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,



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,


Jackson Five Friday: When Will It End?

Hey Friends,

Hope you’ve had a fabulous week. I can’t believe it’s almost July — summer is flying by. I’m grateful to be spending the night in my own bed for the first Friday night in a month. Chill summer weekends are the best!

Last weekend we were in Auburn, Alabama for a swim meet. Auburn has such a pretty campus, and such a cute little town. On Sunday, I went to church in the lobby of a hotel, just like I did last year at the Auburn meet, except this time I took Sam and Nate with me. Because of sensitivity with my eyes, I can’t sit in natatoriums for hours on end, so I try to pop in for races, and attend shorter sessions. My husband watches every race he possibly can, but sometimes I skip out on Sundays and go to church instead, not to be holier than thou, but to protect my eyes.

So, the three of us elbowed our way into a crowded hotel ballroom and wonder of wonders, what was the sermon text? That’s right Philippians 2:1-11. In other words, it was the third sermon I’ve heard on that text in four weeks. The similarities and differences have been fascinating, but it did make me wonder when it will end — this bombardment of Philippians 2. What else do I need to learn?

This pastor, much younger than the other two, didn’t shy away from controversy. He talked about how social media, while not universally bad, can fuel comparison. He called out those who exalt themselves and show an unrealistic highlight reel of their lives on instagram. Then he shifted gears and addressed the problem of envy. He talked about how difficult it is for people to truly celebrate others. It made me miss my parents all the more. Because celebrating — both the simplest little things and the most profound — is when I miss my mom and dad the most. Honestly, celebrating the daily joys, life’s tiny momentary treasures is the hardest thing about not having parents. Then this week was their 60th wedding anniversary and I ended up living out a great story to share with my dad.

In the summer of 1993, my dad and I were driving from Michigan, where I had spent the summer, back to Florida, to where I went to school and my parents had conveniently moved. My car broke down in Dry Ridge, Kentucky. We rolled to a stop on the side of I-75 less than a tenth of a mile from an exit. He decided that he would push the car up the exit ramp, while I steered. I was 21 and he was 61.

Being the master of the concise direction, he had only a few words for me: “Whatever you do, don’t touch the brake.”

Six years later he had a fatal heart attack. I can’t even tell you how thankful I am that the tremendous physical feat of pushing a car up an exit ramp didn’t precipitate anything but a lot of sweat and years of laughter. We were stuck in Dry Ridge for two whole days waiting on a part, and we ate every meal at the Shoney’s next to our hotel. It was hilarious.

But I’d give anything to tell him about how I’ve passed the “when-necessary-push-it” baton. On Wednesday all five Jacksons saw Apollo 11 at the IMAX in downtown Chattanooga. We’d met there from different places, but parked in the same garage. When we went to leave Dub’s car wouldn’t start, even with a jump. Tired and hungry, we left it there. When Dub and I went back to get it yesterday I decided — since a regular tow truck could not possibly tow it out of the garage — that the best course of action was to push it out of the garage onto the street with easy tow-access.

It might prove a lifetime of instant laughs to recall “pulling up” to the kiosk thingy where you pay for parking — Dub pushing, me steering. I don’t know how many of you have had the experience of paying the parking fee from a dead car with a steerer and a pusher, but it’s pretty funny. Fortunately, there was no one else in the garage at the time.

We got it out to the road with a lot of effort on Dub’s part. I was trying to convince him that steering a dead car is actually work too, but I don’t think he was buying it. We determined that four feet from the curb was probably not sufficient. We needed to get it closer like an actual parked car, but Dub needed a break. Plus the road had a slight incline. I put the parking brake on because I was worried about the car rolling back on him. We rested for a few minutes and then gave it another whirl, this time he would steer and push and I would push on the passenger side. Sadly, I forgot to tell him that the parking brake was on. We were using every muscle fiber in our bodies, and the car was not budging. Oops! I should’ve listened to my dad: whatever you do, don’t touch the brake.

I don’t think it’s hard for people to mourn with those who mourn, or maybe even to rejoice over funny tidbits like generations of pushing dead cars. But rejoicing over the more significant blessings of others isn’t always easy. By the power of the Holy Spirit, I want to be someone who does this well. I want to be the kind of person who appreciates how meaningful it is to the blessed to have others rejoice with them. I want to celebrate others with the mind of Christ. How about you?

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, ‭‭Philippians‬ ‭2:4-5‬ ‭

How can you celebrate someone in your life this weekend?

With Love,


Jackson Five Friday: Praising Him in the Storm

Hey Friends,

I’m wondering if I should order a stash of earplugs for our house guests. Yes, I live with some crazed sports fans who regularly hoot and holler over televised events, but I’m actually referring to our bird issue. Each morning when I wake up it sounds like my bed has been transported to some kind of arboretum. It’s not a bird or two, it’s a vast chorus of songs. It sounds like an avian competition for the earliest, loudest song in history. I’ve kind of gotten used to it, but I do feel bad for our guests.

This week we had a brief but lovely visit from NoVA friends. The birds were at it early, chirping and singing loud and proud. Then a storm blew in. Even with lightning and booming thunder, they kept at it.

“Mmhh,” I thought to myself, “I’ll praise you in this storm.” A few beats of the Casting Crowns song played in my head, then, hoping my guests weren’t awakened, I rolled over and went back to sleep. But it’s interesting how song lyrics are so deeply imbedded in our minds. It’s a good reminder to me to listen to more Christian music.

Because the song in its entirety is great, but the best part is the refrain that quotes Psalm 121:1-2:

I lift my eyes unto the hills — where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord. The maker of heaven and earth.

I do not know what storms you are facing right now but my prayer is that you’ll lift your eyes up to the hills and know deep in your soul where your help comes from.

With Love,


P.S. On Friday, I looked up to my favorite “hill” and saw the moon setting over it. You see it?

Jackson Five Friday: Stay Humble, or Stumble

Hey Friends,

Do you sometimes feel like the same message just pops up everywhere you go? Lately, the message for me has been about humility. Two Sundays ago we were out of town and visited a church, where the pastor preached from Philippians 2. He used the following quote: “Be humble, or you will stumble.” This morning I tried to get my boys to reason through whether that applied in anyway to the NBA Finals. I asked if maybe the Warriors were particularly proud. What little I know about KD and Curry I like, but I was curious what my boys would say. They were quite emphatic that no team in the NBA is humble.

Yet stumbling — being injured and facing hardship — reliably humbles us. We can’t guarantee another healthy step, or even another breath. Sometimes when life is sailing along, we grow complacent.

Last week we were back home, and our pastor preached on the same exact text. I also just read Philippians in my daily reading. And yet, no matter how many times this bombards me, it never comes easy.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Philippians 2:3

Counting others as more significant is not only counter-cultural, it goes against our nature. Our nature is to look out for our own interests.

Interestingly, the two pastors at these two vastly different churches applied the passage in a similar way.

One said, “You should look at the person next to you, and consider that their interests should come before yours.”

The other said, “How often do you consider yourself the least important person in the room?”

Perhaps the embarrassed humility I feel every time I consider these thoughts, will be a good first step.

Help me Lord Jesus to have even one pure thought or motive. Help me to count those I encounter as more significant than me. Lord, you know my heart. Please let Your love change it.

With Love,


Jackson Five Friday: “It’s Going Down!”

Hey Friends,

Last week, right here on the blog, I resolved not to run around like a chicken this summer. My silly optimism can be so pitiful sometimes. On Thursday night we had a rainy swim meet in Chattanooga, when it finally ended, Dub and I drove to Atlanta for a long-course meet at Georgia Tech. We rolled in about 11pm, but I couldn’t get to sleep because I drank coffee to be alert on the drive.

Then yesterday morning I watched a few of his events, trying to walk the campus a bit in between his races. Then I drove back to our hotel near Suntrust Park to shower, and then to the other end of Atlanta at Georgia State for a basketball tournament Nate was playing in. When Nate finished, he and I sped back to hotel to meet up with the rest of the Jacksons. Then Will, Dub and I went back to to the meet, while Nate and Sam created a basketball game in the hotel pool, inventively using a medicine ball and a hamper. By the time Dub raced in three finals it was much later than I’d hoped. We ended up arriving to the yummy restaurant recommendation from a friend at 8:45p. Not only had I run around like a mad chicken, I’d run around like a mad chicken in Atlanta, which is really taking it up a notch. Oh and it was raining cats and dogs for portions of the day.

I had a headache and may have been just a touch hangry. I’m not sure I fully appreciated the delicious food and lovely conversation. Sadly, I am just too old to run around that much. Near the end of our meal, a grandmother was being guided out of the restaurant by a couple of attentive granddaughters. They had her by the elbow, but the elder was concerned about walking down the ramp adjacent to our booth.

“It’s going down!” she said, in a loud voice. “It’s going DOWN!”

All three of us could not help but pay attention.

After she was out of earshot, my funny husband said, “Was she talking about life? Or just the ramp?”

Because in many respects life is going down. Getting old is not fun. I don’t like looking in the mirror and seeing the stark evidence. I don’t like having inexplicable aches and pains on an almost daily basis. Yet I think it’s lamentable when people live in denial of truth. The ardent search for a fountain of youth is foolish. You are going to die. I’m going to die. Unless, you die early you are going to look and feel old. I strongly prefer the look of a wrinkled old woman than a stretched and puffed one. The latter strikes me as a thousand times sadder. Sure, super-stretched is an absurd look, but it also evidences a disconnect with reality. It’s like they’re wearing propaganda on their face: “It’s not going down!” Sorry, despite the Botox and the fillers and the stretching, it is indeed going down.

Still, there’s something deep in us that wants to reject degeneration and decay. Where did that longing come from? It came from God. He planted the idea of eternity in our hearts. He promises to meet our every need, even the longing to make all things new. But it’s not in this life. In this life we are called to trust God’s plan, “resting on the pillow of God’s sovereignty” (an expression recently used by one of my pastor’s that’s quickly become my new favorite metaphor), and to keep pressing on toward the prize.

Trust. Rest. And press on.

May I do all three of these things much much better in the days to come.

And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9:10 ESV

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30 ESV

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14 ESV.

With Love,


Jackson Five Friday: Keeping it Simple

Hey Friends,

Hope you’ve had a wonderful week. My sons finished up the school year, and we’ve been in celebration mode for a few days. Monday is back to sports and routine, but our schedule for the summer, at least from this vantage point, appears to be a little simpler than in years past. I don’t anticipate running around like a chicken, doing a million things. I’m really trying to give up hurrying, and find myself saying aloud, “What’s our hurry?” The leaner calendar has required saying “no” to some things, even things that we love and do every year, but I am optimistic about the relative simplicity of the next couple months.

And simplicity is good. I need more of it in all areas of my life, but especially with regard to faith.

A.W. Tozer said, “The simplicity which is in Christ is rarely found among us. In its stead are programs, methods, organizations and a world of nervous activities which occupy time and attention but can never satisfy the longing of the heart.”

Let’s rid ourselves of the “world of nervous activity” both in life and in faith. May we keep it simple and pursue knowing God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. In John 6, Jesus explains that the work of God is for us to believe in him whom he has sent. (John 6:29).

Our work is to believe God, but we cannot hope to believe Him without knowing Him.

When was the last time you made a new friend? How did it happen? You probably listened to this person, and talked with this person, and just spent time with them. We get to know God the same way. He is a Person. We can talk to him by praying, and listen to Him by reading His Word and sitting quietly before Him. It’s pretty simple.

Yet even though it’s simple, sometimes my time-management choices would indicate I don’t give a hoot about knowing God. Praying today that this summer my pursuit of God will be both simple and devout, that at the end of each day I can point to ways I pursued knowing and believing God more.

With Love,