The Problem with Light

Hey Friends,

Happy Saturday!  Hope this first weekend of fall is full of beauty and rest. It’s still feeling summer-y here but I know vivid colors and crisp temps are coming.  

Recently I was staring at this window. 

I love watching the sunrise right here with a cup of coffee, beholding the majesty of a new and always different day. But there’s a problem: when the light shines on my window I can see just how filthy it is. I mean look at it!  It’s begging for some Windex. 

I guess I could close the shutters in the mornings, and only open them when the sun is high in the sky. I’d never know just how dirty my windows are without the light. 

In a sense, people all over the world do just that. You know who they are. They’re the ones who say things like “I’m a good person.”  Honestly if I hear someone say something like that I want to chuckle.  “Oh really?” I think.  We can keep the shutters to our hearts closed tight. We can run from the Light.  Our imperfections and shortcomings may stay hidden.  We may temporarily believe the lie that we are “good.” 

But Jesus was clear: “Whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” (John 3:21). This is just a handful of verses after Jesus said that He came not to condemn the world but to save it. You can’t be saved from your own undoing if you think you are a good person.  What would you be saved from? Your own goodness?  

I have yet to clean the window above. It’s quite high off the ground and huge shrubs also form a barrier where I might try to place a ladder.  I do intend to clean it or have it cleaned, but I sure wouldn’t bother with it if I didn’t even know it was dirty — if I never opened the shutters.  And how sad would that be?  I’d miss the morning majesty daily displayed through this imperfect piece of glass. 

The same principle applies spiritually. We can walk around with the shutters to our hearts closed up tight but we’ll miss the majesty, the majesty of the healing, redemptive work that Jesus longs to do in our hearts. 

May I live each day embracing the Light, even when it reveals my many, many flaws.  May my imperfect reflection somehow still point to my perfect and loving Savior.

Have a fabulous weekend friends flinging open all your shutters! 

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: The Benefit of Premature Aging

Hey Friends,

You know I really want to be okay with the fact that I have no chance of being mistaken for a young woman, but that’s a post for another time.  This is a post about the benefit of having gone through a lot as a relative youngster, and how the resultant gift of faith is a tremendous blessing.

Today would be my brother Craig’s 52nd birthday.  He died in the summer of 2002 in a small plane crash, and honestly my whole family was still getting over the shock of losing my dad in late 1999.  My dad had had a heart attack on on an airplane coming to see me.  In between the world-shaking death of my dad, and the sudden loss of my brother, my uncle spiraled out of control with mental illness and ultimately took his own life.  I’ve written and spoken about this elsewhere, but yes, grief-stricken years, to say the least.

I’m sure you know that heartache and disappointment can sometimes harden people.  A bitter root can sometimes find fertile soil in sorrow.  But by God’s grace, I don’t believe that has been true for me.  Instead, I think maybe I’ve aged prematurely.  Let me explain.

I’ve been reading the latest book from Susan Alexander Yates.  She is a pastor’s wife (the wife of one of our former pastors in Virginia), and a pretty prolific writer and speaker.  The book, Risky Faith, has a whole section contrasting the differences between how a person matures “naturally” and how we as Christians mature spiritually.

In the midst of this section, Susan observes, “When I sit with older men and women I notice they have learned what really matters.  Years of acquiring biblical knowledge, walking through blessing and tragedy yet experiencing God’s faithfulness–no matter what–has simplified their faith.  They have learned to let go of many things.  And in their letting go they have come to a resting place, relying on Him.”

I by no means have acquired the biblical knowledge that I could have or should have by now.  I do not think I am particularly skilled at letting go of many things.  I’m sure I should have a better handle on what really matters.  Susan’s observations do not describe me in their entirety.  But I have had first row seats to experience God’s faithfulness — no matter what!  And I do think that my faith has indeed been simplified, and that’s a gift.  It may be a little premature, but it’s also a treasure I hope I never take for granted.

I have a couple recordings of Craig singing that I’ve put on my phone, and yesterday I drove around singing along with him on a continuous loop.  The name of the song?  Please Remember Me.  Maybe that gives you a sharp jab in the heart like it does me.  You may wonder why I would choose to do something which actually self-inflicts a lot of pain.  Maybe it is sort of a strange thing to do, but I have reasons: (1) I miss Craig terribly and even if it hurts I still loving singing with him; and (2) I can’t relive those sorrow-filled days without also remembering God’s faithfulness, and remembering God’s sustaining grace and comfort is vitally important.

You may or may not know the depths of despair, but I believe reminding yourself of God’s faithfulness is an important discipline even if your valleys thus far have been shallow and brief.  A major theme throughout the Bible is Remember.  Communion is about remembrance, giving thanks is about remembrance.  The Bible reminds us that we are dust, and that God breathed this whole beautiful world into existence.  Today I remember the thirty years I soaked up the love of my brother Craig.  I am so grateful for the eleven years that Will and Craig were the best of buds — seeing them laugh together was one of my very favorite things.  Today I remember that even when life falls apart, your heart is torn to pieces, and your chest physically hurts from grief, that the words of Jesus have proven true in my life.

I will never leave you or forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5)

Abide in me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5).

I’m still buying new big sunglasses and earrings to hide my physical age.  I’m not yet embracing my many laugh lines, but I am also overwhelmed with gratitude for my bit of premature aging.  Perhaps I should buy a rocking chair for the front porch where I can gently glide back and forth and tell all comers:  God.  Is.  Faithful.  No matter what.

Swing on by and see this old soul!  Just don’t ask me to take off my sunglasses.

Love to YOU,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Right Feelings

Hey Friends,

I hope you’ve all been well. I know for many of you today wraps up the first week of a new school year and I hope those first days have been joyful, and full of all the right feelings.  “Right feelings?” you say. “Who’s to say feelings are right or wrong — they are feelings.”  Isn’t it a thing to “feel all the feels” these days?

In a sense that’s true, feelings are subjective, and goodness knows I feel quite a range sometimes.  Why declare feelings right or wrong?  But in our society’s effort to validate and hear out the genuinely aggrieved, we’ve also muddied the waters.  People have forgotten that feelings do not trump all other rationales.   The microaggression nonsense is out of control. Plus, we’ve ignored our innate ability to largely control our feelings.

You want to feel kindness and love for somebody?   You can’t, of course, just decide to manufacture warm feelings, but it’s still pretty darn easy to get them: you just treat them with kindness and love. Right feelings follow right actions.  You cannot do something completely unselfish for someone with no intention of getting repaid and not feel just a little more esteem for that person. You cannot hug somebody tight and not feel a little extra warmth toward them. You can exert a lot of control over your feelings by being purposeful with your actions.

Doing right may require intention, humility, even submission, but I’ve never once heard someone say “Boy, you know I wish I wouldn’t have done the right thing.”  Nor has anyone said, “I did the right thing but man I felt horrible about it.  Doing right has just turned me into a self-centered, hateful person.”  Implicitly we know overriding feelings and doing right positively impacts who we are, but it’s not a message we hear often enough.

The refrain “we just need to love each other” is bandied about constantly like it’s some kind of panacea for social unrest.  But maybe we need to add the words “act like” in there.  Maybe to change the culture we need to start acting like we love each other.

Not surprising Jesus spoke to this issue in his Sermon on the Mount.  He said, “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?  Are not even the tax collectors doing that?”  (Matthew‬ ‭5:46‬ ‭NIV‬‬).  A rough paraphrase might be: the lowest of the low in society manage to love those who love them. But what good is that?  We are called to love our neighbors as ourselves, and even our enemies.

So I leave you with this oft-quoted but always appropriate quote from C.S. Lewis: “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did.” Mere Christianity.

Next time your children start pushing each other’s buttons why not ask them “What would it look like to love that sibling right now?”  When they give you an honest answer, make them do it and see what happens. I often make my boys give each other hugs and look into each other’s eyes and say, “I love you.”  It’s never once backfired.  Next time you are frustrated with your spouse or even a friend, do something especially kind and loving. I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what happens.

Have a great weekend friends, loving with actions and feeling all the right feels!

Love to YOU!

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Call List

Hi Friends,

I’ve had a recurring thought these last few months that maybe my friends in Virginia have a call/text list for me.  It is so encouraging to get a text or call every now and then, just because.  Friends will text me that this or that made them think of me.  But it happens not just once in a great while but pretty consistently.  Could one of them have said, “Hey listen, you know what Kristie is going to need?  She’s going to need to know we still love her, that she is not forgotten, that the Jacksons may not be people we see all the time, but they haven’t fallen off the face of the earth.”  I am kidding about the list.  I don’t know how that would work, and some of these friends aren’t connected by anything other than geographic proximity.  I think these sweet friends are just being sweet friends, without any need for an orchestrating force beyond the faithful promptings of the Holy Spirit.

These dear ones are just being biblical, following Paul’s admonition to “encourage one another and build one another up.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11.  But I am so very thankful for their faithfulness — so very thankful.  How are you doing with that little mental list of phone calls you should make, or friends you should check on?  Can I encourage you to send that text or email?  Maybe a handwritten note would be a treasure for that person.  Maybe the sound of your voice would mean the world to them.

This week I heard about two untimely deaths.  One a 45-year-old husband and father.  One a 25-year-old woman.  I knew them both, although not terribly well.  But you don’t need to be close to someone to have the gravity of death hit you with force, especially when that death is sudden and decades or a half-century too early.  Often our culture tries to live in denial that death is even a reality.  I find it horribly sad when empty platitudes –borne out of desperation to feel better in the moment — are all people have to cling to.

But I’m honestly not trying to be a downer.  It’s Friday and I hope it is full of joy for you and yours.  I hope that you know what will happen to you when you die, that you cling to a Risen Savior who loves you, instead of platitudes.  I hope, today, you’ll reach out to someone to build them up and give them an encouraging word.  Just let them know you are thinking of them.  Because one thing in this life is certain: you won’t always have that chance.

With Love,

Kristie

 

 

Jackson Five Friday: 1986

Happy Friday, Friends!

Do you know where you were in August of 1986?  I was getting ready to start high school, which is interesting to remember, given that my oldest son is wrapping up his first week as a high school freshman.  But more than starting high school, August 1986 was magical for an entirely different reason.  On August 19th, 1986 — thirty years ago today — I became an aunt.  My sister gave birth to a huge baby girl with lots of black hair.  Sadly, my mom had injured her back that week and so I moved in with my sister and her husband to help with the new baby.  I was completely nuts about her from those first days.  I remember holding her while she slept, not wanting to put her down.  At fourteen I couldn’t care less about getting stuff done, and I never tired of gazing at and cuddling with Caitlin.

My teenage self recognized this baby as a  blessing, and it wasn’t long before she walked and talked, speaking in full sentences as just a tiny little thing.  Yes, that precocious little girl provided many laughs.  Even still, as much as I loved her those first years, I could never have fathomed the blessing that she’d be in my life.  For thirty years she’s been a light-filled gift, and I can hardly stand the fact that she’s living so far away from me.  To say that I’ve put the hard sell for Tennessee on her new husband is a bit of an understatement.  But truly, I can so picture them here.  In fact, I can pretty much picture Caitlin right by my side wherever I am.  So grateful for the all the times these last thirty years that right by my side is exactly where she’s been.

So on her 30th birthday I am praising God for her life.  What an incredible gift!

Psalm 107:8 says, “Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.”

His unfailing love is always worthy of thanks, and Sweet Caitlin is one of His wonderful deeds!  Who can you give thanks for today?

Have a fabulous weekend!

Love,

Kristie

 

 

The Difference of a Year

Hi Friends,

All my boys are at school.  I am home alone.  My bed is made.  The dishwasher is unloaded.  I walked 3.5 miles, I don’t even need to wait till Friday to write!

And it’s pretty tempting to post because it was a year ago today that we came to visit Chattanooga for the first time.  I had been here, very briefly, as a child, and Will had as well, but neither of us had even passed through in the last thirty years.  Earlier in the summer, Will had visited and learned lots of wonderful things about the area, but it is still a surreal experience to touch down and immediately start asking yourself, “Could I live here?”  I mean, I probably do that everywhere I land, but when you are strongly considering uprooting and really doing it, it has a slightly different feel.  Anyway, we landed early evening on a Sunday and flew out Tuesday afternoon.  We never saw the sun; it rained nearly the entire time, often in torrential fashion.  The boys and I spent lots of time with a realtor, seeing many different neighborhoods, including atop two different mountains.  But the one area we did not see was Lookout Mountain.  That first trip I could not have envisioned the walk I just returned from that has expansive views on both edges of the mountain.  I could not fathom the views because with the rain, there were no views.  I did not know Sam would walk home from school or that church and youth group would also be steps away.  It is amazing to stop and think what can change in a year!

I’m usually a terrible phone friend, but I caught up with Caitlin (my niece) this morning for nearly an hour.  Her life too has changed drastically in a year.  It was almost a year ago that we met Cam for the first time.  They’d been dating most of the summer and she’d been telling us all kinds of wonderful things, but we just hadn’t met him yet.  Then we all went to a Nats game and it took maybe an inning to see that Cam was charming and kind, and most importantly, crazy about Caitlin — tomorrow will be their two-month anniversary.  So Caitlin left Northern Virginia too, and the little school where my boys were students.  She is loving married life in NYC, and will be tutoring this fall.

So I don’t know if crazy, huge changes sound terrifying to you, or indeed most welcome.  All I know is that a LOT can happen in a year and that God has a plan for all of it.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Jeremiah 29:11-13

May we seek Him and find Him in every season, whether it be a season of change or not.

Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Back to Reality 


Hi Friends,

Today is the last day of our vacation and my bones are aching to rest in their own bed.  I feel like I’ve been fueled up, even topped off, with many good things — from solid biblical teaching to amazing sunsets, from solitary walks on an inexplicably empty beach to celebrating my son’s birthday with a festive throng.  But the best thing about this vacation has  been the people. In the last two weeks I’ve spent time with some of my very favorites — my mom, my cousin Cassie, my sister and her husband, my niece Caitlin, my friend Melissa, my beach buddies Kelly and Pearl — it’s been a social extravaganza and more needful than most years. I’ve met so many wonderful people in Tennessee, but deep, abiding friendships do not happen overnight. 

Not long ago a friend from Virginia sent me this link, which is a sermon on friendship by Tim Keller. It’s fabulous and in it Keller says, “It’s your community that shapes you.”  It’s such a simple statement but truly profound at the same time. In large part, you are who you are because of your community.  Grapple with that for a minute.  Is your community edifying?  Adequately challenging? Does your community continually point you to Christ and the truth of His Word?  Does your community encourage you to do ALL things well for His glory? 

I hope you have some incredible friends who faithfully spur you on.  I do, but most of them live hundreds of miles away. This morning I sent a vital email about joining a small group at church.  I know this is what Will and I need.  I am praying that God will provide the perfect group for us to join. 

As summer draws to a close, is there something you need to do to ensure that the community that shapes you is the right one? 

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭10:24-25‬ ‭NIV‬

Thanks for reading and may God bless you and yours with loving, kingdom-minded communities. 

Warmly,

Kristie