Jackson Five Friday: Beyond Superficiality

Hey Friends,

It’s actually Saturday –Friday kinda got away from me. Anyway this morning is unbelievably gorgeous. It’s 71 degrees under clear skies, with a lovely and uncommon little breeze. Maybe the breeze is somehow connected to Florence, I don’t know. How odd to be sitting on my front porch beholding such glory when just one state away there is such devastating destruction. Praying for all those affected.

I wish I could post about my sons. They say the most hilarious things. And I’d love to quote them and then pull out some spiritual lesson. It’s been one of my favorite things to do now for over ten years here on the blog. But sadly they’ve reached the age that they do not want to be quoted on my blog. And I get that. I really do. Still, it’s a little sad to have such an abundance of material and yet refrain.

I will say though that I am generally very proud of their depth of thought. Richard Foster said, and this was decades before Twitter, that “Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.”

Are you blessed to have some deep thinkers in your life? Are you helping those around you to move beyond the superficial? One of my sons is less naturally contemplative than the others. Sometimes his analysis of an idea feels a millimeter deep. Who is better equipped to help him engage more meaningfully than me? It’s certainly part of every parents’ job to help their children move beyond superficial thought. We cannot get inside their minds but we can point the way. The question is how.

The answer, like so many answers, isn’t just found in the Bible. Of course the Bible has the answer and in various locations! What’s amazing is how many answers to living the Christian life are found in a single chapter. Romans 12 is a beautiful summation of living a Christ-like life. I think every Christian should know it inside out.

Romans 12:2a says “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Can I take a stab at an amplified paraphrase?

Stop letting the superficial, talking-point, buzz-word rhetoric get in your head. Just stop. Instead spend time alone with God and in His Word and in His Creation. Your life is transformed when your mind is renewed. Guess what never once renewed a mind? Social media, movies, friends, or even good books. Faithful friends and good books are important. But they do not renew your mind. The renewing of your mind is a work of the Spirit. Stop mindlessly conforming and let Him transform you.

Praying for a weekend at least sprinkled with quiet moments before the Lord.

With Love,


Jackson Five Friday: What’s for Dinner?

Hey Friends,

Hope the back-to-school season is going swimmingly.  So far it is for us.  Since all three sons are now at one school, and we have a fully licensed driver and another with a permit, things feel a little less complicated.  Sports are part of the school day.  Sam goes directly to swim practice instead of being home for a while and then swimming or doing something else.  This simple shift in schedule has dramatically improved our lives.  Sitting down to dinner flows naturally.  They walk in the door hungry and I’ve been doing a pretty good job of having dinner ready to go.  We can linger at the table because no one has anywhere to be.  Evening obligations — games and meets — will creep back in in a few months, but right now I am loving the get-home-and-stay-home routine.

As Henri Nouwen writes “a really peaceful and joyful meal together belongs to the greatest moments of life,” and I agree.  I honestly don’t think the importance of this time spent together can be overstated.  In our house food makes people happy and chatty.  There is little in life as satisfying as winsome and chatty sons.

How are you and yours doing with indulging in peaceful, joyful meals?  It’s not really about the food.  Although, tasty nourishing meals certainly don’t hurt.  And obviously phones and other distractions need to be put away.  But mostly it’s just about the people.  It’s about undivided attention and continually pointing those we love to the ways of Christ.

The Bible says that we are to teach our children to love the Lord our God, to walk in obedience to Him and to hold fast to Him.  When are we supposed to do this?  At church on Sundays?  Family devotional time?  No.  Deuteronomy 11:19 says, “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”  In other words, all the time.  And think of how few distractions and outside influences people had in the days of Deuteronomy!  People of that time weren’t bombarded 24/7 with the lie that stuff would make them happy, but still God commanded that the truth be shared over and over and over again.  All day.  Every day.

Parenthood is a high calling!  May I be faithful to the task!

Praying for you as well.  May this weekend include some peaceful and joyful meals seasoned with laughter and lots of truth sharing.

With Love,


P.S. I took the picture of the schweineschnitzel above because I had made so much of it, and I wanted to see how much would be leftover.  Any guesses?

Jackson Five Friday: Sing!

Hey Friends,

Today would be my dad’s 86th birthday and I love thinking about him. I love thinking about how much he adored Will and how he’d be so enthralled with our sons. I love thinking about how maybe I’m a tiny bit like him. One way I know I’m like him is that as brilliant as he was, song lyrics were not his forte. My mom, on the other hand, was a sponge for lyrics. She knew every verse to obscure hymns, and then marveled that others did not.

“You don’t know that one either?” she’d say. “Mmhh.”

She’d laugh about how my dad could hardly recall the words to even the most familiar hymns. I too am a consistent butcher of lyrics, but I do try harder with hymns. In fact, in the last year or so I’ve discovered a solution for this inherited defect: http://www.hymnal.net.

Just this morning I sat on my front porch and used this website to sing all the right words to “May the Mind of Christ My Savior” and “Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross.” Do you ever get to behold the glory of a new morning and sing God’s praises alongside creation? I can tell you I’ve never once regretted carving out time to do so.

In Luke 19, in the midst of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the Pharisees tell Jesus, in essence, “Silence these people who are praising you.” Do you remember how He answers them? He says, “If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (v. 40).

Do you think that still applies today? I do. Many times throughout Scripture we are commanded to sing our praises to the Lord. Are you obeying this command? Or are you leaving it up to the rocks? I am praying that I never keep quiet.

Obedience is a way in which we demonstrate our love for Jesus, but when we obey we often find an unexpected blessing. We may start to observe the Sabbath out of obedience, or to live according to God’s Word in some specific area, but we quickly find that instead of being a burden it’s spiritually, physically and emotionally beneficial. The same is true for singing God’s praises. You will be feeding truth into your life (See last week’s post, among others, for the importance of constantly and actively telling ourselves the truth).

So give hymnal.net a try. There are classics and newer songs too. I’d love to know a couple of your favorites. Maybe I’ll add them to my rotation, and I won’t even have to struggle like my dad with the lyrics!

With Love,


Jackson Five Friday: Don’t Listen Up

Hey Friends,

There’s a lot of terrible advice in the world. But the worst might be to listen to yourself, to go with your heart. What?!? How in the world did that concept even take flight? The heart is an unreliable, even deceitful source. Newspapers are full of people who went with their heart, as are jails. Instead what we need, in this postmodern era more than ever, is truth. Let’s not be silly and pretend that the what springs from our hearts is truth. My own default message is far from it. It says things like “You need to do more. You need to be more. You don’t measure up. You need to be more like him. Why can’t you look like her?”

Recently, while on vacation, I had occasion to hear a pastor that didn’t instantly wow me. I sat there almost irked that his thoughts were scrambled, that he was using a well-known passage and pulling out points any Tom, Dick or Harry could. My inner mean girl sighed in frustration. I am not telling you this because I’m proud of it. I am telling you because it’s the ugly truth.

But it was at that moment that he inserted two quotes that immediately softened my hard, unteachable heart. The first quote was from Paul Tripp who said, “No one talks to you more than you do.” I mean, we know that’s true, but we don’t often stop to think about the implications of this truth. The second quote was from Martyn Lloyd-Jones who said:

Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?

The old SNL skit almost had it right. Do you remember Stuart Smalley? A sweatered Al Franken stares into a mirror and gives himself a self-help pep talk, ending with the phrase, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.”

Obviously the talking to yourself that Lloyd-Jones is recommending is not the empty, buck-up words of Smalley, but the life-giving truth of the gospel.

The truth that you are created in the very image of God, that you are beloved, that nothing could ever change that.

Henri Nouwen summarizes it so beautifully:

Every time you feel hurt, offended, or rejected, you have to dare to say to yourself: ‘These feelings, strong as they may be, are not telling me the truth about myself. The truth, even though I cannot feel it right now, is that I am the chosen child of God, precious in God’s eyes.’

So are you being passive, listening to yourself? Or you being active listening to the still small voice? Are you raising the volume of the voice of Truth by taking every thought captive and fueling your inner dialogue with the eternal truth of Scripture?

I am learning to listen to myself less and less and talk to myself more. One way I do this is to write this blog, so thank you for lending an ear to what I tell myself!

May you have a blessed weekend telling yourself that you are beloved. It is the truth!

With Love,


“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭10:5‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Jackson Five Friday: Rooted

Hey Friends,

I’ve spent my morning in a coffee shop on Main Street in Chattanooga. It’s more bustling and delicious than Starbucks. There are fresh flowers in a tin pot on my table. The exposed brick walls, dim lighting and soft music create an inviting vibe. Plus, I ordered yummy grit cakes with kale and poached eggs for breakfast. All very lovely, but what’s really filling my cup is a few minutes ALONE to read and think and write a few words. Summer is my favorite season, but by its end I’m ready for this–quiet, contemplative mornings in coffee shops.

Sam is currently at orientation for middle school, Nate turned fifteen last week, and Dub is looking at colleges. Nate is my most talkative child and it feels like just a few minutes ago that I’d pick him up from preschool. He’d be so anxious to tell me all about what he’d learned, sharing fun details about his classmates and his beloved Miss Nancy. I’d kneel so we’d be eye to eye and he’d know he had my full attention. He was such a darling and entertaining child. Now I need to look up, way up, to meet his gaze and it’s legal for him to start driving! What on earth?

But don’t you think the tender and attentive love of a mother for a child is beautiful thing? Have you considered that God’s love is even better? Our Heavenly Father metaphorically kneels to meet us eye-to-eye. He willingly and humbly engages just at our level. His tenderness is perhaps evident most in the incarnation itself. He gave up heaven to come to earth, to show us how to live. Then in His death He paid for all our sins. God’s love is perfect. He never fails.

As I relish this quiet morning, my prayer is that my boys will know that they are loved by God in a tender and attentive way. That this truth will be the anchor of their lives.

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”

‭‭Colossians‬ ‭2:6-7‬ ‭

Being rooted in Christ paints a picture of being firmly attached, being fed and nourished in an organic way. It’s an ideal in sharp contrast to the way of the world. Henri Nouwen writes about being haunted by the question of whether if anyone truly knew him they’d still love him. He wrote, “That agonizing question, rooted in my inner shadow, kept persecuting me and made me run away from the very place where that quiet voice calling me the Beloved could be heard.”

Where are you rooted? And can you hear the quiet voice calling you Beloved?

With Love,


Jackson Five Friday: Setting a Destination

Hey Friends,

First of all, I hope you’ve had a wonderful summer.  I’ve had some fun adventures, from Dallas, Texas to Trenton, New Jersey and many places in between.  I’ve been to many a swim meet, breathed in some salty air and spent a ton of time just hanging out with my family.  We started doing college visits and I also spent six days laying face down after having surgery to re-attach my retina.  I never stay home for six solid days, and I never lay on my stomach.  But by God’s grace, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

Being socially unplugged since Mother’s Day has helped me be wholly present, but I always miss blogging!  I often compose posts in my head because I love telling stories.  We are made for stories.  Folding our story into God’s gives context and meaning to everything.  The more we let the story — the truth — of Jesus inform and direct and our lives, the more we become who He created us to be.

Of course if you’ve been reading this blog for any time at all — it’s a decade old this month — you know that I have an unbelievable propensity for embarrassing myself.  This summer was no different.

Dub and I did part of our college loop by train in and out of DC.  Any time I ride the train I always marvel how easy it is.  You can arrive to the station just minutes before the train pulls out and you still have time to grab coffee.  Coffee took on even greater importance that morning since we were hopping on the 4:30a train.  We returned the same day, rolling back in at around 7:30p.  Our plan was to have dinner with my niece, Caitlin, her husband and baby, who live near Capitol Hill.  She ordered take-out Thai and Dub and I picked it up.  From the restaurant we ordered an Uber.   I didn’t bother to dig for reading glasses but had Dub confirm that I had entered the address correctly.  For any non-Washingtonians, the District is divided into quadrants, Southwest, Southeast, Northeast, and Northwest.  The address specifies which quadrant.  For example, 123 Jackson Ave SE would be in an entirely different area than 123 Jackson Ave NW. I insisted that Dub confirm I’d entered the NE, designation.

When we climbed into the Uber, our driver indicated that he was deaf.  I was in the front seat and Dub in the back.  It took about three blocks for me to realize that we were heading in the wrong direction.  Oh dear.  It would’ve been a good time to know sign language.  Through mostly pointing, we indicated to the driver that this was not right.  He pulled over and whipped out a sign.  He was prepared for me.  The sign said “You must correct the address on the app.”

“Make sure it says NE!” I said as I handed Dub my phone.  A few seconds later we were off again, and inching closer to where we needed to be.  But then after a few minutes, we again abruptly turned Northwest.  “What on earth,” I thought.  Then I realized we were near a park I recognized.  I motioned to our dear, patient driver that we’d just get out there.  I was almost 100% certain that I knew the sign for thank you, but in my sleep deprived, exhausted state-of-mind I feared that the wave from the chin could also be some kind vulgarity.  Stupidly, I just repeatedly said “thank you” and hopped out.

We stumbled through the park, made a few more turns and praised God when we eyed Caitlin’s place.

Over dinner, I recounted our Uber adventure.  The look on Caitlin’s face was priceless.  She was utterly dumbfounded.

“It’s SE, not NE!”  she said.

With more sleep I’m confident I’d know that the United States Capitol is not North.  It’s kind of unreal that I could make such a mistake.  Repeatedly.  How we got anywhere near where we needed to be is miraculous.  God’s grace alone.

What kind of a moron gives a deaf Uber driver an address that does not even exist?

But it got me thinking about the importance of setting destinations.  What is yours?  Where are you headed in life?

While I am game for adventure, and love seeing new places, the ultimate aim of my life is the Kingdom of God.  Jesus speaks so clearly on this:  Seek first His Kingdom and everything else falls into place.  My fumbling Uber trip testifies that you may even arrive exactly where you need to be when you insist on a nonexistent destination.  That’s how much God loves you.

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  (Matthew 6)

With Love,


Jackson Five Friday: Summer Hiatus

Hey Friends,

First of all, Happy Mother’s Day.  I hope you lavish the moms in your life this weekend with love and appreciation.  I have not been with Will and the boys the last two Mother’s Days.  I was thankfully with my own mother, but I am looking forward to Sunday, relaxing in my very favorite spot with my four handsome men.

I started writing this blog in August of 2008.  In ten years I’ve posted over 600 times.  It’s one of my very favorite things to do.  You know how beavers just have to gnaw through stuff otherwise their ever-growing teeth would just get too long?  That’s how I feel about writing.  It is a compulsion that keeps me in order.  If I didn’t write, I’d hardly know what I even think — writing is how I process life.  But one of the coolest things about writing a blog for ten years is the treasure of memories.  Since I write to an audience, instead of in a journal format, I tell stories that assume the reader knows nothing, or next to nothing, about my life.   I could not have foreseen the tremendous blessing this is for me personally.  It means that with a couple clicks I can read stories that I have zero recollection of — hilarious tidbits of my own ineptitude, hysterical stories about the boys, and spiritual insights I am always prone to forget.  I can read how God has provided for me and loved me through good times and bad.  So here’s some advice: choose a format you feel comfortable with and keep a record of your life.  Lists are good, but storytelling is better.  Your future self will thank you.

Every summer I take a hiatus from social media, but this summer I feel particularly called to be more present in the moment and I want to devote more time to some longer writing projects.  If you do not already follow this blog, I would invite you to do so.  It is just a matter of clicking the follow button on the bottom of the screen.  I will post here with links to new material when it’s available, but other than that if you need me, call me.  Shoot me a text.  Knock on my door.  Have a fabulous summer and thank you for reading.  I am honored and humbled to know that some of you have been reading this blog for a decade!

Here’s a wonderful Psalm about remembering all that God has done.  I hope you’ll meditate on it this summer.  Maybe you’ll even use it as a writing prompt.  How has God crowned you with love and compassion?  How has He redeemed you from various pits?  How have your transgressions been forgiven as far as the east is from the west?

Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness
    and justice for all the oppressed.

He made known his ways to Moses,
    his deeds to the people of Israel:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
    nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

13 As a father has compassion on his children,
    so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed,
    he remembers that we are dust.
15 The life of mortals is like grass,
    they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
    and its place remembers it no more.
17 But from everlasting to everlasting
    the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
    and his righteousness with their children’s children—
18 with those who keep his covenant
    and remember to obey his precepts.

19 The Lord has established his throne in heaven,
    and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Praise the Lord, you his angels,
    you mighty ones who do his bidding,
    who obey his word.
21 Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts,
    you his servants who do his will.
22 Praise the Lord, all his works
    everywhere in his dominion.

Praise the Lord, my soul.  Psalm 103 (NIV)

With Love,