Jackson Five Friday: Identity Issues 

Friends,

Happy Friday!  It’s a particularly great day in the Jackson household.  First, Sam has an unexpected day off from school.  Sadly there is such widespread illness in Hamilton County that the public schools are closed. They announced this to students yesterday right before dismissal. Sam came running down the hill to meet me, more elated and stunned than Tom Brady was last Sunday night.

This means that Sam is in the backseat while Will drives the three of us to Knoxville. Dub is swimming this morning in the high school state meet for Tennessee.  This meet, today and tomorrow, closes out his freshman year of varsity swimming.  Since his amazing school and coaches allowed him to also play on the freshmen basketball team, which wrapped on Monday night, this meet marks the end of an intense few months. Balancing both sports and challenging classes have left me  awestruck.  We are pretty dang proud.

Yet I never want Dub to find his identity in his many gifts or accomplishments.  I pray that unlike some who spend a lifetime trying to “find themselves,” that Dub and his brothers will always know who they are.

It’s always a mistake to reduce a complex creature, made in the image of God to live for eternity to just a few traits. Yet people do this all the time. I’m a swimmer.  I’m a basketball player.  I’m an athlete. I’m a liberal. I’m a conservative. I’m a musician. I’m a poet. I’m a doctor. I’m gay. I’m straight. Even I’m an ENTJ or any other personality type. We are unique, nuanced and complex — no one’s identity can be summed up or limited by these terms.

On the other hand, three valid summations do spring to mind: (1) I’m an image-bearer of God, of the one true King; (2) I’m a sinner; and (3) Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, I’m forgiven.

Unlike the list above these truly inform who I am. May my sons know the primacy of these components when they contemplate who they are.  May they never fall into the trap that one little aspect of them, or even one amazing accomplishment defines them.

Thanking God this morning for my wonderful son, and praying that he will live life knowing his identity is not found on the basketball court nor in the pool, but in Jesus Christ.  As I looked through some resources about finding our identity in Christ, I came across this list compiled by MercyMe (love their music).  It’s worth printing and tucking in your Bible.  That’s what I just did.  I copied and pasted into Word and used 11 point font so that it would fit on just two pages.

It’s an amazing, extensive list, but maybe my two favorite verses are these:

Romans 8:17 —  “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

Hebrews 2:11 — “Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.”

I’ve given God many, many reasons to be ashamed of me, but how incredible is it that He isn’t?  I am made holy.  I am a co-heir with Christ.  May I never get over how utterly amazing this is!  May my identity always rest in these truths.

Praying hard today again for the return of civil discourse in America and for my own sons to know who they are and whose they are!

With Love,

Kristie

P.S. Click on the list and tell me which is your favorite verse and why.  I’d truly love to hear.

Jackson Five Friday: American Pharisees

Hey Friends,

This week has been a mixed bag for me.  Parenting is hard sometimes.  If it’s not hard at least part of the time, then there’s something amiss ( Hebrews 12:11).  In addition, now that I’m feeling more settled in Tennessee, I’m contemplating going back to work in some capacity –thinking through and pursuing what would be best for me and for my family is both exciting and stressful.  Then there’s the daily hammering I get via newsfeeds –the prevalence of groupthink is staggering.  Where have all the rational, deep thinkers gone?  Humility would require something like this: “These are complex issues.  I won’t pretend to have the answers.”  But no, instead the masses who pontificate on every little thing just keep growing.  Free speech means you can say whatever you want, but that doesn’t mean every opinion matters or should have equal weight.  Let’s filter for significance.  For example, unless you give 10% of your gross annual income and can point to your calendar to evidence some level of volunteerism, why weigh in on how to help the needy?  Unless these minimum requirements are met, you aren’t really invested in helping others.   I know someone rather well who meets these standards and who has also read voraciously about how best to help people.  Yet you’ll never find him just spouting off with all the answers to everything under the sun.  Dang, he’s sexy.

People often don’t even ask the most infantile of questions.  Soundbites and Twitter have replaced careful consideration of any policy or theory alongside its alternatives.  It’s as if the often enlightening question, “What’s the alternative?” has been eliminated from our logic toolkit  Has our attention span really narrowed that much?  There also seems to be a real struggle by some to comprehend that the government does not have some secret, infinite source of funding.  Uncle Sam is not America’s rich relative with trillions of extra dollars lying around.  Whenever the government spends a single dollar, it comes from fellow Americans.  Ignorance of this basic fact is perplexing, to say the least.  Utter hatred, coupled with the lack of measured analysis, can really be disheartening.  How do you break through this mob mentality?

Maybe you don’t.  Maybe you just can’t break through when people begin to find their identity and purpose in mobism.  There is a self-righteous thread in it that feeds the ego — the sense of self-importance seems to snowball into an American Pharisee.  Pharisees say that unless you follow our rules, and believe what we believe, and protest what we protest, you aren’t worthy of respect.  Pharisees don’t listen to opposing views, and they don’t reason through anything.  Worst of all, Pharisees never offer grace to anyone.

So what is the solution?  In one sense, it’s easy.  The answer is Christ.  Embracing Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior gives you an identity and purpose.  Apart from Christ I can do nothing. (John 15:5).  Through Him I can do anything. (Philippians 4:13). The purpose of my life is to glorify Him.  It’s really very, very simple. But in another sense, it’s very, very hard for people to humble themselves before the Lord, to recognize that He alone is Holy, that He alone is Sovereign.  The Bible says that each person is made in the image of God.  We are called to love and respect each and every person.  We are called to pray for all people.

This week in my Bible study, I learned about how Nehemiah prayed for four months about the state of disrepair in Jerusalem.  He had heard about it through his brother, but he himself lived a thousand miles away.  As the official cupbearer, Nehemiah had daily access to the king, but he didn’t act hastily.  No, he prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed, mourning and fasting for four months before finally God opened the door to speaking to the king about returning to his beloved homeland.

I found this very convicting.  I had to ask myself, “When was the last time I consistently prayed about something for four months?” I have a hard time doing this for personal concerns, much less the well-being of my country. 

So today I am committing to praying for the return of civil dialogue. Nehemiah prayed about building a wall of protection around Jerusalem, a physical wall.   I am praying for fewer barriers, for the figurative walls between our divided nation to come tumbling down, for the return of civil and respectful discourse.  

Will you please join me in this specific prayer?  

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Love to you,

Kristie 
 

Jackson Five Friday: My Favorite Baby

Happy Friday, Friends!

Hope you’ve had a great week.  I got the go-ahead today to wear eye make-up again.  I am a little ashamed by how giddy I am to receive this news.  Last Friday I went to an event that honored local doctors.  Will was emceeing the event, and it started at 7:00pm.  I came separately, snuck in there at 6:59 and I tried my darnedest to talk to no one.  I almost didn’t know I was this vain.  But when you’re halfway to 90, eye make-up is pretty dang important.  Actually I shouldn’t say that, technically I’m not halfway there quite yet.

Anyway, if you’ve seen me in the last ten days and wondered what horrible thing has happened, I assure you, only a very good thing:  Vision in my right eye went from 20/400 to 20/25, and starting today I can stop looking worn out and lash-less.  Hooray!

But enough about that.  Recently I was in an airport people watching.  This is what I do in airports.  I rarely read or do anything but just stare at everyone that walks by.  Airports are such gratifying venues for people watching — I love it.  I like to grab coffee and sit and watch.  I hate when I have to just run to the gate — it feels like a wasted opportunity.  Fortunately on this particular day, I had gobs of time.  One beautiful young couple caught my eye.  The girl thrust her phone into the guy’s face.

“I mean, seriously,” she said, “He might be my favorite baby of all time.  Look at him!”

I don’t know why exactly I found this little exchange so charming, but it was so sweet and genuine.  I had no problem believing that her friend’s baby wholly deserved this favorite-ever declaration.  He just had to be a darling child.  Of course, this girl had never seen my babies.  My gosh they were cute.  Their beautiful eyes, soft little heads, chunky thighs, kissy mouths, button noses — golly they were gorgeous little guys.

Still, none of them were my favorite of all time.  Only one baby could hold that title, and I never did see him or hold him, but Mary did.  Yes, Jesus is my favorite baby of all time — He has to be.

Because Jesus left heaven and came to earth, my sins are forgiven and my eternal destiny secured.  Isn’t it interesting that the Creator and Sustainer of the universe humbled himself to be a baby born in a manger, wrapped, not in the universal hospital blanket we all know and love, but rags?  How can He not be your favorite baby of all time?

One of my very favorite passages is from Hebrews 4:14-16 which says,

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Jesus can sympathize wth our weaknesses — He is Our High Priest who relates.  We can have confidence to draw near to the throne of grace and confess it all, vanity to greed to envy.  Confess everything you can think of.  Ask forgiveness for what you don’t even recognize.  When we do, we receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  Need mercy?  Need grace?  Draw near to the throne, your sympathetic High Priest awaits.
With Love,
Kristie

 

 

 

 

Jackson Five Friday: I LOVE America

Hey Friends,

If you don’t love America, then I think you might have a screw loose.  Nate is home sick today — he has the flu.  He is miserable and rather displeased about everything.  He missed a basketball game earlier in the week.  Actually the poor kid got sick Tuesday, the day I had eye surgery.  He called me to come get him, but Will, probably wisely, forbid me to drive.  I mean I wasn’t supposed to drive that day, but I felt fine and Nate did not.  The staff at school kindly watched him sleep in the office for hours.  Will had already taken the morning off and was swamped at work.

Anyway, Nate is still home today, and grumpy as ever.  A few minutes ago he snapped at me, “Since when are you into politics?”

I sort of unloaded on him.  I told him this doesn’t happen anywhere on earth, not like this.  There isn’t prayer and singing and celebration and this beautiful pomp and circumstance.  The peaceful transition of power is something to behold, and it doesn’t matter who is being ushered in and out, the transition itself is a testament to the greatness of America.  It is testament to the rule of law, and to the always flawed, but still very best government on the planet.  I cannot watch any inauguration without welling up with gratitude.  Lord, thank you, thank you for letting me be born here in America.  

Plus, I love Washington.  I love knowing I’ve stood right where all those people were standing.  The front and back steps of the Capitol, the steps up to the Lincoln Memorial, and everywhere in between.   I worked a block from the White House and walked around it at lunch time.  I have no idea how many times I’ve watched Marine One land on the lawn, but today watching Executive One land at Andrews still gives me chills.

“Nate!” I said, “That is where you were born, right there, on that base.  Not many people get to see where they were born on television.”

Still, he was nonplussed.  He can’t appreciate much in his sorry state, but my prayer for all my boys is that they will grow up learning to appreciate how blessed they are.  They have parents who love them, and many material blessings.  They are smart and athletic and healthy.  But I hope they never overlook the blessing of being born here in America.  To get to be a citizen of these United States is an incredible privilege.

Today, I am praying for our new president, for our country and for government leaders at all levels — after all the Bible tells us to.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,  who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.  1 Timothy 2:1-6 ESV

God Bless You and God Bless America!

With Love,

Kristie

RIP: Not Pregnant

Hey Friends,

As many of you know I had cataract surgery this morning.  I am amazed by the improvement I am already seeing, and really, because of swelling, it takes a few days for the full result to be known.  So, needless to say, I am very grateful for your prayers and thrilled with amazingly improved vision.

My surgeon is someone we know from church — he is one of the cutest guys you’ve ever laid eyes on, and if he told you he was eighteen, I don’t think you’d question him for a second.  He has a great personality — super warm, funny, and kind.  He prayed with me before the surgery, which obviously is very comforting.

But the morning did have a funny little hiccup.  I have never had any surgery (other than Lasik, for which they just give you a valium and numbing drops), and so the whole process is new for me.  I did not eat or drink after 10 pm last night, and went to the bathroom when I woke up this morning.  Then when the nurse called me back, she told me to go ahead and use the restroom.  I had absolutely no need to go, but complied.   Then they hooked up an IV and told me about what to expect.  They offered me Xanax but I didn’t want to be sleepy all day.  Then the nurse, said, “Oh, we also need a urine sample, to make sure you aren’t pregnant.”

And then the fun began.

Having had nothing to drink, and already used the restroom twice, once at the direction of the nurse, this third attempt was not successful.   I felt like unless I was allowed to down a water bottle or two, in that state of dehydration, I would never have success.  One nurse told me, “Well, we’ll just have to wait.”  They won’t take your word for it that you aren’t pregnant, and they won’t let you drink anything.  I felt like I was going to be there till kingdom come.  They offered to do the surgery without any sedation, but that didn’t sound overly appealing.

Then they kindly went and got Will from the waiting room — he kept me company while I took fluid through the IV.  After some good laughs with Will, a loooong time, lots and lots of running water, and many tries, I was finally able to prove that I am indeed not pregnant.  My surgeon, being the cutie that he is, joked with us that it would be great to be there for our big news.  But alas, no news.

The nurse anesthetist wheeled me back and supposedly gave me some kind of sedation — I mean that is what we were all waiting for.  They said it was mild, like having a glass of wine, but I never felt anything.  I never felt even a hint drowsy, or particularly relaxed.  I was awake and conversant the whole time.  I didn’t even feel amused like you do with nitrous.  It sort of feels like we waited to get the drugs, and then somehow didn’t get the drugs.  Too much saline already swirling in my veins?  But whatever, my vision is amazing and will likely get sharper over the next couple days.  Praise be to God!

And although I am not in the least superstitious and think it is patently absurd, I did have an interesting experience ten days ago on the way to the airport.  I was taking the shuttle van from Chattanooga to Atlanta, which makes “29 DAILY TRIPS”  In fact, they advertise this in large letters right on the window.  My seat in the van, coupled with this sign and a cloudless day resulted in this little gem.

Yes, only the letters R I P appeared on my leg.  My upper leg with its long yet uniform cylindrical shape looks more log-like than human.  But I assure you that is not a log inside a jean, it is actually my leg.  Yes, maybe I should be doing more squats!

I texted Will this picture from the shuttle, and said, jokingly, “I hope it’s not a sign.”

To which he responded, “Not funny!”

But superstitious or not, our next breath is never promised to us.  We may more readily acknowledge our mortality when we are rolled back for surgery, but no one ever can be sure that this day is not their last.

And I think it’s healthy to face that reality head on.  What will happen to you when you die?  Do you know where you are going?  Will RIP be a sentimental little phrase people say about you, or will they be confident, because of your faith in Jesus Christ, about your eternal destiny?

I am going to rest in peace that today my vision is improved, that I am not pregnant and that I know exactly where I am going when I die.

Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”

I hope and pray that you too have passed from death to life, and that you can rest peacefully in this truth no matter what comes your way.

Love to YOU,

Kristie

 

 

 

Jackson Five Friday: When Plans Fail, Miserably

Hi Friends,

Last night I slept in my own bed — a luxury I often overlook, but relished last night because I was supposed to be on the red-eye from San Francisco.  My plans for this week failed, and failed miserably.

Long before Christmas, we formulated a plan and purchased tickets.  I would join Will on a business trip to Sausalito (the darling little city on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge), and we would tack on a couple nights on the front end and drive to Carmel.  We have some friends we’ve met here who lived in Carmel for twenty years.  We had plans to meet them for dinner one night and then have a bonfire on the beach.  It was all set.  We arranged for a darling couple from church to stay with the boys.  I had called in carpool rides to beat the band.  But it was not to be.  Instead of a getaway with Will this is the longest we’ve been apart in more than a decade.

My sweet mother ended up ringing in 2017 in the hospital, and record breaking rains spoiled our bonfire plans.  Instead of jetting out to San Francisco, I spent a lovely few days with my mom in Michigan.  I packed frantically last Saturday morning for Detroit and San Francisco which meant I wore frigid weather gear, and packed boots that are cuter but less warm along with my rain coat.  I hadn’t ruled out just changing my ticket to fly for a shorter stay directly from Detroit.  After all, I had supervision for the boys and rides galore.  Ultimately I decided against it, not just because of the unusually bad weather or the high cost of changing everything, it just felt like too much.  So Tuesday morning I flew back and Will flew out for his conference.  Our planes were on the runway in Atlanta at the same time, but I didn’t know where to wave.

But here’s the thing: sometimes our plans or dreams fall through and we never know why.  When that happens we need to just trust that God has it all under control, that His ways are not our ways, and that He loves us, always.  Plus, there is wisdom in the practice of holding things loosely and thwarted plans provide the perfect opportunity to live this out.

Other times though He lets us see just how much better His plan is and why.  And that’s what happened to me with this trip.  I needed to be home for my boys this week.  I cannot even begin to tell you how much I needed to be here on Tuesday.  It was of vital importance.  Then yesterday Sam had an almost-back-to-third-grade amount of anxiety about going into school.  I say almost because even though there were many, many tears, he didn’t actually throw up — so we’ve got that going for us.  And by God’s grace, he went happily to school this morning!  Praise God!

I am beyond grateful that my plan failed miserably.  I am in awe that God graciously allowed me to spend some time with my mom and to be here with my boys.  Obviously, I am sorry that my mom had to land in the hospital on New Years, and that now drought-stricken Californians are complaining of too much rain?!?  But God needed me to drop my plans.  This is how He got it done.

Seriously though, although I do believe that God orchestrates my life and yours, I know I can’t, in my fallen little mind, trace His fingerprints — the hospital visit and the rain are not just about me.  But I also know the Holy Spirit prods and directs my path, and that my job isn’t to understand it nor to explain it.  My job is simply to obey.

Of course, obedience is not our natural bent.  We must decide to listen carefully and to submit to His plan and will for our lives.

I love this prayer that Charles Stanley recommends praying each morning:

 Father, I want You to guide me and lead me today. Speak to my heart. Make me sensitive to Your promptings and to what is happening around me in the lives of those I meet. Fill me with Your supernatural joy, and use me today for Your purposes. I surrender fully to You.

In fact, why not just tape that prayer inside your Bible?  That’s what I just did.

Hope you are well and that, “the God of hope [will] fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 15:13.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Parenting Lows


Hey Friends,

I hope your 2017 is off to a great start.  I am always comforted by the fact that the days are getting longer, and that really the first signs of spring are around the corner.

Today something triggered a memory from five years ago.  It wasn’t my brightest moment as a parent.  One of my volunteer commitments at Dub and Nate’s school was facilitating a Friday reading group time, called seminar.  The kids read shorter books with their teacher during the week and then on Friday they broke up into small groups for discussion.  The aim was to have the kids drive the discussion in a causal way, like conversation around the dinner table.  Depending on the book and the particular group dynamic, seminar sometimes met its aim and sometimes it didn’t.

One week that it didn’t was my fault.  Nate happened to be in my group that week and the mere sight of him was hilarious.  All my boys are blessed with substantial lips, and Nate’s upper lip is ample on a normal day.  Yet on this particular day it was three times it’s normal size, and he was oblivious to this reality.

“Nate,” I said, “What happened to your lip?”

“Nothing, why?”

“You didn’t bump it?  Or get bit or hit, or something?”

“No,” he said, with a total lack of concern.  Dub, like many of us, would’ve demanded to see it.  He would’ve needed to know what the heck I was talking about.  But not Nate, the mystery of the ginormous lip was of no import to him.

We then proceeded to have the regular discussion, sitting, the six of us, on a carpet in a quiet classroom.

But it wasn’t very quiet, or productive, because I couldn’t not get over the hilarity of Nate’s lip.  It was especially funny when he was trying to talk and make useful and thoughtful contributions to the discussion.

Do you know why Nate had a fat lip?  Some of you probably can guess.  Some of you are probably smarter than I was or am.   The fat lip was the first sign of a systemic allergic reaction to an antibiotic he was taking.  It was a reaction that landed him in the ER later that night, where he was treated like royalty.  If you show up with a child that looks half as bad as Nate, you get whisked in like little Prince George himself.  And yes, earlier that day I found the whole thing absurdly, hysterically funny.

Even after five years, I feel sick about it.  What if something had happened to that sweet, darling, beautiful, smart-as-a-whip son of mine?  I can only praise God that nothing did.

But we sometimes get things really, really wrong.  Nate’s fat lip was no laughing matter.  The grumpy person next to you in the grocery store may have just gotten devastating news.  The person who seems so witty and charming, so put together, has a host of issues you know nothing about.  Things are seldom just as they seem.  People are complicated.  Life is complicated.  Relationships require time and intention and kindness.  Parenting is hard work.

But guess what?  I have great news.  Actually it’s fantastic news.  The Bible says “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5).  Ask for wisdom and it will be given to you.  Wow.  Is that amazing?  Are you faithfully asking God for wisdom?  Because He “gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”  I wonder how many times in 2016 I specifically prayed for wisdom?   I can tell you for certain that it wasn’t enough!

May 2017 be the year that I persevere daily in asking my generous and loving Heavenly Father for wisdom.

With Love,

Kristie

P.S.  A funny thing happened during the writing of this post.  I had written all of it, except the last few lines.  After I typed “The Bible says,” I realized how late it was getting and went and hopped in the shower.  A few minutes later, I heard Sam’s sweet little voice.  I poked my head out of the shower and answered.

“Mom,” he said, “I read that article you were working on.  Aren’t you going to finish it?

“What a sweet moment,” I thought to myself.  Clearly I had not prayed for wisdom quite yet.  I stupidly thought he had read and enjoyed my post.  Oh he’d read it alright!  And added to it, with inspiration from Mrs. Doubtfire.  When I came back to my computer this is what it said.  He is a witty little stinker!

Bless you friends, and may you not require a few light slams every now and then.  And may Sam, even when he’s given himself the best of laughs, remember to spellcheck!