Jackson Five Friday: The Tension of Life

Friends,

I hope you are well.  In a roundabout way and a few days after Ash Wednesday, I decided to give up my Jackson Five posts for Lent.  My family did a better job this year, than we ever have in the past, of observing Easter.  Everyone gave up something for Lent, we attended some beautiful Holy Week services at church, and we watched The Passion as a family (until it was entirely too much for Sam and at that point we let him play mid-week NBA 2K instead, which is usually forebidden).   I posted here on my blog 36 different readings or devotionals, falling four short of my goal.  But mostly the whole season felt slower and more reflective than usual.  We have a long way to go, but I feel like this year we moved in the right direction for preparing our hearts to celebrate Jesus’ victory over death.

That said, I look forward to my Friday indulgence and have missed posting.  Oftentimes I would think, “Oooh, I’ll have to blog about that,” then I’d remind myself that I’d given it up.  But I’m back.  And I wish, probably like you, that every week would just be one fun little story after another.  But we live in a fallen world.  And every single day horrible things happen.

This week has been full of sorrow for many in our community because a boy named Jackson from Dub and Nate’s school disappeared in the Grand Canyon last Saturday.  The intense search from the first days has been scaled back and it will be a miracle if they find him.  But it seems all of Chattanooga is praying for this family, for the safe return of Jackson and his step-grandmother who is also missing.  Various area schools have worn all blue to show solidarity in praying for Jackson.  Opposing sports teams have prayed together after the game, begging God to bless this hurting mama with a tremendous miracle, an earthly reunion with her beautiful, beloved young son.  This tragic situation makes me feel sick to think about and reminds me of another beautiful, beloved young boy who was swept away in a flash flood a few years back in Northern Virginia.  Sometimes the sorrows of this world are unrelenting.

And yet at the very same time, families are celebrating the births of new babies.  Couples continue getting married.  Life marches on, and in some ways it feels wrong.  I remember after my dad died feeling totally distraught in line at the post office.  I almost wanted to yell out to everyone there, “Why are we all just marching on like nothing has happened?  Don’t you realize that this whole world has changed?”

Every day life is full of tension, and yet the Bible tells us just how to resolve it.  Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”  

 We may find ourselves oscillating between rejoicing and mourning as we go through the day. While it can feel emotionally draining, it’s always great to know we are aligned with the Word of God. 

So, my friends, do not tire in doing good: Rejoicing with those who rejoice and mourning with those who mourn. 

With Love,

Kristie 

Happy Easter!

Friends,

I hope this morning you can “Stand in triumph, stand in triumph, [and] worship Christ, the Risen King!”  Although we have lived in Tennessee for sixteen months now, last year we were visiting family, so this is our first Easter on the mountain.  It has been the sweetest celebration of Christ’s victory over death.   From Palm Sunday, to Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and a sunrise service at Point Park this morning  — every service has been a beautiful time of reflection.

Even weeks ago, a sermon made me think about Christ’s sacrifice in a new way.  One of our pastors, Brian Salter, was teaching from Exodus 12, which is The Passover.  The Passover, of course, happened on the heels of nine other plagues in Egypt.  Everyone had witnessed how God would announce what the plague would be, the plague would occur just as God said, and Pharoah would still deny Moses’ request to “Let my people go.”

The final plague would be the death of all firstborns.  I imagine there was little doubt as to whether this plague would actually occur.  You can read the Scriptures beginning in Exodus 7 and see what everyone in Egypt would have witnessed through the first nine plagues.  Then comes this final plague: the death of the firstborn.  To avoid this terrible fate you would need to take a lamb into your home for 4-5 days, and then kill it, drain its blood and use it to mark the frame of your door.  Only if the blood was there, would your house be passed over.

Pastor Salter drew our attention to the emotions of waking up that next day.  Can you stop for a minute and consider it?  Can you imagine waking up that morning and being able to hug your firstborn?  You’d be overcome with gratitude.  The covering of the blood had saved your beloved child.

I can picture myself sobbing and embracing my sweet Dub, and knowing that he lived only because the sweet perfect lamb had died.

That is not just the story of Passover.  It is the truth of Easter.

Worthy is the lamb that was slain for you and for me.

John 3:16-21

16 “For God so loved the world,[a] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

Hope you have a fabulous day celebrating your Risen King!

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Make Time for Old Friends

Happy Friday, Friends!

I hope you’ve had a wonderful week and have great things to look forward to this weekend.    I have been traveling quite a bit, today is only my sixth full day home in the last sixteen, so I am pretty psyched to have very little on the agenda this weekend.

As I mentioned last week, on Sunday I drove my mom from her home in Plymouth, Michigan to Cranberry, Pennsylvania, which is just outside of Pittsburgh.  She has very severe COPD and spent Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings getting stem cell treatments.  We were back at our hotel by lunchtime and so we had quite a bit of free time.  We tried watching TV, but horror of horrors no HGTV, her favorite.  We tried watching a movie — Daddy’s Home — but it was incredibly nasty.  Mostly we just visited and thought about what we might next eat.  I have two girlfriends from high school who live in the Pittsburgh area — one of them actually lives in Cranberry, so I reached out to both of them to see if they might be free.

On Monday night I sat in the lobby for nearly two hours with my friend Jennie.  She doesn’t go by Jennie anymore, but she’ll always be Jennie to me.  She brought a bottle of wine and we had a lovely time catching up.  Her two boys line up with Dub and Nate, and it didn’t matter a bit that I hadn’t seen her in five or six years.  It did my soul so much good to be with an old friend.  What a gift it was for her to swing by.

On Tuesday I texted my friend Elise, but it turned out that she had a new number.  I hadn’t seen her in more like seven years.  I persevered though and sent her daughter a Facebook message with my number in it to pass along to her mom.  Her daughter copied and pasted the message and sent it to Elise, who was seeing patients.  Elise got the message but copied the number down incorrectly.  She was off by one digit.  Guess who’s number is one digit off of mine?  That’s right, Will’s.  Is that unreal?   She texted Will, who copied and pasted to me.  I mean that’s stinking unbelievable.  But the story gets better.

After I had her new number from Will, I told Elise that my mom and I were there in Cranberry, staying at the Hyatt Place.

Here’s the surprising next text from Elise:


Elise does not live in Cranberry and only occasionally works in Cranberry, but on Tuesday night she was seeing patients in an office directly across the parking lot from where we were staying.  She took that picture from her office!   We got to sit in the lobby and laugh our butts off over the whole thing for nearly an hour!

When I go to Michigan it’s a little harder to see old friends because I usually have my boys with me, and I have lots of relatives that I should make time to see.  I have quite a few old friends that live within two hours of Chattanooga — and I’ve only been moderately successful in seeing them.  But here’s the thing: making time to see old friends is always worth it.

It occurs to me that with both Jennie and Elise we talked about good and hard things.  Romans 12  is my favorite chapter of the Bible because it succinctly outlines so much of the Christian life.  In verse 15 it says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”  Does this verse paint a picture of your friendships?  There’s no room for envy or comparing — only rejoicing together over all that is good, and mourning over all that remains hard.

Time with these old friends definitely spurred me on to greater love and good deeds, and I hope you have occasion to be equally encouraged by an old friend soon.  Make it happen.  You won’t regret it.

With Love,

Kristie

P.S. Please keep praying that the stem cell treatment will prove effective for my mom!

 

 

Jackson Five Friday: Racism, Book Club and a BIG Prayer Request

Happy Friday, Friends!

It’s a full-out spring-like day today in Tennessee, and new life is always uplifting to behold.

This morning I went to a book club which was just launched at my sons’ school.  The book was Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult.  It is the story of a black nurse wrongfully charged with the murder of the child of a white supremacist.  The author’s treatment of race, and of the story itself, is through three lenses — the nurse, the white supremacist, and the nurse’s white female defense attorney.  If you’ve not read it, it is definitely worthwhile, but do not read the rest of this post because it will spoil the book.  If you have read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

The nuances of being a successful black woman in a white neighborhood seem to be fleshed out beautifully (I can only say “seem to be” because obviously I’ve not lived it).  But the book will make you think about things you say and do in a new light.  I had never read anything by Picoult before and am very impressed by her depth of character development.  The prosecuting attorney stood out as unrealistic, but every other character is developed enough to at least establish some semblance of empathy in the reader — not for what they stood for, but at least an inkling into how the character ended up that way.

One thing that the book club discussion really fleshed out is how insensitive people can be, how utterly oblivious.  I can think of two examples in my own life that are illustrations of how perceptions and reactions can be way off.

When I was a summer associate during law school, we took a boondoggle of a trip to Seattle.  We were wined and dined like crazy — it was so fun (well, except for that part where I almost died in the desert, but that’s another story).   One night we had dinner in a restaurant on the water (not in Seattle itself, but nearby), and the deck of the restaurant faced west to the mountains.  The sun setting over that mountain on that water is still one of the most magical things I’ve ever witnessed.

It was at this restaurant that I came close, so terribly close, to revealing my true numbskull colors.

I was sitting at a table talking to the person sitting on my right, when an Asian gentleman approached the table on my left.  He was dressed in plain black pants and a plain white shirt.  He asked something about the chair, and for some reason in my “blink” assessment I thought he worked there.  I thought he was taking the chair to move to another table.  I almost asked him for a glass of water.  But my assessment was off in every way.  No, he did not work at the restaurant.  He was the managing partner of a division of the law firm and he was asking to sit next to me.  It is in those kind of horrifying moments that you realize how flawed your thinking can be.  I have thanked God many times that I did not get the request for water out of my mouth before I came to my senses.

A funnier example happens to me with fair frequency.   I am just a hair under six feet tall without shoes.  Sometimes when I’m in a restaurant and I go to use the bathroom, I’ll encounter some unsuspecting woman leaning into the mirror putting on lipstick, or just washing her hands.  In this scenario the approach from behind of a figure six-feet tall is, evidently, startling.  Many times I’ve had women do a double-take of me, as if I do not belong there.  The nervous smile revealing the erroneous snap judgment is obviously nothing compared to systemic racism.  That is not my point at all.  My point is that we all make thousands of snap judgments each day and we can always benefit from reminders to be more intentional, more sensitive, and more aware.  Yes, these are small things, but small things add up.

So one take-away from the book is that small things matter.  Another is that love is the great healing force in this world.  Turk is the name of the white supremacist and in the end there is a great redemptive work done in his life.  The author justifies Turk’s about-face by showing that Turk not only loves deeply but is the recipient of great forgiveness.  This part of the book falls a little flat for me.  Perhaps because the love and forgiveness portrayed in the book are purely human.  I’m not convinced that’s enough to transform someone so filled with hate.

Plus I happen to be friends with a real-life “Turk” named Tom Tarrants.  His escape from hate was through coming to know Jesus as his Lord and Savior. You can and should read about him here.  His story is amazing but points once again to the truth that Jesus is the answer.  Redemption apart from Christ himself is incomplete.  We are all called to die to self — it’s just easier for us to condemn the Turks and Toms of this world without seeing the darkness of our own hearts.  But the truth is we all need forgiveness. (Romans 3:23).  We all need our hearts of stone torn out and replaced by the heart of flesh.  Jesus won’t make you do anything. He lets you reject Him and His offer of grace. But why would you?  Why reject unconditional love, a heart of flesh, and guidance for your life?  There’s not a single good answer.

I hope you live each day with the peace that only Jesus gives.

But, changing gears, here is my BIG prayer request:  I am driving my mom this coming week from Detroit to Pittsburgh for stem cell treatment.  Could you please pray over all the details but especially that the treatment would work for my sweet mom?  It would mean so much to me to know you are praying.

With Love,

Kristie

 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