Jackson Five Friday: Judging the Fields

Happy Friday Friends,

I hope you’ve had a lovely week. I have a confession to make: I’m a horrible evangelist. I can proclaim Jesus as my Lord and Savior here on my blog day after day and year after year because it’s safe.  When it comes to face-to-face interactions, I’m pitifully less bold. Not only does it make me nervous, but a verse in Scripture I read this week made me realize how incredibly judgmental I am. 

Not judging in terms of whether someone’s life aligns with Scripture. That’s not my issue. I don’t think “well, I would never do that.”  I know myself. I know that any ounce of goodness living in me is Christ, and Christ alone. I’m not judgy like that because I know I’m a sinner saved by grace. If you truly know grace, grace precludes “I would never” judgment. 

But there’s another kind of judgment: judgment of the fields. In John 4 Jesus told his disciples, “Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.”  (verse 35).  Jesus explains that some reap the harvest and others sow, but that they will rejoice together. 

But here’s the thing: I do not live like I believe Him. Instead I have thoughts like, “she’s too bitter” or “his whole posture is hostile to the very existence of God.”  Instead of sharing my faith in a loving way, I sometimes write people off.  It’s shameful. Especially because as I grow older, I do not even have to look to Paul as the unlikeliest convert. I personally know people I would have never thought would come to know Jesus. I have prayer lists of names with staggeringly unlikely check marks beside them. And yet my judgmental ways continue. 

Can you relate?  Do you sometimes live like the fields are not yet white?  Do you sometimes think someone is beyond God’s reach?

I want to commit to being bolder in person, more faithful in fervent prayer and unwilling to judge receptivity or readiness.  The first step to healing is admitting you have a problem, right?

Heavenly Father, forgive me for failing to be the ambassador for You I am created to be. Forgive me for thinking anyone in this world is beyond your reach. Help me to be bold and loving. Help me to be faithful in sharing the good news of the Gospel. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Have a fabulous weekend sharing the hope that is in you!



Jackson Five Friday: Strong Words


Hi Friends,

Hope you’ve had a great week.  Mine started out on a bit of sour note but ended up just fine.  Poor Sam hates Mondays more than anyone I know.  He starts to crash, filled with dread, on Sunday nights.  Most days he claims to have had a good day at school, even says he likes it.  But after having more than a week off, he was in no way ready to get back to the grind.  He’s a kid who doesn’t deal well with anticipation.  Lots of times we just don’t tell him things we are doing that he won’t like, for example leaving the mountain, until we are walking out the door.  It feels a little like we are ambushing him, but on the other hand he doesn’t have a chance to get himself worked up over nothing.

Anyway when I dropped him at school on Monday I told him I loved him and asked him if he would please try to have a good attitude.

Grabbing his backpack and climbing with resignation out of the car, he looked back at me and announced: “I doubt that will occur!”

The kid cracks me up.

How I’ve tried to convince his brothers that the best way to revise a paper is to use stronger verbs!  “Scrap as many adjectives and adverbs as you can, and instead use some really great verbs,” I’ve said.  I’m not sure either of them have heeded my advice.  But Sam — Sam must have been listening all along.

“I doubt that will occur.”  He’s hilarious.  He has always had a real knack for language, effortlessly choosing words that add interest and humor to the dullest exchange.  I love listening to him talk about anything under the sun.

Will and Nate were both much better readers at nine than Sam is, and yet neither of them, even now, have Sam’s special talent for word choice.  Isn’t it fascinating how children growing up in the same house can develop such unique talents?  I mean vocabulary has to be highly correlated with reading level and heavily influenced by the language used in the home.  The only explanation I have for the difference in Sam is that he is an innate deep thinker and slow processor.

Not to say that Will and Nate aren’t both pretty skilled storytellers, they are.  In fact, I hardly enjoy anything as much as good story from one of my sons.  Will recently took a trip with his swim team.  He was gone almost six full days.  It’s the longest he’s ever been away, and upon his return he told some great stories.  Laughing at his nuanced observations warms my heart and makes me proud.

Do you and yours spend time relishing stories?  You can’t really do it in front of the TV, or with music blaring.  You can’t do it when everybody is holding a device.  Stories seem to flow best with the aid of a meal, and a time of lingering around the table.  White space is key for storytelling.  Our house in Tennessee has a spacious eat-in kitchen and a dining room — the TV is not visible from either table.  I love that.  I wouldn’t have chosen that because I’m naturally drawn to kitchen and family rooms that are completely open, but I’ve found it is beneficial in eliminating the possibility of trying to watch a game while also eating.

Obviously, since I’ve been blogging for more than eight years, I also believe many stories are worth writing down.  I was looking for a post recently and came across this little gem.  I had zero recollection of this happening.  Zero.  I read it to Sam and asked him if he remembered it.  He did not.

The point is, if we don’t retell stories and even write some down, they will not be remembered.  Forgetting cute things your kids said or did, is of course natural, and only modestly sad.  But there are some stories that it would be tragic to forget.

The story of how God created this world, loved it through rebellion, and is redeeming it.  The story of how God created YOU, loved you through your rebellion and rejection of Him, and continues to love you and redeem you through Jesus.  The stories of how God has been faithful in your life — the specifics of how you knew He was loving you through a difficult time.  The stories of how you experienced the greatest satisfaction in this life when you knew you were smack in the middle of His will and plan for your life.

May I suggest you write some of these things down?  Here are a couple of verses to meditate on before you write.

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates 

Deuteronomy 11:18-20

I remember my affliction and my wandering,
    the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
    and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind
    and therefore I have hope:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”

Lamentations 3:19-24

Have a  restful weekend remembering how God has loved and cared for you.  And remember to use strong verbs!






Jackson Five Friday: Being Known

Hey Friends,

I hope you’ve had a great week.  In Chattanooga, Tennessee some schools have been on fall break since last Thursday.  Sam has enjoyed flaunting his extended vacation to his brothers who only had a long weekend.  Personally, I think it’s a great concept.  I’m all for random vacations!  And yes wonder of wonders, I am happy to report that the window above is now clean as a whistle.

But I’ve been thinking this week about our longing to be known.  It is something you think a lot about if you voluntarily uproot your happy family to try a new adventure.  When you land in a new city the reality of being known by no one is unsettling.  You know it’s coming, but it is still hard to gracefully enter into the harshness of anonymity.  It’s harder still to watch your children try to navigate it.  If I didn’t think it was a vital life skill, I probably would’ve tried to protect my boys from ever having to do it.

By God’s grace, our initial landing was about as soft as it could be.  People were welcoming and friendly and wonderful.  I saw God’s loving hand in many, many details.  But this week I’ve been pondering two snippets in particular of how God provided.

I think we had lived here about a week, when I was walking down our back alley and received some of the best and unexpected news of my life.  A neighbor introduced himself to me and explained that he had heard we had just moved in.  He explained that he was a teacher and a coach at the boys’ new school, and that he also had three sons roughly our boys’ ages.  He told me that he’d be happy to drive them to school — that he was going there anyway.  I could not believe my ears!  With that sweet unexpected gesture this gentleman added hours to my week!

Silly me, I thought the biggest blessing of it would be my own lack of miles.  I didn’t stop to think about how much it would mean for the boys to be known.  This man has daily invested in Will and Nate.  He’s driven them, but more than that he’s hung out with them.  They have joked and laughed and trash-talked sports their way to school each day.  This blessing of a man shortened their transition from anonymity to being known.  My boys — well all boys — adore this man!  How blessed am I that he’s my friendly neighbor!

The second tidbit also involves a teacher from their school.  I went in for parent teacher conferences in February.  I did not know what to expect.  I had been so involved in their previous school that it felt odd to walk in and not even know what their teachers looked like.  I sat down with Will’s English teacher and felt a little nervous.  Will had told me that this was one of his favorite teachers of all time.  I was hoping that this teacher at least knew who Will was.

“Well,” he said, with lots of intention, but also sort of dryly, “I have just been thinking how surprising it is, that in the middle of the year, that we would get a kid this, this… great!”  I wanted to cry.  He knew my son.  In fact, he loved my son.

We all want to be known.  We want those that we love to be known.  We want to be known by those we love.  My mom told me a story about an Alzheimer patient who no longer knew her own daughter.  But one day she had a few moments of lucidity.  She knew her daughter and called her by name.

“Mom,” said the daughter, choking back tears.  “You know my name!”

“Well, of course, I know your name,” said the mother.  “I named you!”

Did you know that the Person who knows you best and loves you most not only named you (a secret name only you and God will ever know), but He made you. (Revelation 2:17).  You aren’t by chance.  You are not a random collection of cells.  You were knit together in your mother’s womb with attention to detail. (Psalm 139:13).  You were made for a purpose.  You are here to do something for God’s glory.

You are known.  You are loved.  I hope you have a fabulous weekend basking in these truths!





Jackson Five Friday: Cleaning Up the Mess

Hi Friends,

This morning I was supposed to board a plane for South Florida. Nate, Sam and I were meeting Will there — since he had been on a business trip to NYC (crazy world tidbit: Will’s meeting was in the very building in Manhatten that my new nephew-in-law works in).  Little Will wasn’t part of our plan because he’s on a training trip for his swim team.  Obviously, we didn’t go to Florida and are praying for all those impacted by Hurrucsne Matthew. The numbers in Haiti are horrific — so much loss of life. It’s sobering to think we’ve been able to send people to the moon for nearly fifty years, but remain powerless in the face of a storm. 

Today Sam watched Zootopia.  The movie is about an idealistic young bunny who wants to change the world. She believes she can do anything!  In the end, life teaches her that the world is more complicated than she’d hoped and that everyone has limitations.  But she doesn’t give up. She doesn’t throw in the towel and resign herself to the cynicism so pervasive in her culture. She resolves to recognize limitations and do what she can.  

It’s a good message. We live in a fallen world. But we are not to let ourselves become cynics. The little school, Lorien Wood, that my boys went to in Virginia introduced the Christian worldview by asking a series of questions. Oddly those questions tie in really well with Zootopia.

Question 1: What was God’s intent?  In other words what would perfection look like in that area?  For animals, animated or otherwise, what would Zootopia be like?

Question 2:  Where do we see evidence of The Fall?  Or how is the brokenness of this world manifested in this particular area?

Question 3: Where do you see evidence of redemption?  How is God’s original intent being restored?

Question 4:  What is my role in this redemptive work?

Just like the feisty little bunny from the movie, we should recognize that our redemptive work will not bring about the Garden of Eden — we have limits. Yet that doesn’t mean we do not have important roles to play.  We do!

It’s just like the Bible says — it always is, isn’t it? 

“For we are Godʼs handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭2:10‬ ‭NIV‬‬

These words of Paul beg two questions: (1) What good works am I specifically created to do? and (2) Am I doing them?

I hope you’ll think and pray about these questions along with me in the coming days. 

I love you,