“Hey Buddy, Thanks be to God!”

After many years at a wonderful Bible church, where all my boys were dedicated, in 2014 we’ve started attending our local Anglican church. To say that this new place of worship is a little higher church is a tremendous understatement. The responsive, participatory nature is brand new to the Jackson boys. This past Sunday was a Lessons and Carols service, which entailed many “Thanks be to God” responses from the congregation.

As my guys were walking to the car after church, Sam encountered a sixty-something gentleman in the parking lot whom none of us knows.

“Hey Buddy,” Sam said. “Thanks be to God!”

I wonder when he decided to pull this little bit. Was it spontaneous? Did he plan it during the service? There’s no telling. He doesn’t really divulge much about how his hilarious mind works.

I didn’t tell my brother this story but this morning he sent me the following text message.

Thanks be to God for His indescribable Gift! – 2 Cor. 9:15 Merry Christmas!!

I don’t think it can be said any better than that. I hope you unwrapped some wonderful gifts this morning. I hope your house was brimming with joy. But Jesus is the indescribable gift for which this day is celebrated, just as my brother so aptly quoted Paul.

Thanks be to God, Hallelujah, and
Merry Christmas to all!

A Postcard from God

I got an early Christmas present on Saturday.  It was a postcard from God.

Here’s what it said:

Kristie, I love you.  Don’t you know that?  Don’t you know that I can take your most mortifying moments and redeem them in ways you could never even fathom?  Rest child.  Rest in the peace of my love.

Zephaniah 3:17 says “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

I take great delight in you, Kristie.  I rejoice over you with singing.  Now remember that child.  Remember that.

You may rightly point out that those aren’t the literal words on the postcard.  But I can read between the lines.

Here is the backstory.  On November 30th, I sat in front of the fireplace with a pencil and a hardcopy of the manuscript for my Advent devotional, Making Room for the Light (and by the way, today is probably the last day you could order it on Amazon and still get it by Christmas).  My remarkable editor husband had caught many many of my senseless errors, but one glaring omission stood out.  Somehow on December 18th my “Questions for Reflection” were completely out of place.  After writing about fully committing your life to Christ, the questions read: “Where are you?  Why don’t you do this more often?”

“Will!” I yelled to the other room, horrified.  “How could you miss this?”

When I showed it to him, he thought it was hilarious. “I think those are good questions,” he said, in his suave and adorable way.

Oh my gosh was I grateful to find that!  I made the final edits and hit the submit button.  The book was live the next morning on Amazon in both a print copy and a kindle edition.  My next read through was the kindle version, which I downloaded immediately.  I breathed a big sigh of relief to have caught and changed those silly questions that were the result of copying and pasting along with who knows what else.  I wondered if one of my sons had changed it.  The document was just sitting open on the computer they all use — mostly to play chess.  But that seems highly highly unlikely.  If they had made edits to be funny, there would likely be some hint of bathroom humor or something else objectionable.  Honestly, I do not know how those questions got there.

The next day I was reading through the book again, in the book format, not the kindle version.  I was looking for the right entry for a friend who had graciously offered to read it and plug the book at a Christmas Tea, but instead of finding the perfect reading, I came across those silly questions again.  My heart sank.  My blood pressure spiked.  Wait a minute!  How is that in here?  I called the people who upload it to Amazon.  They didn’t understand how that happened, how the kindle version was a file labeled FINAL and the print version was not.  They apologized and changed it, but I knew the first copies had already gone out.

The day after that I went to coffee with some girlfriends and told them the whole story.  We laughed about it.  What else could we do?  But that is not the end of the story.  You see a different friend, one I did not tell the whole embarrassing thing to, was one of the few who ended up with an original copy.

She was the one who penned the postcard to me on God’s behalf.  What she wrote was that she was away celebrating her anniversary with her husband, feeling a little guilty to be away during a busy time.  On December 18th, in that beautiful setting, she picked up my devotional and read it.  Then she came to the questions for reflection:  “Where are you?  Why don’t you do this more often?”

You may not be a person of faith.  But I can’t for the life of me understand that.  Only God can do this.  Only God.

Praying this morning that you too receive a message from God that He loves you, that He delights over you, that He rejoices over you with singing.   Because of course that is the truth, whether you and I choose to see it and believe it or not.  There couldn’t be a more apt Christmas gift than the affirmation of His love, and I believe that if we are open to truly embracing the love of God, we will see undeniable proof of His hand upon our lives.

Merry Christmas, friend, and may the Baby in the manger this week be a reminder to you of just how much God loves you!

Jackson Five Friday: Being Known and “Stop saying ‘Thank You'”

Today I had parent-teacher conferences, and my biggest takeaway from this semi-annual event is always the same: I am filled with gratitude that my sons are known.  They are far from perfect.  There is tons of room for growth, not just because that’s a truism of life.  I mean they have lots of room for growth.  But seriously the fact that I sit down with teachers who know my sons is so comforting.  We can talk at such a heart level about them because we are talking about a person everyone at the table knows and cares about.  No school will ever be perfect.  No teacher will ever be perfect.  No parent will ever be perfect.  Lord knows no student will ever be perfect.  But we should acknowledge and be grateful whenever longings are answered.  I believe God wrote on our hearts the longing to be known and how great that I get to see this longing fulfilled for my boys in our school community.

After conferences this morning, my boys expected me to have some fun day planned.  Sometimes I feel like I’ve combined a bunch of jobs on The Love Boat and set sail.  Yes, I am cruise director, bartender (well, more short-order cook) and doc rolled into one.  I need to throw myself (this amalgam of Julie McCoy, Isaac Washington, and Dr. Adam Bricker) a retirement party and let by boys take over these roles.  They can do these things, and Mama needs a job.  But while we’re still pretending the Love Boat is our endless life, I pretty much eat it up.  When they are home I love being able to give them my full attention.  I find it fun and fulfilling and altogether too good to be true.  Today, I grabbed a couple friends for the older two boys and took them all to Popeyes for lunch.  You would’ve thought I had killed the fatted calf with my own hands.  Nate was the ringleader of the thank yous.  They would not end.

Finally, when just he and I were getting refills, he started in again, “Thank you so much, Mom.  This is so great, Mom.”

But he’d said that like ten times already.  So I said, “Nate, I want you to stop saying thank you.”  The woman beside us looked at me like I had six heads.

I don’t know what gets into him.  It’s not like I never do nice things for him.  I truly don’t know why he feels like he needs to say thank you fifteen times. And he hasn’t stopped.  The boys have played football, basketball and capture the flag all afternoon with Nate taking regular pitstops to thank me for such a fun day.

Perhaps I need to show him the verse from 1 John 3:18:

 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

Nate, my dear child, be thankful not with words or speech but with actions and truth.  Show me your love sweet boy, but for heaven’s sake stop saying thank you incessantly.

So today’s post is admittedly a bit hodge podge, but may we be thankful when the longings of our heart are met.  Can you give thanks right now for those who know you, really truly know you?  Take comfort too in the fact that the Person who knows you best and and loves you most is your Loving Creator.  And may we learn to show our love and gratitude with actions and in truth.  May our words never sound like they are hollow or on repeat.  Instead, may we be loving and true in all we do.

Jackson Five Friday: “I’m Raising It”

As a mother, especially a young mama, it’s a truism that any venture into the bathroom will elicit immediate needs by your children.  It’s ridiculous.  And predictable.  Thousands of mamas everywhere have made this observation.  But a recent example of this phenomenon still has me smiling over it’s unapologetic boldness.

A few days ago, I was upstairs in my bathroom when I heard Sam, my seven-year-old, yelling from downstairs, “MOM!!  MOM!!”

And there was such a persistence in his tone that I answered, yelling back, “Yeah?!?”

“Mom!  Do you know where any money is?  I’m raising it.”

I couldn’t help being amused by the boldness of his request.  No explanation whatsoever, just a suspicious employment of terminology he’s obviously heard before.  Money — he’s “raising it.”  No justification or elaboration needed.

I answered from the bathroom with one loud word: “No!”   I never heard about his “fundraising” again.

The thing is I wish I was more shameless sometimes about the things I want to say or do.  I can write about the things I believe (please check out my new advent devotional by clicking here).  But face-to-face I’m much more reserved.  In fact, recently I had a conversation that I walked away from with a sinking heart.  Why didn’t I seize the opportunity to say more?  Why didn’t I unapologetically say what I really think?  Why did I let the fear of what this person would think of me muzzle my view on the matter?

But I have two takeaways from that encounter.  One is to pray to be more bold.  Peter says that we should always be ready to give an answer: “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” 1 Peter 3:15 (ESV).   May the Lord help me to do just that, and to do it with gentleness and respect.

The other thing that I did do in the moment — in the course of this conversation that I wish I would’ve been more bold in — was ask a good question.  Ravi Zacharias says that a useful apologetic tool is to question the questioner.  When you find yourself in a situation where you don’t agree with someone, can you take a step back and ask a question about what they are saying?  About the underlying beliefs of the assertion?  Do you listen carefully to their answers?  I hope I did at least that.

Heavenly Father, thank you for opportunities to share my faith.  Help me to be bold and gentle and loving and respectful.  Help me to ask good questions and to be a good listener.  Thank you, Lord, for loving me no matter what.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.