Jackson Five Friday: You Get You

Hey Friends,

Hope you’ve had a wonderful week. We got back Wednesday night from vacation, and are trying to get ready for school. Two of three sons still have summer reading to complete and so it’s going to be a push to be done by Tuesday. But it’s worth it. We had a lovely summer and a memorable capstone trip in which we logged more than a thousand miles in a rented Chevy Impala. We packed our 10 long legs into that little number and saw some amazing sights. One of my favorite pictures is the road selfie above — it paints a picture of just how cozy we were.

I don’t know about you, but I find maintaining routines difficult when my boys are home. I want to be present and attentive to them, but that often means chucking my own agenda. Ahh, but Tuesday is a brand new day. It’s back to consistency with reading and writing and exercising and eating healthy. The world is my oyster. At least that’s how it feels. I am also aiming to add in some regular fasting. I have never, whether the boys are home or not, been consistent with fasting, but I do believe it is an important spiritual discipline. Even the simplicity of Jesus saying, “When you fast…” is always convicting. His assumption was that His followers would fast, and yet I’ve never made it a regular part of my life.

Will has been intermittently fasting for years but pretty much none of his admirable self-disciplines have rubbed off on me. Recently he was fasting in an airport while traveling with our younger two sons. This simple fact illustrates how fundamentally different we are. I love munching, getting coffee, and people watching in airports. The idea of fasting while traveling would never occur to me. Anyway, we were chatting on the phone and he was getting a little impatient about some travel inconvenience and I said, “Well, you’re probably just getting hangry from fasting.”

And his response has been replaying in my mind.

“You don’t get hangry,” he said. “You get you.”

It’s so true. Fasting brings out you. It magnifies your struggles. Just like being inconvenienced or being treated unfairly or any hurdle in life, our existing propensities can intensify under pressure. Increasing self-awareness is only one of the many benefits of fasting, but how great to regularly get a fresh look at you, unfiltered.

The world says, “you do you” but it’s not usually a call to use your God-given gifts for His glory. It’s more in the vein of “leave me alone, I’m good just how I am.” That’s not the message of the Gospel. The Gospel tells us that God knit us together uniquely in our mothers’ wombs. He loves us just how we are, but we are meant to be lovingly transformed more and more into His image. We become our truer selves and better, unique reflections of Him.

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” ‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭3:18‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Giving thanks today for a sweet summer, and praying for a season of discipline and growth. May we all continue to be transformed by beholding His glory.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Buckets and Barns

Hey Friends,

Last Sunday I was out of town for a swim meet. Shocking, I know. But I went to church and heard a fantastic sermon. Do you go to church when you are on vacation or out of town? I have never once regretted doing so. In fact, I always find it so encouraging. No matter the state of the world, there are great people who love Jesus everywhere.

The pastor was preaching from James 4.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. James‬ ‭4:13-17‬ ‭ESV‬‬

It’s a familiar passage, but he tied it to a modern day example I’d never heard before. He said, the guy who came up with the “bucket list” concept, Dave Freeman, hit his head at home and died. He was 47. Will and I are 47. Needless to say, Dave Freeman hadn’t checked off all the items on his list. None of us have a guarantee to live another day, or even to take another breath.

It made me think about when Jesus told the Parable of the Rich Fool who wanted to tear down his existing barns to build bigger ones.

And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God. ‭‭Luke‬ ‭12:19-21‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Do you have a specific list of things you want to do before you die? I do not. I try and live in the moment and soak up the places and experiences I am blessed to visit and have, but I’m not particularly inclined to check boxes. I love making memories with my family in new places. I enjoying trying new food and seeing new sights. But I also try to live in the reality that I may not wake up tomorrow. I want to live each day clinging to my Savior, grateful for every moment, and resting in the truth that this life isn’t all there is.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with making a list of what to do before you die, so long as one entry is already checked off: Know Jesus.

“And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” John‬ ‭17:3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

No bucket item or barn store can compare with knowing the only true God!

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Monday

Hey Friends,

I know “Jackson Five Monday” lacks the usual ring, but I’m just now getting to sit down and write. Still, the title is apt.

In May I followed through on a plan that had been brewing for years. I had planters installed to spruce up a somewhat barren view. I bought colorful flowers and enjoyed gazing at them almost every time I walked by. At least that’s what I did for a few weeks. But then I somehow missed watering them once or twice. They started looking more and more pitiful and yet I still forgot about them. Then I was out of town for a couple days, and when I got home it was quite evident that they were dead. My pretty flowers wasted away from utter neglect.

Isn’t that a picture of the Christian life? It only takes a day or two of skipping out on time with the Lord for me to notice the difference. My spirit begins to wilt like thirsty petals, and I may mistake my impatience for stress, but the truth is I need the nourishment of time with God and His Word. More than a few days and I feel unanchored, aimless and unmotivated. And we know that the Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint. We know we need to press on, but oftentimes knowing what to do — I knew these plants needed water — is not enough to do it. On my own, my life will always turn out like these flowers. I need the help of the Holy Spirit to do what I know I need to do.

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” ‭‭Philippians‬ ‭3:12‬ ‭ESV‬‬

But how is “pressing on” related to Mondays you may ask? Well, I love Mondays because they always feel like a fresh start. God’s mercies are new every morning but sometimes I feel readier to embrace them on Mondays. So, if you haven’t spent time reading God’s Word, journaling or praying yet today, there’s still time to kick your week off right. Your spiritual or literal flowers may be dead, but praise be to God, you can weed, uproot and plant new ones. God’s mercies are new every morning, and I pray today is a day you can boldly live into this truth, pressing on, confident that you are His.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Prizing Age

Hey Friends,

Hope you’ve had a good week. We are in the stage of summer — with the exception of Dub who is still practicing at the crack of dawn — where things have really slowed down. Since Nate is turning sixteen next month, I have spent a good portion of every day this week being chauffeured by him. I really want to think if we lived in a flatter place, with less windy roads, I’d be a more chill driving instructor, but it’s probably wishful thinking. I know the stress of it has aged me. Every time I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I am reminded that the years are more and more evident. Honestly though I want to prize age and am baffled by the cultural obsession with youth. I may have preferred the way I looked when I was twenty, but I wouldn’t want to be twenty for anything.

Last night I celebrated my birthday with three girlfriends. Yes, my birthday was in January but the night we had planned back then I had to cancel because I had the kind of cold where it sounds like you might cough up a lung. So we rescheduled…six months later. I made margaritas, bought some yummy guacamole from Whole Foods, and taught them how to play euchre, my favorite card game on my back patio. This is what I told them I wanted instead of going out somewhere. Increased clarity about how exactly you want to use your time is yet another benefit of growing older. When asked, “What would you like to do for your birthday?” you can give a specific and sincere answer. On my actual birthday the boys had their only snow day of the year, and so I had a lovely afternoon playing euchre with them. Sam detests it, but was relatively cooperative given the circumstances. I think euchre with people who make me laugh is just my standing birthday wish from now on.

But putting aside the increased self-awareness, the decreasing fear of missing out, the certainty about how you want to spend your time, and the relative wisdom, another benefit of growing older struck me this week. I was reading the Gospel of John as part of our church-wide reading plan, and I caught something I’d never considered before.

The woman “caught in the act of adultery” is dragged before Jesus, and He responds by writing in the sand.

When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. ‭‭John‬ ‭8:7-9‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Obviously, it’s a familiar story, yet the phrase “the older ones first” has never jumped out at me before. It rings true, doesn’t it? As I get older, the more I realize that it is only by the grace of God that I’m not periodically dragged in as a counter example. My life is a story of grace upon grace, and it leaves no room to judge anyone. “There go I but by the grace of God” is essentially the defining hashtag of my life, and I hope I never have any propensity to cast the first, or any, stone.

Meanwhile our culture elevates youthfulness even though the young seldom appreciate their own sinfulness. I know I didn’t appreciate mine. As far as willingness to leave the stone casting scene my twenty year old self would’ve been last. I was a lot more attractive than I am now, but I was also absurdly self-righteous. Can’t we prize the upside of having lived a few years? Of knowing a few things? Of recognizing that only our loving Creator knows us completely and loves us perfectly?

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭31:30‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Have a fabulous weekend prizing the wisdom and humility of your years, no matter how many!

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: You Walk Into a Room…

Hey Friends,

First of all, I’d appreciate prayers for my grandnephew who is hospitalized with a respiratory infection. He’s improving but yesterday was a scary afternoon for the doting mom and dad. It sure doesn’t take much to remind us all how precious and fragile life is, does it?

Are you a podcast junkie? I get on kicks where I’ll listen to a bunch and then I’ll go weeks or even months without listening to any. But one I heard this week was particularly impactful. It was from The Rabbit Room and a little quote was referenced in passing. I honestly don’t even know who said it, nor who quoted it, but it addressed thinking of others more highly than yourself. This is the refrain I keep being led back to this summer. I’m paraphrasing, but this was what was said, at least in essence:

When you walk into a room, are you a “Here I am” person, or a “There YOU are” person?

What a novel way to frame it! Honestly, I think we’re all capable, at various times, of being both kinds. But I know for sure that I find a truly “There you are” person the most magnetic on earth. We all prefer the person who lifts others up, asks thoughtful questions, follows up on past conversations, doesn’t let themselves remain the center. And yet…

Heavenly Father, help me to be self-aware enough to know when I drift into “Here I am”-ing. Help me to derive my worth, identity and affirmation from YOU. Help me to cheer others on toward love and good deeds, and to celebrate their joys with a pure heart. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians‬ ‭2:3-4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Fill in the Blank

Hey Friends,

Hope your week has been as slow and lazy as mine.  Nate is at the beach with our church, Sam’s swim season is wrapping up, and Dub, of course, drives himself everywhere.  This is the first week of summer that I’ve not raced anyone to camp (as an attendee or counselor), or to driving school a half hour away.  Instead I’ve made big breakfasts after swim practice and leisurely read Scripture to Sam while he ate.

There was a season maybe six years ago where my carpool buddy did the morning run.  I started reading the boys a devotional at the door as we waited for her van to pull up.  To engage them I would intermittently skip a word, mostly at the end of sentences, and let them try to fill it in.  I even offered monetary rewards for correct answers.  I hadn’t thought about that in years, but as I read to Sam this week, I did the same thing.  It’s encouraging how adept he is at filling in the biblical blank, because I’ve been horribly inconsistent with Scripture and devotional reading.  We read Psalm 23, Romans 12, and 1 Corinthians 13.  These are passages familiar enough to most believers that filling in the blank is not very challenging.

He makes me lie down in green __________, he leads me beside quiet __________, he __________ my soul.

Do not repay anyone __________for __________… Do not take __________, my friends, but leave room for God’s __________

Love is patient, love is __________.  It does not envy, it does not __________.  It is not proud.  It is not __________, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily __________, it keeps no __________ of __________.

Even though these are some of the most commonly quoted passages, and we know the right answer, the real issue is whether we live the right answer.  Do we rest in the green pastures of summer, savoring the quiet waters, knowing only God can restore souls?  Are we tempted to repay evil for evil, or do we know that it is God’s to avenge?  Are we kind or boastful?  Are we rude or easily angered?  Do we keep records of wrongs?

Like anything else in the life of faith, we don’t just have to try harder to not keep records of wrongs, or to live out any of these principles. Giving it your all is not the answer.  Any gains you make will be slight and temporary.  Real transformation happens when we live our lives yielded to the work of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 12:1-2).  Anything good in me is a reflection of Him. Apart from Him, I can do nothing. (John 15:5).  The call is to live by the Spirit, ever yielding to His good, pleasing and perfect will.

“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).  Come up with whatever worthy fill-in-the-blank you want, being in step with the Spirit is the only way to truly live it out.

With Love,

Kristie

 

Jackson Five Friday: Comfort and Peace

Hey Friends,

Hope you’ve had a wonderful week with lots of patriotism and gratitude for the freedoms afforded Americans. We haven’t been home for July 4th in a few years, and so we especially enjoyed a low-key day ending with fireworks shot off the side of the mountain. It may not have been as big as the fireworks we used to frequent on the National Mall, but bang for effort, it can’t be beat.

This year I’ve been contemplating what it means to have the peace of Christ. I gave a chapel talk in January on this topic, and somehow I just keep coming back to it. I guess in part it’s because there continues to be a situation in my life that has the potential to be a tremendous peace killer. Mostly, it has just made me cling to Jesus all the more, but there are moments that I let anger creep in. Anger is always ready to take over and wreak havoc. But as Ann Voskamp puts it, “anger is the lid that suffocates joy.” And that’s such a great way to think about it, because who wants their joy suffocated?

Do you have circumstances in your life that feel unjust? How do you embrace the peace of Christ in the midst of those kinds of situations? In one sense, the answer might be a multi-volume tome, but in another the answer is simple: “Nothing can set our hearts at rest but a real acquaintance with God.” (Hannah Whitall Smith, The God of All Comfort).

When we know and trust God most, peace is a byproduct. When we know God the most, we can’t help but trust Him. It’s almost like the illustration from Dietrich Bonhoeffer that simplifies so much. He said, in essence that the life of faith is like a self-reinforcing wheel. You can jump on anywhere, and get it spinning. You can jump on with choosing to believe and then you’ll be able to more easily obey God’s Word, or you can start obeying and the more you live according to God’s Word, the more you’ll believe. In short, trusting and obeying are components of a snowballing faith. But we must be mindful that the object is Jesus, it’s not self-help or self-improvement or self-actualization. It is all about Him. Hannah Whitall Smith also said, “Comfort and peace can never come from anything we know about ourselves, but only and always from what we know about Him.”

So the question becomes what do I know about Him? What do you know about Him?

I know He loves me and that He died for me, and I pray you do too.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans‬ ‭5:8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

With Love,

Kristie