.  Let me explain.  Say I have one of those experiences that I know — know deep down — is God.  Sometimes I might tell someone about it, more often I would share it with just my family.  But lots of times, I tell no one.  Honestly part of it is that I don’t want to be known as some loon who only talks about how good God is.  There is a part of me that feels like if I am always talking about what God did for me today, I won’t even come across as legitimate.  Like people will roll their eyes and say,” There she goes again…a regular 21st century church lady.”

So this is verse is challenging for me.  Make known his deed among the peoples?  Wait, not just my people?  The peoples?  I need to be more willing to share God’s loving provision for me, even in the smallest of matters.  Even in the small matter of the earring pictured below.

About FullSizeRender-13a month ago, my niece, Maddie (13) was in DC on an end-of-middle-school field trip.  Her schedule was jam packed.  But I couldn’t have her less than ten miles away without seeing her.  So I studied her itinerary and decided that we’d just happen to visit the Jefferson Memorial at the same time as her group.  The thing was, her group took a detour on the way to the Tidal Basin.  I took only my oldest son, Will, with me.  We were on the steps, taking in the sunset above and her group was driving by some unknown park that the bus driver insisted needed to be seen.

“I’m sorry,” I told Will after Maddie texted me about the detour.

“I like sitting here,” he answered.  And it occurred to me that my apology was ridiculous.  It was a beautiful night with no rushing about, nowhere we needed to be.  We just sat there, the two of us, talking a little, but he’s thirteen as well and never prone to be overly chatty.

Eventually Maddie arrived.  We hugged her, snapped a few pictures, met a few of her friends, and said goodbye.  It was brief, but worth it.

On the way back to our car it was getting pretty dark, but as we walked I saw something shiny on the pavement.  I instinctively reached down to see what it was.  I picked it up and gasped.  It was my earring!  Did I know that I had lost an earring?  No, I did not.  I was not on the lookout for anything.  I just happened to look down and find my own earring that I did not know was lost.  The chances of that may be infinitesimal, but I don’t live in a world of chance, and neither do you.  I believe God showed me that earring as a little reminder:  “You know I’ve got the whole world in My hands, right?  Nothing goes astray — not a little sparrow, not a little earring — nothing falls to the ground without Me knowing.”

So my friends, I am resolving to be more faithful in making known His deeds — His endless loving deeds — toward me.  I’d love to know what He’s done for you as well.

Have a fabulous weekend soaking up His love!


Jackson Five Friday: Heaven


Dear Friends,

It’s been a soggy week here in DC.  On Monday I heard a forecast about how this system was going to move in and then park here.  I thought it was a novel description of a weather pattern, and unfortunately they were exactly right, for once.  Nary a trace of blue sky since Monday, and off and on rain every day.

I’m terribly sensitive to weather.  I can hardly wait for the sun to peak out later tonight as my phone says it will.  I think if I lived in San Francisco I’d just have to cross the Golden Gate on days when the fog wouldn’t lift.  I actually haven’t spent much time there, but both times I went across the bridge when the city was misty and gray, pure, almost blinding, sunshine was just on the other side.  I imagine that’s almost a glimpse of what heaven is like.  One side full of a confusing fog, the other absolute clarity.  One side beats you down with the pain of this world, the other side a tearless existence.  One side relentlessly tugs at you in a million different directions, the other side there is no conflict, inner or otherwise.  On one side darkness seems to be tightening its grip, on the other side ONLY LIGHT.

I am blessed with many wise friends, one of whom lost both a baby girl to SIDS and a brother when she was growing up.  I lost a baby (a miscarriage that even after nine years I don’t feel ready to write or talk about much at all — although I did have a good cry over her (I’m quite sure it was a girl) with my husband a few months ago, which I’m pretty sure he was alarmed by).  And my brother Craig died when I was thirty.  This wise friend intimately knows loss and exemplifies faith.  Like pretty much all my favorite people in this world, she also happens to be extremely fun!  Anyway, she and I were exchanging messages not that long ago and she suggested that our hilarious brothers were sharing their humor with our daughters.  I cannot tell you how much I love this thought.

I hope that clouds make you long for heaven too, that you look forward to a great reunion, that even though the darkness of the world can press down hard sometimes, that you hold on to the promise that in the end Light and Love always win.

In John 8:12 we read this: “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'”

May I follow Him today and always, walking in the Light and knowing that one day clouds will be no more.

With Love,


Jackson Five Friday: On Being a Wretch

Happy Friday Friends!

I hope you’ve had a marvelous short week — what a gift it is for Friday to come so quickly!

Sometimes I wonder if the lyrics to Amazing Grace are so familiar that they lack their deserving punch. I mean do we ever stop to truly identify ourselves as wretched?  Imperfect?  Well, maybe, we are human after all.  But I think if we are honest — and many are not — we can all sing, believing with gratitude, that it is only by grace that God “saved a wretch like me.”

You only have to glance at any newspaper to see people claiming to be downright saintly in spite of a mountain of wretch-like evidence.  In contrast, self-proclaimed wretches are often pointed at by a throng of judging fingers and labeled hypocrites with permanent ink.  The lack of logic is almost as befuddling as the lack of humility.  So many willing first-stone throwers!

I pray my sons will make wise decisions, and I hope they will never point judging fingers, or be so disillusioned by pride to think they aren’t wretched.  Because I know them.  I know myself.  I know their dad.   I can assure you, we are all wretched.  The wretched Jackson Five!  It doesn’t have much of a ring, other than it’s 100% true.  Of course we also happen to be children of the One True King, and He adores us with an unquenchable love that will never end, no matter what.  So we’ve got that going for us!

But honestly, I do think being able to laugh at yourself is a small part of having a posture of humility.  Humility is obviously necessary to give your life to Christ (“In his pride the wicked man does not seek him;,in all his thoughts there is no room for God” Proverbs 10:4).  And prideful people don’t laugh at themselves.  So it follows that laughing at yourself is actually vitally important.

My son Nate and I had an interesting little exchange the other night.  He was writing an essay about the Chesapeake Bay.  He wrote some silly sentence that was not established by the facts presented,

When I read the sweeping claim back to Nate, he got so amused at himself!   I didn’t even need to tell him that his sentence might be overwrought, just hearing me read it back struck him as downright hilarious.  Ahh, that darling teachable spirit, so willing to laugh at his own expense!

Lord Jesus, may Nate always be this way!  And not just about essay writing but in other areas, where he’s more inclined to point fingers and lay blame. May I too be humble and teachable and easily amused, even at my own misgivings.  

May each of us know, deep down, that we are wretched, and that Your Grace is AMAZING. 

Have a great weekend, friends, soaking up the sweet sound of grace.