Jackson Five Friday: On Being a Wretch

Happy Friday Friends!

I hope you’ve had a marvelous short week — what a gift it is for Friday to come so quickly!

Sometimes I wonder if the lyrics to Amazing Grace are so familiar that they lack their deserving punch. I mean do we ever stop to truly identify ourselves as wretched?  Imperfect?  Well, maybe, we are human after all.  But I think if we are honest — and many are not — we can all sing, believing with gratitude, that it is only by grace that God “saved a wretch like me.”

You only have to glance at any newspaper to see people claiming to be downright saintly in spite of a mountain of wretch-like evidence.  In contrast, self-proclaimed wretches are often pointed at by a throng of judging fingers and labeled hypocrites with permanent ink.  The lack of logic is almost as befuddling as the lack of humility.  So many willing first-stone throwers!

I pray my sons will make wise decisions, and I hope they will never point judging fingers, or be so disillusioned by pride to think they aren’t wretched.  Because I know them.  I know myself.  I know their dad.   I can assure you, we are all wretched.  The wretched Jackson Five!  It doesn’t have much of a ring, other than it’s 100% true.  Of course we also happen to be children of the One True King, and He adores us with an unquenchable love that will never end, no matter what.  So we’ve got that going for us!

But honestly, I do think being able to laugh at yourself is a small part of having a posture of humility.  Humility is obviously necessary to give your life to Christ (“In his pride the wicked man does not seek him;,in all his thoughts there is no room for God” Proverbs 10:4).  And prideful people don’t laugh at themselves.  So it follows that laughing at yourself is actually vitally important.

My son Nate and I had an interesting little exchange the other night.  He was writing an essay about the Chesapeake Bay.  He wrote some silly sentence that was not established by the facts presented,

When I read the sweeping claim back to Nate, he got so amused at himself!   I didn’t even need to tell him that his sentence might be overwrought, just hearing me read it back struck him as downright hilarious.  Ahh, that darling teachable spirit, so willing to laugh at his own expense!

Lord Jesus, may Nate always be this way!  And not just about essay writing but in other areas, where he’s more inclined to point fingers and lay blame. May I too be humble and teachable and easily amused, even at my own misgivings.  

May each of us know, deep down, that we are wretched, and that Your Grace is AMAZING. 

Have a great weekend, friends, soaking up the sweet sound of grace.

Fondly,

image1-2

Jackson Five Friday: A Better Answer?

Hi Friends,

I missed posting again last week because it was a crazy few days.  I started my job, there was a major fire on our street and I volunteered at my sons’ school almost the entire day and night on Friday for a delightful graduation banquet.  Then the weekend was full of its standard 8 games — although one was rained out and just in time for us to watch the Preakness.  It was a whirlwind and Monday arrived in a hurry.

In this new life of mine with a very enjoyable job in a beautiful office building with lots of lovely people, Mondays will be a little different.  I will be taking my boys to school, but won’t be coming home to rectify the domestic destruction wrought by the weekend.  Instead I’ll be dropping them and going straight to work.  Even without my own need to be somewhere, I’ve never managed to consistently make getting out the door smooth and peaceful.  But l keep trying, and I’m not above the occasional bribe either.  It’s actually pretty effective.  Everyone in the car by 8:40?  Yes, we can go to Chipotle after school.

This first new-life Monday seemed to be off to an impressive start, but after I put my work bag in the car, I went back in the house to get my phone.  When I came out again Sam was downright attacking Nate.  Upon investigation, I learned that the inciting event was Nate’s song choice.  He’s a Taylor Swift fan, and Sam evidently is not.

It was not my plan to lecture the boys on the way to school about “as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).  Nor did I want to tell Sam that he would be disciplined after school (because honestly I am so much better at grace than consequences, but I especially abhor the delayed consequence).  Of course parenting often requires doing what we’d rather not do.

A friend brought the boys home, and I arrived a few minutes later.  Not surprisingly Sam was already out back shooting hoops.

When I called him in to talk about what happened that morning, he was immediately emotional.

“Why would you do that to your brother?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he sniffed.

I went on to explain how unacceptable his behavior was, how disappointed I was, how that should never happen again.  Somehow in the midst of it, I asked something again about why.

“I don’t know,” Sam repeated.  “I don’t have a better answer than that!”

I tried rolling my lips inward to hide my smirk, but without success.  The candid wisdom of that child!  Of course he doesn’t have a better answer than that.  We never do.  Harping on “why” can really obscure the point.  We are human.  We are sinners.  We do what we know we should not do (Romans 7:14-20).  In fact, I knew I should not be asking him why repeatedly, yet somehow I was.

Sticks and carrots can be somewhat effective in modifying behavior, but Sam’s is a heart issue.  I think we really miss the big picture if we fail to engage a child’s heart.  Overcoming sin is not the result of good training or “wise choices” or proper rewards or anything else touted as modern wisdom.  Overcoming sin is about knowing and becoming like Jesus, pure and simple.  Jesus came to earth to show us how to live.  If we know Him deeply, we’ll start acting more and more like Him.

So my prayer today is that Sam will know and love Jesus, that his motivation in life will not be to please us as parents, but to live for Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Do you ever mess up and find yourself befuddled at how you could have done something like that, reasoning like Sam “I don’t know — I don’t have a better answer than that!”  I think if we are honest, we all do.  But the fact that we cannot fully eradicate the mark of sin in our lives should leave us more grateful than discouraged. Jesus doesn’t love us one iota less, no matter what we’ve done.  His love cannot be earned and it cannot be lost.  Praise God.

A pastor at my church recently said, “You cannot forgive a deserving person.  Forgiveness means they don’t deserve it.”

I forgave Sam.  Nate forgave Sam.  He didn’t deserve it.

May we realize we are forgiven every single day, and may we not let pride convince us that we deserve it.  Because we don’t.

I know, and I hope you know, the truth of John 1:16 “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”

Have a fabulous weekend!

With Love,

image1-2

 

Jackson Five Friday: The Daytime Date


Friends,

I hope you’ve had a lovely week and are kicking off a fabulous weekend. I kicked mine off by spending the day with my handsome husband. And really I cannot recommend the daytime date enough.

I know couples who manage to regularly get away without kids. I know others who are faithful to date night. We are not them. We’ve never been good about either.  Our guys are involved in sports to a semi-absurd degree and we don’t live near family, save my twenty-something niece.  Most of the time I’m also just longing to make family memories — although I won’t pretend that’s all the time.

Anyway, the daytime date is about the best thing that’s ever happened to parents of school-aged kids. My husband works long hours — twelve to fourteen hour days are not uncommon.  Once in a while, like today, he’ll take Friday off.   We spent the whole day together, driving the boys to school, hitting the gym,  then we headed toward DC to see World War II planes flying over the National Mall for VE Day.  We ate a leisurely lunch outside at a yummy spot in Arlington.  We had so much time to just talk.

At lunch Will said something sweet and sincere about what a good mother I am, which compelled me to tell him how I’ve totally blown it this week.  I told him how convicted I’ve been about something with one of our sons.  It wasn’t something I’d been thinking we need to talk about.  But  so many good things happen when you have quantity time — conversations can get beyond the tidbit summation of daily life.  Sometimes it’s surprising where the conversation ends up.

The namesake of this blog is Hebrews 10:24 which says we are to “spur” one another on toward love and good deeds.  The most effective spurring clearly happens inside meaningful relationships. So how are you doing spurring those you are closest to?  Do you need to carve out time to just be with someone?  If it’s your spouse, could you possibly make the daytime date work its magic?

I pray that wherever you are and wherever you go this week, that you will know you are treasured by the King of Kings and that He has a good and perfect will for your life that includes spurring!

With Love,

image1-2

Wedded Bliss Wednesday

FullSizeRender-12

Well, friends, I missed posting last Friday because I hosted a little happy hour at my house that day.  But I cannot tell you how much I miss posting when I don’t carve out time to do it.  I was sort of in a funk a few days ago and I told my man, “I know this probably sounds crazy but I think part of my problem is that I haven’t written anything lately.”

That sweet man o mine wisely said, “I don’t think that’s crazy.”

This year is our twentieth year of marriage, and boy we’ve learned a lot these two decades.  We’ve learned to listen to and encourage one another in such meaningful ways.  It’s gratifying that Will knows just what I need.

And one of things I need is a good storyteller.  I love being told good stories as part of daily life.  God was so good to give me a fantastic storyteller.

Just yesterday he told me a great story when he brought me coffee to wake me up.

You’ll need a little bit of background to appreciate the story.  When I was a child we drove from Michigan to Florida a couple of times a year.  My mom loved the now ubiquitous restaurant Cracker Barrel.  Back in the 70’s and 80’s Cracker Barrels were rare, but we always, always stopped there on our road trips.  My brother, Jeff, who is 11 and a half years older than me, was totally against the long stop.  For anything.  And my own family has sided more with Jeff.  We do fourteen hour road trips with total stoppage time of about a half hour.  But my parents were different: Cracker Barrel was a must, even if there was a wait.  One time Jeff was quite irritated that we made the stop when we had been making such good time.

When the food came, things got worse.  Jeff bit into something sharp.  He reached in his mouth and pulled out something that shouldn’t have been in his pulled pork dinner.

“What in the world?!?” he said.  “My gosh that hurt!  It looks like a shark tooth,” he concluded.

My dad in his nonchalant, always understated way. looked at the specimen.  “Mmhh,” he said, “Looks more like a toenail.”

We all thought that was hilarious!  We could not stop laughing.  Well, except for Jeff.  He didn’t think it was funny, not in the least.

Anyway, all that is background for Will’s story.

Yesterday Will woke me up and told me about how he had made himself a post-workout smoothie with our twenty-year-old blender.  Yes, he’d been up for hours before me!  He said the blender was making all sorts of weird noises.  Then a little while later as he was draining the last of the smoothie,  he felt something foreign and hard and sharp in his mouth.

He thought of Jeff and his “shark tooth,” or was it a toenail as Roy had suggested.  Then he pulled the piece of blade pictured above from his mouth.  A piece of blender blade broke off and Will almost swallowed it.

I cannot tell you how funny and horrifying I found this story.  My man could’ve died!  Our lives are so fragile, just like David Goldberg falling off a treadmill.  You.  Never.  Know.  How can we not be thankful for every moment?  And I want to be, whether my husband almost swallows a blender blade or not.

But the Bible is also abundantly clear on this issue.  James writes unambiguously:

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

James 4: 13-14

I’m a mist that will vanish.  May I be grateful in every moment.  May my life be one lived for Jesus.

Thanks for reading.  It means so much.

image1-2