Testimony Tuesday: Bono

I read this interview a few weeks ago and was so impressed and inspired by the clarity of Bono’s answers.  Like Bono, I am so glad to be able to cling to grace instead of karma, not because we never reap what we so (of course we do), but thankfully that’s not the whole story.  Through Jesus we are offered a truly amazing grace.  As Paul wrote, “all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:24).  Enjoy the interview!

Jackson 5 Friday: Treasuring Uniquenesses

So much rides on the fact that we are all made in the image of God.  It means that the most irritating person you’ve ever met and the meanest person you’ve ever met are still worthy of respect and dignity.  You need not look far to find examples where this deserved honor is withheld, and it’s incredibly destructive.  As followers of Christ, we should be treating others as we want to be treated, always respecting and always mindful that simple dignity is a high standard and yet also a minimum standard.

But treasuring each person does not mean we are all the same.  What an insult to an infinitely creative God!  We are incredibly different and I am amazed by how true this is even drawing from the same gene pool.  My three boys may as well be from three different continents.  I love them each tremendously, but in three unique ways.  It’s surely just a small hint of how God loves us.

The video link below is such a picture of Sam.  He started imitating me in a mocking way when he was still an infant.  He mimics my expressions, my laugh, and my mannerisms on a daily basis and has a seemingly unlimited array of facial interpretations for voices, songs and characters.  He may well have a future in acting or comedy.  You’ve probably seen the memory game, Simon, from the early 1980’s.  Well, then enjoy these updated Simon expressions by Sammy Jackson.

Theological Thursday: Jesus at My House?

On rare occasions I lead the brief, quite informal chapel service at my boys’ school, and I love doing this.  This morning Will and Nate were boarding a bus for a field trip to the Daughters of the American Revolution Museum, while I was in the sanctuary reading to the non-field trip bunch.  It was one of my all-time favorite books: If Jesus Came to My House by Joan Gale Thomas.  I have the 1951 version with simple sketches in mostly black and white.  It is a precious little book and tackles some important theological concepts.  I used it as a jumping off point to talk about how we are Christ’s ambassadors, as we wait patiently and expectantly for His return.

Yet one of the things that really struck me with the kids this morning is how beautifully this simple story illustrates the incarnation.

I asked a kindergarten boy sitting in the front row, “Was Jesus ever the same size as you, like the little boy in the book imagines?”

“No,” he answered, with self-assurance.

And so I talked about how sometimes we think Jesus was a baby and then somehow an adult.  As a child we don’t often ponder that Jesus was once just our size, just our age.  Jesus knows exactly what it is to be five.  He knows just how it feels to be ten.

When I blogged through Hebrews last year, I was moved by how Jesus carries our burdens as a compassionate, “I’ve been there” friend.  Whether as an adult or a little child, Jesus longs for us to relate to Him, to open our hearts by pouring out our sorrows and concerns, confident that He understands.  After all, Jesus was tempted and hurt, He was betrayed and taken for granted, He was beaten and crucified.

Hebrews 4: 16 says:
“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
What a gift that we can imagine Jesus coming to our house.  What a gift that he relates to us and loves us and showers us abundantly with mercy and grace.

Testimony Tuesday: C.S. Lewis

I’ve often mentioned how much C.S. Lewis has influenced my life.  As a little girl, I was delighted beyond measure by The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  No other book so engaged my imagination nor fueled my longing for a heaven-like place.  Then almost two decades later I read Mere Christianity for the first time.  I found it almost hard to believe that it was the same C.S. Lewis — it struck me as so improbable that one author could have such a profound impact on my life as a child and then again as an adult, and in such vastly different ways.

Over the years I’ve read much more Lewis’s work, and I’m continually amazed by his ability to state the complexities of life and theology in the simplest language, and to make difficult concepts almost comically clear.  In addition, I am deeply indebted to the C.S. Lewis Institute and its Fellows Program for encouraging my spiritual growth over the last six years.

Therefore, it seems quite fitting to share the testimony of C.S. Lewis as written by Art Lindsley.  Please read it here.  I’ll bet it will make you want to read old books.

Jackson 5 Saturday: The Wordsmithing Man of the House

On Thursday night we had a babysitter because we went to the fundraising dinner for the C.S. Lewis Institute.  Check out the Fellows Program — I know I mention it often but simply cannot recommend it highly enough.  The Institute has a heart for discipleship and aims to make the next ten years a “decade of discipleship” with many great programs that can be utilized and implemented around the world.  The Institute is partnering with RZIM and Alpha USA and I am excited about what this means for the spiritual growth of the church.  It was an encouraging night and Will and I feel so blessed to involved with such a great organization.

Anyway, when we have a babysitter, little Will takes seriously his role as “man of the house.”  This has been true since he was three years old.  My husband had a two month tour of duty in Germany when Will was three and Nate was one.  When he left for Germany, Daddy gave little Will a man-to-man talk about helping me out and being “the man of the house.”  It is comical to look back at how we treated that child.  Yes, he looked five.  Yes, his intelligence and understanding of the world around him far exceeded his years, but being our first child we had no idea what proper expectations were.  We set the bar amazingly high, and he consistently met or exceeded our wild expectations.  He has always, always tried his very best not just to behave, not just to please us as parents, but to help me in proactive ways.  He finds ways to be helpful without being asked, whether it’s carrying something for me, pushing the cart, picking up toys, getting snacks and drinks for others, especially Sam.  The kid is a wonder.  It breaks my heart, but he often asks me, “Do you think I’m being a good helper today?”

When we have a babysitter he loves playing Dad and putting Sam to bed.  He’ll read to him or lay down with him, and he loves that time with his baby brother.  He would probably do it every night if Sammy would let him, but when Mommy and Daddy are home, he wants nothing of big brother at bedtime.

So on Thursday Will and Sam both fell asleep in Sam’s bed.  It’s a full size bed so it’s not like it was terribly crowded, but Sam is a fickle child and so when he woke up in the middle of the night, he physically kicked his big brother out of bed.

It was 4 a.m. when Will stumbled groggily into our bedroom.  His five foot presence next to my bed woke me.  He didn’t have to say anything.

“What’s up?” I asked in the darkness.

“I’ve been banished,” he answered.

I found that to be such a funny middle-of-the-night statement.  But Will has a way of choosing just the right word, and as a lover of words, this gives me great joy.

He’s my wordsmithing man of the house, and I love him immensely.  Now, off to cheer him on at Junior Olympic Championships!  Swim fast, Will Jackson!

Testimony Tuesday: Chai Ling

We are all made in the image of God, and no one is of greater intrinsic worth than another, yet it is undeniable that God uses some people in bolder and starker ways than others.  Some people’s life experiences are extreme, while others’ are quiet and understated.  Some people endure unspeakable hardship while others appear to be relatively unscathed by heartache.  And some people know both the challenge of hardship and the blessings of bounty and peace.  Chai Ling is a woman who has an amazing story, a story of leadership and hope, peace and love, of fear and persecution, of great loss and great blessing, of calling and devotion.  The student protestors who survived the massacre in Tiananmen Square are a unique group and a number of them have given their lives to Christ, recognizing that true freedom and hope are found in Christ alone.  Chai Ling is among that group and is now an ambassador for Christ.  She still works to bring peace and freedom to the Chinese people, but realizes that ultimate victory cannot be accomplished without Divine Intervention.

I had the privilege of hearing Chai Ling pray last month at the closing dinner of the National Prayer Breakfast.  It was one of the most beautiful and yet desperate prayers I’ve ever heard.  The sorrow with which she prayed for the Chinese woman who are committing suicide after forced abortions (every day in China 500 women take their own lives and China is the only country on earth where the suicide rate is higher for women than men), and for the horrific ramifications of China’s One Child Policy (a baby is aborted in China every 2.4 seconds, read this article for more information).  All Girls Allowed is the 501(c)(3) that Ling started to “to restore life, value, and dignity to girls and mothers, and to reveal the injustice of China’s One-Child Policy.”   That night, to close out the National Prayer Breakfast, Chai Ling prayed for China with passion.  She prayed for religious freedom, for the children who are trafficked, for the millions of Christians there to be able to worship the Lord without fear.  She prayed for a long time, but I hung on every word, growing in appreciation for how bleak things remain in China, and joining her in asking the Lord to do great things through the Chinese people.

You can read the full story of how she came to know Christ here, but many aspects of her testimony really resonated with me.  She said that accepting Christ gave her a sense of complete peace, saying, “Finally, God is in charge.”

What a paradox that liberation comes through submission!  Yet for anyone who retains any sense of awe or wonder about the world around them, submission is not counter-intuitive.  Because once you acknowledge a Creator, logic leads you down a steady but gentle path that ends with the assurance of knowing that you are loved.

As Henri Nouwen writes in Life of the Beloved, “From all eternity, long before you were born and became part of history, you existed in God’s heart.  Long before your parents admired you or your friends acknowledged your gifts or your teachers, colleagues, and employers encouaraged you, you were already ‘chosen.’  The eyes of love had seen you as precious, as of infinite beauty, as of eternal value.”

Zepheniah 3:17 says, “He will take great delight in you; he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”

With this love and affection that pursues us relentlessly, why would we resist?  May we be like Chai Ling and know the peace of willfully putting God in charge of our lives.

Jackson 5 Saturday: Separate Ways and Praying Friends

Last night we took Nate and Sammy to a hoedown at school.  The hoedown is a purely social time for families to laugh and dance together.  Sammy loved the music and there were lots of little ones following only bits and pieces of the dancing directions, just like him.  And there were cookies and lemonade and prizes for costumes.  Somehow Sammy was not chosen for his usual attire (Redskins jersey, sporty pants, and Redskins hat) plus bandana!  Nate wore various pieces of an old Woody costume plus a University of Florida t-shirt.  So he wasn’t a contender either.  The actual winners were completely decked out — boots, hats, chaps, vests, skirts, braids.  Almost everyone embraced the theme and almost everyone danced.

But there was one dashing dancer who was missing — little Will chose to go to a buddy’s birthday party instead.  He had a great time and I don’t have any regrets about letting him go his own way.  The birthday boy is a good friend from the pool, and sometimes you just can’t be two places at once.

Yet it felt strange to be at a social event without him.  And if I’m honest, it wasn’t just strange, it was a little sad, because it’s like a snapshot of the future.  More and more, the boys will do their own thing.  That’s healthy.  After all, wise parenting should lead to independence and self-sufficiency.  But I want to relish these days of togetherness, to cherish every moment that I get to just hang out with my boys.  I don’t want them to be burdened as some children are by the weight of making me happy, yet I want them to know how much joy they give me every moment of every day.

It all goes back to the plea of the Psalmist about ordering our days aright, doesn’t it?  Read this post if you don’t know what I’m talking about.  Amazingly, I was talking to my good friend today as I made my way home from Costco.  She called me to see if my sons’ basketball team had closed out their season without having lost a single game, which they had.  And she hardly ever calls me because we actually see each other pretty often.  But we got to talking and then she prayed for me.  Do you want to know what she prayed?  What she prayed specifically, without me asking her to?

She prayed that I would number my days aright.  I hope you have a friend who prays for you.  May you know the peace and comfort of a praying friend who loves you and knows you and lifts you up, and may we be that peace and comfort to others.

Why not pray for someone you love right now?  Why not pray that they will number their days aright?

Testimony Tuesday: Jill’s House in Fairfax Woman

Although in the past I have only used personal testimonies on Tuesdays, and have talked about Jill’s House in a couple of different ways through the blog, this week I am pleased to share an article that I wrote for a local magazine about Jill’s House.  The article describes the vision for Jill’s House and how the dream of providing respite to families of children with special needs has come to fruition.  I hope you enjoy learning more about this life-changing ministry.

Jackson 5 Friday: I Told Me Yes

Sometimes Sam is quite defiant.  The other day I had told him not to go in the bathroom because the floor was still wet from a splashing good bath.

But that didn’t stop him.

“Sam,” I said, “I told you ‘no.'”

He looked me straight in the eye and reasoned, “Well, I told me ‘yes.'”

He is a gigantic almost four-year-old and his life is marked by extremes.  He can be the sweetest guy in the world.  He gives me unsolicited hugs and pats on the back every day.  He adores his brothers and hugs them about once every half hour.  When we pick them up from school Sam often asks them, “How was your day?”

But there are times that he is a handful, figuratively and literally.  He still throws himself down in public, screams his head off over slight disappointments, often cries about having to sit at the table for a meal, and manipulates the family to get his way.  He weighs about fifty pounds and although I can carry him around (last night I took him to Trader Joe’s in his pajamas and carried him the whole time) it is not easy.  Recently I’ve had an epiphany: I need to discipline him with greater consistency (not rationalizing away his behavior by thinking about how as the little brother he is constantly being dragged from practice, to game, to school event, etc, etc) and I need to set the bar higher than it has been.

We are actually making progress.  Yet it is still a matter of picking battles and sometimes I stink at that.  Last night I decided he had to try one bite of cantaloupe, who doesn’t like cantaloupe?  But guess how that ended?  Badly.  Maybe he really hated it, or maybe he can throw up on demand, I’m not sure.

The thing I need to remember is that discipline is hard work. It’s always easier to ignore, to cater, to give in.  But that’s not the loving thing to do.  I can laugh inside about some of his antics, but if I love Sammy, and I do love Sammy desperately, then I need to discipline him even when I’m tired, even when I’m finally getting a minute to read or to exercise or to do whatever it is I think I need to do.  I’m so thankful that the Bible talks about this very issue.

Hebrews 12:11 says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

Ahh, looking forward to that harvest!

Theological Thursday: Free Will Rob Bell?

The doctrine of free will is a toughie.  I don’t think our fallen little minds are capable of fully grasping the reality created by the all-knowing, all-loving, perfectly just, holy God of the universe.  And that limitation doesn’t bother me.  The Bible calls us to trust and obey, and so clarity in all things is neither necessary nor possible.  How puffed up do you have to be to have a mindset that requires understanding the things of God?  By mere logic that attitude is wholly irreverent and simplistic.  Even if we just marvel that the sun rises each day, isn’t the natural conclusion the one we find in Hebrews?  What is man that God is mindful of him? (2:6)

Christians can spend an inordinate amount of time and effort trying to resolve the tension between mankind’s free will and God’s sovereignty, but personally I’m drawn to the wisdom of Ravi Zacharias, who suggests that it is better to have answers to the big questions than to be discouraged by the mystery in smaller ones.  I concur with Zacharias that Jesus provides the best answers to life’s biggest questions about origin, meaning, morality, and destiny.  If I know that God lovingly created me in His image, that I will find meaning in life by glorifying him, that the Bible is the moral authority for life, and that my destiny as His follower is to spend eternity with Him, the rest of life’s questions are beans by comparison.

Yet a recent tweet by John Piper regarding Rob Bell caused a flurry of controversy, and there are aspects of this controversy that are quite important and actually touch on all these most important questions: origin, meaning, morality and destiny.  I almost wish it was just beans, because I abhor controversy, but I don’t think it is.  The verbal spears started flying when in response to this video (which is the promo for Bell’s forthcoming book, Love Wins: Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person Whoever Lived), Piper tweeted, “Farewell Rob Bell.”  People on both sides of this are indignant, and yet to my knowledge, neither Piper nor Bell have weighed in directly.

There are many points raised by Bell’s video.  One that I find perplexing is the implication that that we do not have any semblance of free will.  Bell seems to suggest that everyone will be in heaven, regardless of whether a person wanted to reject Jesus Christ and His sacrifice.  This makes us sound like little dolls the Creator moves around in life, and that in the end we are all marched into heaven.  But we are made in His image. We aren’t robots.  And the idea of rejecting Jesus and his sacrifice should break our hearts, not be treated as irrelevant. Bell is right — Love is always the winner.  But because we have free will, Love is not always accepted.  I’ll wait to read the book to take a firm stance on Bell’s theology.  Yet I’m not optimistic that the book will convey the sad reality that sometimes, in the human story, pride wins.

In Sex God, Bell wrote: “If you have ever given yourself to someone and had your heart broken, you know how God feels.”  Yes, Rob Bell, we can break His heart, I agree.

But may we not!  May we not take the sacrifice of Jesus for granted, may we follow His loving example and do as He asked by telling the world about Him.  May we have that child-like faith that He so desires for us, and may we all remember that there is nothing puffed up or in your face or disdainful in the faith of a child.