Jackson Five Friday: Solve the Riddle

Hey Friends,

Hope you’ve had a wonderful week. Honestly, I’m still recovering from last weekend when my oldest son’s swim team won the state title. It was such a great story of guys overcoming adversity, and swimming out of their minds. The 4 x 100 relay was the last event of the night. So long as they logged a decent time and didn’t DQ, they knew they’d win the state title. Video reveals just how long they waited on relay take-offs just to be extra, extra sure. Still, amazingly, their time was the fastest in the country recorded so far this year by a high school relay team. I screamed so much that I’ve been dragging all week.

I did manage to browse through a book I ordered: Frederick Buechner’s The Magnificent Defeat. It contains the riddle. He writes “It is so hard and it is so easy. And everything depends on it.”

Any guesses? Do you know what Buechner is referring to when he says it’s both so easy and so hard, and that everything depends on it? He is referring to prayer. And I could not agree more.

In some ways, praying is so very easy. Someone or some need can cross our minds, and we can so easily shoot up a prayer. But focused and consistent prayer is super challenging, even when we firmly believe nothing could be more important.

Ephesians 6:18 says, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

Yes! May we all always keep on praying.

With Love,
Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: My People

Hey Friends,

I’ve had an epiphany: my kind of people are more likely to be cashiers in gas stations than zookeepers. Let me paint for you the difference.

I saw that a zoo in El Paso has a vindictive little program coming up this week for Valentine’s Day. You can have a cockroach named after your ex and then they’ll feed it to the meerkats. Seriously. Our culture loves to find ways to fuel rage. I wonder how many cockroaches will be named Donald Trump. I’m also curious how many of those who submit Trump’s name also have a “Hate Has No Home Here” sign in their front yard. Meanwhile, the Bible requires that we love and pray for our enemies. Zookeepers may not be “my people” but I’m committed to loving them and praying for those like them, are you?

Then this morning I had the most delightful three minutes in a gas station. It was a Pilot/Dunkin’ Donuts Express. It was early and I was grabbing some muffins while Will poured our coffees. I walked a few aisles over to grab something for Sam, when a woman yelled out in an extremely loud voice, “Oh my Gosh!”

Will, still back at the coffee station, somehow thinking I was the yeller, answered back very loudly and perplexed, “What???”

I’m easily amused, but the whole thing cracked me up. Then we headed over to the checkout counter, where a man and a woman, both Caucasian, were manning the desk.

The woman said to the man, “Will you call Tommy for his shower.”

“Sure thing,” he said, cheerfully and then boomed into the speaker, “Tommy your shower is ready!”

The woman rang us up. The man took the next customer, an elderly black gentleman.

The black man asked the cheerful white man, “How are you today?

“Better than I deserve, better than I deserve,” he answered with a smile.

“Me too, brother,” the black man said. “If only we could convince more people it’s true, the world would be a better place.”

I don’t think these two are feeding their exes to meerkats, do you? They exude joy and gratitude. They are my people — at least I pray that I am even a tiny bit like them.

One thing is certain: I am a sinner and every minute of every day I get better than I deserve. In eternity the discrepancy will be infinitely wider. Jesus paid it all. I’ll never get what I deserve.

“But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who long for your saving help always say, “The Lord is great!””

‭‭Psalm‬ ‭40:16‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Yes, may every person — from gas station attendant to zoo keeper, and all those in between — rejoice, be glad and say “The Lord is great!”

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Cilantro and Parsley

Hey Friends,

Last night I made some yummy tacos. We had both blackened mahi (leftover from Wednesday night) and spicy shredded chicken. The vital topping for these two taco varieties is, of course, cilantro. However, even though I popped in the grocery store yesterday expressly for cilantro, at dinner I was devastated to learn that I had grabbed Italian parsley instead. Maybe devastated is too strong a word. Maybe. The parsley was in the section labeled cilantro. But I didn’t have my glasses to read the tiny label. I think the mistake was especially deflating because I’ve done this before. In fact, I’m pretty sure this is the third time I’ve made this mistake.

But there are at least two spiritual lessons in my errant endeavor to properly top tacos.

First we are slow learners. I have discovered the triple-home-button method to magnify anything on my phone. I also possess a perfectly functional nose. I could have confirmed it was in fact cilantro with either of these reliable tools. But, I didn’t. I’m stupid and forgetful. Spiritually, we all are.

We never graduate beyond needing the most basic refreshers. God is holy. You are a sinner. But God loves you so much He sent Jesus to die for you and to pay the penalty for all your sins. You can live forever with Him but you have to lay down your plan and your way.

In my Bible study last semester I heard a simple illustration. Have you ever watched a two-year-old try to tie shoes? I think it’s possible you haven’t because praise God for Velcro! Anyway a two-year-old cannot tie shoes. But some will try for a while. Eventually the shoes get tied when the child is ready to admit they can’t on their own and asks for help.

Have you told God you can’t do it on your own? Or are you still flailing around, trying to tie the shoes of your life? God is ever-willing to help you, but He doesn’t wrangle you or force anything. Thankfully He is patient, and faithful, and full of love.

What are some other basic lessons you are apt to forget? I am inclined to forget that laying down my plans is a daily discipline, that each and every person (even those who propose or support legislation to kill babies) is made in the image of God, that I can’t earn God’s love or orchestrate how anything goes.

A second spiritual lesson from my parsley calamity, is that sometimes what you need looks a lot like what you do not. We need to pray for discernment. There are loud voices in our culture, probably all cultures, that say just what the serpent in the Garden said, “Did God really say?” And then after planting seeds of doubt, they follow up with harmful ideas and persuasions that are far more injurious than parsley on tacos.

Thankfully Jesus showed us how to refute those who would lead us astray. I’m sure you know what He said. He said, “It is written…”

Using God’s Word to fend off temptation and corrupting influences is always the answer. But to use God’s Word, you have to know God’s Word. Are you saturating 2019 with Scripture? I can always do better but have recently had success with a morning routine using the structure of the CBR Journal (www.thecbrjournal.com).

But whatever works for you, find it and do it. It’s time spent there’s a zero percent chance of regretting!

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭4:12‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Have a fabulous weekend!

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Two E’s

Hey Friends,

Hope you’ve had a wonderful week. Mine flew by and the clean laundry mountain that resides on the guest bed only gained breadth and elevation. I need to get on the simplifying bandwagon because clearly I ain’t folding it.

Of course I could make a better effort. Throwing my hands up in defeat is not the answer for laundry nor for life, and definitely not for faith. Yet that is a pretty common mindset: Christ did it all, there’s nothing to earn, so why put forth any effort? But as one of my pastors recently pointed out, the Christian faith is opposed to earning, not effort. Throwing in the towel on effort is always a big mistake but especially when it comes to living godly lives.

I am so convicted by Foster’s Celebration of Discipline because it lays out how important discipline is in the life of disciples. Still my slide back into cruise mode pervades.

This afternoon I read C.S. Lewis’s essay A Slip of the Tongue. It’s brief but packs a punch about being wholly devoted. Lewis quotes William Law who said, “If you have not chosen the Kingdom of God, it will make in the end no difference what you have chosen instead.” Lewis adds, “Will it really make no difference whether it was women or patriotism, cocaine or art, whisky or a seat in the Cabinet, money or science? Well, surely no difference that matters. We shall have missed the end for which we are formed and rejected the only thing that satisfies. Does it matter to a man dying in the desert by which choice of route he missed the only well?”

Only Christ provides ultimate satisfaction. Yet I am so guilty of failing to give Him my whole life on a daily basis.

Again Lewis’s words are apt: “I do not think any efforts of my own will can end once and for all this craving for limited liability, this fatal reservation. Only God can…[yet]…the process of doing it will appear to me (and not falsely) to be the daily or hourly repeated exercises of my own will in renouncing this attitude…”

Where do you have a “fatal reservation”? In other words, where are you refusing to fully submit to God’s plan and authority? Can you allow God to work through you to root out this resistance? Even if it looks and feels like human effort?

Because it may seem like we are dragging ourselves to the well, but it is God who pours down the blessing. He does the work. We can’t earn anything. But it does not follow that we should just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. After all no one’s default destination is godliness!

“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.”

‭‭2 Peter‬ ‭1:5-7‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The end goal is love. God does the work. But we should make every effort.

May this weekend be one of full surrender, fervent pursuit and, if necessary, a smidge of folding.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: The Smell of New

Hey Friends,

I hope you’ve had a great week. I’ve had an abundance of highlights this week– nothing super major, just lots of sweet moments to give thanks over.

But one tiny bummer is I think the new-car smell in my new car is officially gone. The culprit: leaky milk on the way home from Costco. It was just days before that one of the boys climbed in the car and declared with enthusiasm, “It still smells new! How long does it last?”

I naively answered, “A looonngg time, if you don’t take any road trips in it.” Jackson family road trips have irreparably stunk up four different minivans over the years, but my minivan days are over. Or maybe not. The truth is we desperately miss the leg room, and since that issue will only get worse over time, my resolve to be post-van may crumble.

Anywho, along with that new car smell, my 90-day free trial of XM will soon expire. This is actually good news. It means I’ll stop experiencing the following pitiful problem: every time I go under an overpass or drive by a really really big rock wall (numerous times daily), the XM signal fades out and I think I’m getting a phone call. It’s such a let down to realize I am not. And you’d think I’d learn. I mean it’s worrisome to me that after two months of this, I have not learned.

Now, some of you may say, “I thought you hated talking on the phone?” Perhaps I did once. But clearly this little XM issue has proven otherwise. I think it’s a stage of life thing. Plus, it’s really sad that the person I used to talk to daily no longer calls.

“Christina!” my mom would say, joyfully rolling the r. And no that’s not my name. I have no idea what first made her call me that. But for decades that was always her first word to me on the phone.

But the great news is that where my mom is all things are new. That new baby smell never fades. The new car, if there was one, would be ding-free and new smelling, forever. In heaven the milk doesn’t spill and there’s nothing that is ever disappointing or pitiful.

Meditate on these words from Revelation:

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.

‭‭Revelation‬ ‭21:4-5‬ ‭ESV‬‬

What a great way to kick off the weekend — with these true and trustworthy words.

Love to you,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Alignment is Vital

Hey Friends,

Hope you’ve had a wonderful week. This is our first week back to real life in 2019, and with four basketball games and a swim meet, it’s quite a running start.

It wasn’t long ago that I was driving four teenage boys to Florida. Since it’s all of a ten-hour drive I did let my seventeen-year-old do a few shifts. But with precious cargo, two of whom aren’t even mine, it’s stressful. I had to tell him to slow down about five hundred times. And “Woah, give this guy more space!” also seemed to be on endless loop. At one point I was trying to have a deep phone conversation. The person was telling me about some serious things going on. They were even getting choked up. I think one of my strengths is being a good, attentive listener but this is a feat with a teenager at the wheel. At one point we were flying by semi-truck after semi-truck and seemingly inching closer to them all the time.

“Aww,” I said to my phone pal, while I frantically gestured to my son to stinking hug the left line on the road, instead of the precarious right. This we repeated about ten times. Then, by God’s grace, we needed gas or something and his shift ended.

Later in the trip, he took another shift and this time there was less traffic, so we mostly stayed in the right lane. Still, I felt like we were veering right, like we were going to go barreling into the grass at any moment.

“Dude, quit veering to the right!” I said. “What is your issue with drifting right?”

At this point a little audio snippet replayed in my mind. Not long ago, my husband said, nonchalantly, as if only passing, “I think my alignment is off.”

Yep, we were in his car. Yep, a seventeen year old hasn’t driven misaligned cars yet enough to know how to automatically compensate. The trip was much smoother when I explained that straight was probably a few degrees to the left.

Alignment really is rather important, isn’t it? Cars are one thing, but real life alignment is truly vital. What’s your plumb line? Is it your gut? Is it public opinion? Is it whatever your friends or spouse say? I hope not. I hope you align yourself with the enteral truth of God’s Word. I hope you feed yourself Scripture so much that you can automatically play some of it in your mind, that situations instantly bring certain applicable passages to mind.

Praying today that 2019 is a year where I commit more Scripture to memory. After all, this side of eternity none of us will ever graduate from needing to align ourselves to God’s Word.

With Love,

Kristie

Tune Therapy

Hi Friends,

When was the last time you sang Jesus Loves Me with a group of adults? I happen to experience it today at the brunch following the baptism of my grand nephew. The sweetness of it can hardly be overstated. In fact, at my church the congregation always sings Jesus Loves Me to close out baptisms. The pastor holds the baby and walks up and down the aisle as we sing. I’m not a terribly emotional person, but it always makes me want to cry happy, grateful tears.

Why do you think that is? I think it’s because we live in a world that is so marred by sin, so intent on stoking our sense of entitlement, our perceived mistreatment, our inclination to be less than satisfied. A new weapon of instilling malcontent is to feed –via smartphones–an ending stream of mostly meaningless information. And for whatever reason, this never-ending stream is highly addictive. Has anyone ever scrolled and scrolled and then thought, “Wow, that was great. I’m so so glad I scrolled”? I seriously doubt it. But the Prince of this world relentlessly tries to hide the truth, the truth that we are loved.

The simple children’s song Jesus Loves Me is so powerful because it’s true. And children may sing with angelic voices and believe every word, but adults singing it know how life-altering this truth truly is. The Creator of the Universe, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords loves me! Me! Sinful, forgetful, scrolling, ungrateful me!

“Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭5:18-21‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The incredible news is that grace abounds all the more. Jesus loves you. I am praying today that you know that!

With Love,

Kristie