This I Know Wednesday: Wellness Can Be Feigned

My son, Nate, didn’t feel well on Monday. He fell asleep on the couch about three minutes after arriving home from school, which was a first. Then he slept the whole night and feigned a full recovery on Tuesday. Why you ask? Because he had a basketball game and he knew if he didn’t go to school, he wouldn’t play in the game. So he rallied. I have no idea how he managed to put color in his face and smile excitedly. But it was an Oscar-winning performance! Because on the way home from the game, Nate was a puddle of tears. “I feel horrible,” he cried.

And I feel horrible this morning to realize I was schnookered by him. He had no business playing in that game, despite his amazing performance.

Will you pray Nate makes a full and speedy recovery? I sure would appreciate that.

And let us not feign wellness. Because isn’t that the standing joke for church-goers? On Sunday mornings people greet each other with smiles and howdys and good-to-see-yas. Think about when someone asks, “Well, how are you?” Do we sometimes answer “Just great!” or “Doing well,” when the truth is we are hanging by a thread? Let’s not do that! May we instead be transparent and open. Because until we are, there isn’t really any way to spur one another on to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24).

Well, off to the pediatrician.

Marriage Monday: I Have A Dream

I Have A Dream.  Four words that conjure up the essence of a visionary man.  Is there anyone who is not inspired by King’s contagious passion and hope for a different tomorrow?

But think about the concept of having dreams.  White space is necessary for the birth of big dreams.  Facebook isn’t exactly conducive to visionary thinking.  Constantly filling our heads with music, advertisements, and useless information has its cost.  I fear that if we don’t guard our hearts and minds, we won’t dream big dreams, and we are not called to trudge through life, resigned and dreamless.

So what are your dreams?  As the book, Built to Last, terms it, what are your big hairy audacious goals?  And who is helping you get there?  The Talmud says, “Every blade of grass has its Angel that bends over it and whispers, ‘Grow, grow.'”  What amazing imagery.  Even a blade of grass craves encouragement to grow?  Oh, I love that!  Because I believe that in our marriages we are that angel that bends over our spouse and lovingly says, “Grow, grow.”

I want Will to grow into a better person, more reflective of Jesus Christ, and obviously he wants the same for me, but what about specific goals?  Do I know what his big dreams are?  Am I helping him get there?  Does he know what my big dreams are?  Is he helping me get there?

May we spur one another on toward love and good deeds, achieving our big hairy audacious goals, and using all the gifts that God has given us (Hebrews 10:24, 1 Peter 4:10).

Jackson Five Friday: My Little Enigma

My son, Sam, who will be six in March, is a mysterious little fellow. I’ve shared how he doesn’t fit the mold — he had to be practically dragged downstairs on Christmas morning, for example. And even though he tries to act all nonchalant about it, if you spend enough time with him, you can tell that his individualism is quite deliberate. He tries to be different. Sometimes he even likes to feign ignorance. He’ll act like he doesn’t know how to read words he’s known forever. Why? I have no idea. He’s an enigma.

This week he got into a bit of trouble at school. He was bawling his eyes out as he attempted to tell me about it that afternoon. Between sobs, he said, “It’s.” Sob. “Too.” Sob. “HARD!”

Finally, he finished sniveling out his story. Then with his face still damp with tears he said, “It’s so humbling.”

I was awed at his big boy word, shocked that he understood the concept. I tried to sort of roll with it, because Sam dislikes undue attention over his not infrequent profundity. But I couldn’t help following up.

“Mmhh, humbling,” I said, “Well, what does that mean?”

Then he looked at me and every ounce of remorse was gone, his red little eyes flashed indignant anger.

“I DON’T KNOW!” he yelled.

See what I mean? Enigma. It’s like his window for weighty conversation is limited to sixty seconds, or something. I’m not sure. Maybe it’s a fear of self-reflection? I’m stumped.

All I know is that I am cuh-ray-zee about him, and I’ll never stop trying to understand him.

And furthermore, I am so grateful that my own enigmatic tendencies, and there are many, are fully understood by my Lord and Savior. He knows about the deepest, ugliest corner of my heart and loves me anyway.

As Paul writes in Ephesians 2:4-5: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”

Ah, His great LOVE. May I cherish it today and always.

This I Know Wednesday: Obedience Matters

Rules never change hearts, and since laws are rules instituted by governments, laws don’t change hearts either. But biblical obedience only sounds like it might have something to do with rules or laws. In actuality, it doesn’t.

Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:23). Jesus ties obedience to love. “If you love me” is the antecedent part of this statement, obeying is the consequent. Understanding what Jesus is doing with this statement is vital, because he blows rule-following, box-checking, self-righteousness-building compliance to bits. It’s all about the heart. Checking the box is worthless, adhering to rules utterly meaningless. All that matters is what’s in your heart. But if you love Jesus your life will reflect biblical principles, you will live a life of obedience. It’s pretty convicting to think about it in these terms. Wherever I am lacking obedience, I am lacking love.

And the same is true for our children. The last thing I want is three little yes men. No, I want my boys to love me. Like today when I saw them at school — I was volunteering with some older students — they appeared to be thrilled to see me there, and it’s not exactly an unusual occurrence! But that full of love act wouldn’t mean much if they didn’t give two hoots about my expectations for them, or if they completely disregarded what I tell them is right and wrong.

So where are we disregarding the truth of the Bible? Where are we giving less than two hoots what God wants for us?

May God reveal my own stiff-necked, unloving spirit, and may His loving and endless grace root it out.

Marriage Monday: Rudderless Ruin

Will and I are trying something new in 2013: we are trying to be faithful in reading Bible passages together. The first week of the year, we each read James 1 each day and then tried to be intentional about discussing it. Then week 2, we read James 2. As an aside it should be noted that Will is a very disciplined person and is therefore faithful to routines whereas I am not. I’ve already missed a few days and Will is unlikely to ever miss. Yes, opposites indeed attract!

Anyway, this week we are on James 3 which is all about controlling our tongues. James says the tongue is like a rudder of a ship — very small yet it steers even the largest vessel wherever the pilot wants it to go. Do you ever stop to contemplate the power of your tongue? It is a potent force, isn’t it? For good or for harm, its power is undeniable.

Have you been using words that cut your spouse down? Or words that build your spouse up? I’m definitely better than I used to be, but just because I’ve matured beyond rudderless ruin, doesn’t mean I do not have a long way to go!

May I continue to grow in self-control, and may I revere the power of my own tongue. May the words that close this third chapter of James be evident in my own life.

the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

Jackson Five Friday: The Magic of a Movie Line

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The boys received Mrs. Doubtfire as a gift this Christmas. We watched it early on in our Christmas vacation and discovered two things: (1) it is not appropriate for children; and (2) if you can navigate the inappropriateness, it is absolutely hilarious! The boys thought it was about the funniest thing ever, and made various references to the “run-by fruiting” and other scenes throughout our vacation. Amazing how movie lines can bind us together.

The Bible says that we are to rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15 ). What do you and yours rejoice over as a family? A new car? A good report card? A winning basket? A yummy meal? A funny movie line? As Mrs. Doubtfire might say, “I hope all these things and more, dear.”

Happy Friday from the Jacksons! May your weekend be full of simple joys and may you rejoice over them together.

This I Know Wednesday: No One Has It Together

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Do you know people who seem to have it all together?  Well, it’s a facade, good old-fashioned smoke and mirrors.  And I sure hope you know that I’ve never even sniffed having it together!  I’m disorganized and undisciplined, a chronic underachiever.  That’s not some kind of false modesty — it’s God’s honest truth.  The reason that I want to be clear is that just the other day one of my readers told me she was under the impression that I sort of do have it all together.  I was horrified, practically speechless.  Because I feel like I’m pretty vulnerable, admitting to regular visits by The Other Mother, a propensity to self-pity, and a crazed desire to be right.  And if you’ve read my book — and I really thought this woman had — you’d be familiar with many, many embarrassing confessions of imperfection.

But the truth is, even the person who does a stellar job of projecting perfection, is wholly imperfect.  Sometimes when we really admire someone, the truth of their fallenness is disheartening.  This kind of esteem is usually not very intimate.  It’s directed toward someone we know from a distance.  Because if you know someone well, you know they fall short.  Really short.  I don’t know Billy Graham, but I am certain that even that sweet man of God has some character flaw.  And honestly I wouldn’t find it horribly disheartening to learn what it was — the man is human.  My pastor is human.  Yours is.  Ravi Zacharias is human.  My friend, Tom Tarrants, who is the sweetest, most gentle, most humble former terrorist you’d ever want to meet, is human too.  The Bible says that we all fall short (Romans 3:23).  And until the sanctifying work of Jesus Christ is complete (not in this life, mind you) we will never reach perfection.

On the other hand, every single one of us is pursued with an insatiable love by God.  As C.S. Lewis wrote, “There are no ordinary people.  You have never talked to a mere mortal” (The Weight of Glory).  We are all eternal beings, and if you answer the door of your heart where Christ is knocking, you will live forever with Him (Revelation 3:20).

I sure hope you know I’m not perfect.  I sure hope you know you aren’t perfect.  And I sure hope and pray you’ve answered the door of your heart where the only perfect person faithfully and tirelessly knocks.

Marriage Monday: In Sickness and in Health

Do you remember the Friends episode that featured “Fun Bobby”?  Well, unfortunately it turned out that”Bobby” was only fun when he was drunk.  And although, thankfully, my husband doesn’t need any liquid joy to be very, very fun, I will admit that I make something of an idol out of just how fun he is, how consistently he makes me laugh.  And when he’s not feeling well (he has a muscle/tendon/something tear that’s been nagging him for weeks), he’s not quite as funny as usual.

However, it should be noted that my vows weren’t conditional and I doubt yours were either.  On December 29, 1995, I specifically vowed to love Will in sickness and in health, and by God’s grace I intend to do that.  If he was so sick (and of course, he’s not) that he wasn’t funny at all, that wouldn’t change a thing.  I may make an idol out of his humor, and God may choose (please, Lord, don’t!) to smash that idol to bits.  Plus, you may already know that Will and I had early, albeit brief, practice at the “in sickness and in health” aspect of marriage.  I was sick on our wedding night!   And then I passed whatever fevered-feel-rotten bug I had to him.  We cancelled the very brief and very modest “honeymoon” that we had planned, and laid around our apartment instead.  Pretty pitiful.  Although I do feel like I’ve had my fair share of vacations since!  Anyway, I would greatly appreciate if you’d pray for Will, that this injury would heal completely.

But my own personal life aside, how committed are we in our marriages to living up to our vows?  After all, none of us spelled out exceptions in our vows.  We didn’t say, “I’ll love you unless…”  Do you think that’s because it wouldn’t be very romantic?  Because it would change the “happily ever after” wedding moment?  Certainly it would sound a bit less romantic, but the truth is the wedding vow is a covenant made before God, and it’s not conditional.

People change.  Circumstances change. You may be richer or poorer than you thought you’d be.  You may be sicklier.  Your spouse may be sicklier or grumpier or maybe they haven’t aged as well as you’d hoped.  Guess what?  Doesn’t matter.  You promised.  Voluntarily.  Before God.  And if you were of at least moderate intelligence, you would have known quite well that you couldn’t predict the future anyway.

It’s never a grin-and-bear-it scenario, praise God, because God is an ever-present help.  He promises us peace and tells us to “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12).

When there is affliction and discouragement inside your marriage, take it to the Lord.  See a counselor if need be: never let bitterness take root.

Remember that your spouse always deserves the love, respect and the faithfulness you promised them!

Jackson Five Friday: A Grateful Mist

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There is something very freeing about staying in a hotel.  You check in.  You check out.  There are no permanent ties, no responsibility beyond paying the bill.  Maybe this sounds weird, but visiting Florida this time was different.  I haven’t been to Florida in eight years without either house-hunting, house-checking, or feeling like I should house-check the one visit I didn’t.  And I fell head-over-heels in love with Florida, in part, because by God’s abundant grace, we sold our house there.

Plus, I got to visit the beach pictured above which is where my parents bought a condo when I was ten years old.  My mom sold that condo when Nate was one.  So you can imagine how much time I’ve spent there.   My cousin Cassie and I have incredible memories from this beach.  I’ve spent an unfathomable amount of time boogie boarding with my brother Craig in those waves.  When I started dating Will, he fell in love with this beach too.  He now makes the silly claim that he loves it more than I do!  I’ve played for hours upon hours on this beach with my niece, Caitlin, and my nephew, Dane.  The earliest beach pictures of both Will and Nate were taken here.  Memories of all my family members flood through my mind on this beach.  Many of them are gone, and my world is so different, and yet, oddly, the beach looks exactly the same.

Do you have a wonderfully storied spot in your life?  A place where the fondest of memories flood like white-water rapids?  C.S. Lewis wrote that, “A pleasure is full grown only when it is remembered” (Out of the Silent Planet).   Lewis is dead-on, as usual, but there is something about this truth that I also find disheartening.  Because I want to live in the moment.  I want to embrace the pleasures in a full-grown way right as they happen.  As Jim Elliot advised, “Wherever you are, be all there.”  I want that to be me.  I want to be gratefully all there.

Plus, James warned us not to count on tomorrow.

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. (James 4: 13-14)

Wow.  Sobering. Whether I’m doing laundry in Northern Virginia or gazing at this ocean in Florida, may the Lord help me to be a grateful mist.

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This I Know Wednesday: We Can Miss God’s Best

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What thoughts does this picture evoke? Does it remind you of your own childhood and the hours that could easily be spent playing at the beach? Does it make you long to hear the ocean? Does it make you want to soak up the the warm sun on this January day?

I took this picture yesterday, and watching my sons playing happily in the sand reminded me of a favorite C.S. Lewis quote. In The Weight of Glory, Lewis wrote, “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea.”

Indeed we can be terribly short-sighted. We can consume ourselves with all kinds of worthless pursuits, and all the while Jesus is patiently waiting for us to turn to Him. May I know Him better in 2013, may I serve Him better, and may I love Him more. May I number my days aright, gain a heart of wisdom and not miss God’s best for me. (Psalm 90:12).