Three for Three

We are gearing up to move again this week, and it will be the third time in three years. In June of 2006, we moved to Florida and bought a beautiful house, expecting to stay there for the indefinite future. But eighteen months later, we bounced back to the DC area. Even though I loved living in a smaller, cozier city, something about DC really does feel like home. Since our house in Florida wasn’t selling, we decided to buy and live in something modest near Will’s work in Virginia. I found a foreclosed condo with a two-minute commute. Our plan was to live there (here) until we sold our house in Florida, and then reevaluate. Maybe sell the condo. Maybe rent it out. But we never have sold that place in Florida. Hence, Plan B: sell the condo and rent something with a yard, and a place where the boys can ride bikes.
But it’s interesting to reflect on these last two residences; each has housed our family for exactly eighteen months. One is utterly fabulous and spacious and the other adorable, but small. The contrast is stark. I feel compelled to at least consider whether that big house, with all it’s gadgets and high ceilings and modern everything, made me happy?
The answer is no. Don’t get me wrong, we enjoyed living there and even marveled that it could really be ours. But we’ve been just as content in this little place. My kitchen is small but sufficient, the boys all sleep in one room, and the bathroom that Will and I share is tiny with a single sink.
Often we think, if only I had more this or more that, but that kind of daydreaming just leads to discontentment. It’s a significant blessing to know through experience that living in extravagance has zero effect on my happiness. Jesus said, “a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12: 15). And His words always prove true.
But lessons learned once, are not necessarily lessons always applied. We have an incredible propensity to forget. Why do you think the Bible says “Remember!” so many times? We need to remind ourselves of truths over and over and over again. And there is no better way to remember than to record. I’m not terribly organized about it, but I do enjoy having the record of this blog, and I also write in journals that I keep around the house, in the car, in my pool bag, and on the computer. You definitely do not have to be supremely organized about it, the Lord knows I’m not, but I do think everyone should keep some kind of record of spiritual lessons learned and also of God’s faithfulness.
As my daily devotional recently noted, “Those who praise God for His many blessings will find those blessings abounding more and more.” (Indeed Magazine, 6/8/2009).
Let us be intentional this week in discerning and recording life’s lessons and God’s faithfulness. He will be glorified and you will be blessed!

Ten Great Lines

I am determined to make 2009 a summer of reading. Little Will has started reading The Boxcar Children aloud to Nate, Sam and me, and I hope this is just the first of many stories that we enjoy this summer. Since I usually blog when the boys are at school, I am thinking that a shortened blog format might be good for our homelife, at least on occasion. Hence, I am going to do a top ten list, every now and then, in lieu of my normal weekly post.

In the past I have claimed that I am not a lyrics person, but I should clarify. I have very little aptitude for remembering the words to songs. In fact, I am certain those around me find this remarkable ineptitude irritating. But, for the record, I do make an effort when I find the music particularly edifying. I love each of the following songs in their entirety. I find them full of truth and wisdom, and truth and wisdom set to music is worth pondering, worth listening to and reflecting upon over and over again. I’ve picked out my favorite line from each song. Some are heartbreaking, some uplifting, all profound.
  1. The Power of the Cross by Getty Music. “Oh to see my name. Written in the wounds, For through Your suffering I am free.”
  2. Held by Natalie Grant. “If hope is born of suffering. If this is only the beginning. Can we not wait, for one hour? Watching for our Savior?”
  3. How Deep the Father’s Love for Us by Sarah Sadler. “Ashamed I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers.”
  4. Something Beautiful by Newsboys. “I want a new beginning. One without an end.”
  5. Revelation Song by Gateway Worship. “I’m filled with wonder, awestruck wonder. At the mention of Your name.”
  6. Husbands and Wives by Brooks and Dunn. “Pride is the chief cause in the decline in the number of husbands and wives.”
  7. Be Thou My Vision By Ginny Owens. “Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise. Thou mine inheritance, now and always.”
  8. Finally Home by MercyMe “I’m gonna wrap my arms around my daddy’s neck. And tell him that I’ve missed him…When I finally make it home.”
  9. In Christ Alone by Getty Music. “No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man, can every pluck me from His hand.”
  10. Forever On and On by Point of Grace. “I’d just as soon try and count the stars up in the sky…than to measure the love there is between His outstretched hands.”
May we ponder and apply these lyrical truths this week! And I would love to know some of your favorites as well.

My Praise Baby

Sam has always been musical. When he was about two weeks old, he started to love Johnny Cash. I’m not kidding. The older boys went to different preschools and so we spent a lot of time driving around. Sam would be screaming his precious little head off and I’d put on Johnny Cash and he’d stop. He even showed a strong preference for “I’ve Been Everywhere.” This despite the fact that our household has a Johnny Cash theme song, “Jackson.” If we tried to play “Jackson,” Sam would cry and the older boys would plead, ‘”Mom, Mom, put on his favorite, put on his favorite.” Only God knows how many times we listened to that song. When Daddy was in the car with us he’d try to play something else, saying “I’m not going to let my newborn dictate what music I listen to.” But eventually he’d give in too. You can’t really listen to anything when our little Pavarotti is exercising his lungs.

And since Sam was about five months old he has loved to watch Praise Baby DVDs. If you’ve never seen one, they are sort of like Baby Einstein for Christians. The million dollar concept is background music and video clips of interesting things to look at, mostly other babies. I know, don’t you wish you would’ve thought of it? Anyway, Sam still loves his Praise Baby. He sings along, not every word but a few here and there. And when we hear those songs on the radio, he excitedly waves his arms and belts out the words he knows. The other day we were driving along and I looked at him in the rearview mirror, and that little doll face was singing “God of Wonders” with passion. The chorus says, “God of wonders, beyond our galaxy. You are holy, holy. The universe declares Your majesty. You are holy, holy.”
His beautiful little mouth, forming that O-shape to exclaim “holy” is priceless. While he sings, he sort of sways back and forth with the rhythm, tilting his head ever so slightly. It is just about the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. Needless to say, I’ve been playing “God of Wonders” over and over and attempting to get this on video. But in our house when we pull out any recording device, the boys’ IQs all drop about fifty points, and all they can manage to do is eek out “cheese” in a lethargic tone. It is incredibly difficult to get those candid snippets that depict the real Jackson boys. But alas I keep trying.
But the point is that more than being incredibly cute, Sam is unwittingly obeying a biblical command. There is a call to sing; it is not a mere suggestion, or a recommendation for those, like Sam, who enjoy music. No, the Psalms repeatedly instruct us to sing. Psalm 33:1 says “Sing joyfully to the LORD.” Psalm 33: 3 says “Sing to him a new song.” And Psalm 66:1 says “Sing the glory of his name.” In fact, there are directives to sing sprinkled throughout the Old and New Testaments.
So the question for the week is how often do you sing His praises? You may praise Him in your head, you may even read a psalm of praise, but music is a gift and a command. It’s more about obedience than talent. So may we SING His praises this week! You will be blessed and our Loving Father will be glorified.

The Wisdom of Gnarls Barkley

There’s a song I like called Crazy by Gnarls Barkley. I don’t what the genre is and I don’t know how old it is. I never do know things like that. All that matters to me is that it has a catchy beat, with vocals more comical than lyrical, and Sam and I love to dance to it. And I’m not one to know lyrics, but I’ve listened to it so many times that they’ve begun to sink in. My favorite stanza is:
Come on now
who do you, who do you, who do you,
who do you think you are?
ha ha ha bless your soul
you really think you’re in control?
I think you’re crazy.
I think you’re crazy.
Ha ha ha bless my soul. It is indeed crazy how I sometimes live like I am in control, even though I know the Bible speaks to this lunacy over and over again. Remember the rich farmer who decided one day to take life easy — to eat, to drink, to be merry? Remember that day was his last? (Luke 12). Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” And in Luke, Jesus asks the rather pointed question, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” Needless to say, no hands went up. We cannot even ensure we will breathe another breath and yet we idiotically presume we are in control–planning and plotting out our lives. Then, when things go awry, we moan and pout.
Take today for example. I took my minivan to the gas station to get a state inspection sticker. They take your wheels off, look at your brakes, verify your lights work, open the hood, inspect who knows what, and for a fee slap a sticker on your windshield. When I took the vehicle in, the a/c was working. In fact, it was blowing ice cold air. When I reclaimed possession and darted off to recess duty with my trusty sticker, I turned the air on and nothing happened. No air blew, neither hot nor cold. Frustrated and certain they must have knocked something loose, I took the car back an hour later. They assured me that it was impossible that they botched my air. They didn’t touch my air. They were unconvinced by my assertion that it was a mathematical impossibility that the air just happened to go out during the thirty minutes they were tinkering with my car. I firmly insisted they take a look at it, which they did. After about ten minutes, the gentleman returned and said, “the front blower is out.” This was news? I left without remedy, picked up Sam from Mother’s Morning Out and loaded him into the mobile sauna.
I decided we’d just proceed to the grocery as planned. Boys drink a lot of milk, and we were almost out. We were stopped at a light, and I thought to myself. “It’s hard not to sweat the small stuff when you’re this sweaty.” And then it was like an epiphany. This is small stuff. It’s aggravating. But it is small stuff. At that precise moment, my air conditioning started to sputter and spit. There was a whining sound within the hood and I didn’t know if that meant we were about to combust or what. But lo and behold, in the minutes that followed the air conditioning began to work, feebly at first, then as good as it ever has. I just smiled and smiled, enjoying the cold air like never before.
I have no explanation for what occurred other than God was graciously reminding me that I am not in control of my circumstances. I can control my attitude and how much I trust Him, but beyond that, well, that’s just crazy.