Jackson Five Friday: Farewell 2016

Hey Friends, 

I hope you had a lovely Christmas. I got a Fitbit and have logged between ten and twelve thousand steps each day.  Getting a head start on 2017 — please pray I keep it up!  Yesterday Will and I celebrated twenty-one years of marriage. We spent the day at this lovely beach.

Then we had dinner at the best hole-in-the-wall seafood place on the planet.   So despite the seeming surge of celebrity deaths and the hostile political climate, I am not among those bemoaning 2016 as a horrendous year. As always, we ALL have too many blessings to count, and I can say that with confidence because I know very intimately the profound sadness of lives cut short.  Give thanks in all circumstances is the call of the believer, and it’s not conditional. (1 Thessalonians 5:18).  

In fact, the obscuring of biblical clarity is what I found most discouraging about 2016.  More and more professing Christians are abandoning the clear teaching of Scripture. The irony that it is the exact scenario from the Garden of Eden is lost on the masses who continue to say, “Did God really say?”  More than the untimely deaths of people I only knew through the screen or music, more than a person who holds, or doesn’t hold, a job on Pennsylvania, the heretical trends of 2016 are what I find disturbing. My prayer is that you too have alarms and sirens that blare in your head when you read or hear the words, “that’s not what God meant” or “that’s not how I read Scripture” or “there’s different views on that.”

Not to say there aren’t gray areas. Of course there are!  But the areas newly declared “gray”by some influential voices of 2016 are anything but. 

It is actually an issue of pride.  Can we accept, even without always understanding, that God’s Word is Truth? Can we submit that He knows better than we do?  There’s freedom in surrender. We don’t have to try to figure it all out. We don’t have to provide all the answers. We just have to trust Him.  Still it seems fewer and fewer of the dominant voices in Christian culture are able to take any stand at all. 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in The Cost of Discipleship about the transformation of Abraham’s faith when he took Isaac up to Mount Moriah.  Abraham “accepts the call as it comes; he will not shirk it or ‘spiritualize’ it.  He takes God at his word and is ready to obey. Against every direct claim upon him, whether natural, ethical or religious, he will be obedient to the Word of God.”

Despite the noise and pressures of our culture may I seek to know God’s Word and to be obedient to it.  As we close out 2016, this is my prayer. 

Love to each of you in the New Year!


“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.”

‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭16:13‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Jackson Five Friday: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

Hey Friends,

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve.  Can you believe it?  These short December days go so swiftly.

I’m excited to celebrate the birth of my Savior with my four favorite guys in our beautiful church, on our spectacular mountain, but I am also already thinking about the New Year.

It is about this time that I get sort of giddy thinking about the new me that I will surely become in the months ahead –slim, healthy, a loving and volunteering banshee.  Oh I’m just going to kill it in the new year!  It is only due to my unremitting optimism that I can once again get excited about my future success when in fact I have a decades-long record of failing.  But, hope springs eternal.  This is MY year!

That said, I am making one resolution for 2017, and one resolution only.  I am going to up my game in terms of hospitality.  I am going to host more dinner parties.  I’m not talking fancy shmancy dinner parties.  That’s not my style.  I’m talking about hosting brunch after church on Sundays, casual dinners, drinks and appetizers like I did last week, and maybe even delivery pizza and a simple salad.  My goal is to do more of it, not to stress about details that after the fact no one cares a wit about.

The Bible is unambiguous about the role hospitality should play.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.  For our God is a consuming fire.  Let brotherly love continue.  Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.  Hebrews 12:28- 13:2

Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 1 Peter 4:9

We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth. 3 John 1:8

These passages make it clear that hospitality is an important contribution to God’s Kingdom and an act of obedience.  Of course, like everything else in life, obedience leads to fulfillment, contentment, peace and a greater love for God.  George MacDonald put it as succinctly as anyone ever could:  “Obedience is the key to every door.”  As I’ve written many times, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s explanation of this principle in The Cost of Discipleship is one of my favorite spiritual lessons.  Can you picture in your mind’s eye a self-reinforcing circle?  At the top is faith/love/belief and at the bottom is obedience.  The more you believe, the more you obey, the more you obey, the more you love and believe.  You can choose to hop on the wheel at at any point.  You can choose to obey even when you don’t feel like it, or you can choose to believe.  Either one will get the ball rolling.

One way I’m jumping on this whirling ball of blessing in 2017 is to host dinner parties.  So, to quote that lovely old song by Rosemary Clooney, Come On-A My House!

I hope you and yours have a lovely Christmas and a festive New Year!

With Love,





Jackson Five Friday: A Long Dark Alley

Hey Friends,

Happy Friday to you, and I hope your Christmas season has been joyous and unhurried thus far.

Let’s play a little word association game.  You know, I say “Tostada,” you say, “Taco Bell.”  What do you think of when I say “Dark Alley?”  What’s the first thing that pops into your head?  Mugged?  Scary?  HELP?  One thing that probably doesn’t come to mind is the word “blessing,” not unless you are me.  See I live at the end of a long, dark alley and even though it is a little unusual, it is actually a huge blessing.  Our front driveway is on a relatively busy street and the circle drive is so steep you cannot even walk on it in heels.  But the back entrance is at the end of a narrow alley that is pitch black at night.

The alley is a great place to ride bikes or scooters, to take the golf cart for a little spin, or play basketball. Sam shoots hoops out there night and day with no chance of the ball rolling into any street.  The kids from the alley play together beautifully –many games of hide-and-seek have been enjoyed just this week.  

Last night we threw an impromptu alley party for Christmas.  I texted our alley people earlier in the week and it was very casual  We just had appetizers, desserts and some festive drinks.  People braved the dark alley and came in the back door.  It was delightful.

On April 29th, I wrote these words here on my blog:

But there is a spiritual principle in all of this, and that’s that we can decide to be happy.  We can choose to be content.  You may think some grass is greener.  But when you get there, there are problems you didn’t expect.  I heard Eugene Cho talk about this earlier this year.  He said (and I’m paraphrasing), “You think that grass is greener.  And you know what?  It probably is!  But that should serve as a reminder to you to water the grass you are standing on.”  Invest and love on and embrace where you are, and who you are with.  You will never regret pouring yourself out.

Later that day I received a text from my sweet friend, Julia in Virginia. She’d read my blog and couldn’t resist sharing the picture she snapped in her house.  

A few weeks later, she lovingly made me a replica of her sign and it hangs just inside my back door, the door to the alley.  I walked by it for seven months before I hosted an alley party.  It took me seven months to follow my own advice, despite the presentation of a plaque memorializing this important principle.

How are you doing with embracing where you are?  Are you investing in and loving on those around you?  Are you watering the grass you are standing on?

Jesus said:  “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  ‭‭John‬ ‭10:10‬ ‭NIV‬‬

 He also said “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” ‭‭John‬ ‭13:34‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Maybe the full life we are intended to have is in part only achieved through loving others, through watering the grass we stand on.  How can you do some watering even today? 

Love to YOU,


P.S.  Bat update: no further sightings. Thank you so very much for praying. 

Jackson Five Friday: “Don’t Say Sucks…”

Hey Friends,

Hope you’ve had a great week.  Last Saturday Dub had two basketball games on Signal Mountain (the mountain across town from us), Nate had two basketball games in Knoxville, and Sam had his parents v. players end-of-season game for flag football.  Since Will, Sam and I went to Dub’s first game (his debut for high school), we missed the first half of the the flag football game.  But Will always brings his “A” game for such outings and there was still plenty of time for him to provide me with many good sideline laughs.  First of all, I need to paint you a mental picture.  Most days my handsome man leaves the house in a suit and tie — neatly groomed and the epitome of professionalism.  But weekends are different.  For the game he donned his Terrell Owens Eagles jersey that we got off the clearance rack a decade ago, a white bandana tied in do-rag fashion (you cannot fathom how much Dub despises this look on his dad), athletic shorts and soccer cleats from college!   Watching Will play sports has been a highlight of my life for a quarter century, literally, and he did not disappoint.  He simultaneously caught a pass in the end zone with another dad, made some crucial tackles and talked a lot of smack.  Predictably, in the end, the kids won the game by one point.  But in my humble and unbiased opinion Will added a great deal of levity and excitement to the loss.

But one laugh I didn’t learn about till later that night.  To fully appreciate the story, you’ll need some background.

One thing you’ll need to keep in mind is that we all exhibit some questionable parenting now and then.  There is no judgment from me.  Here is Will applauding barely four-year-old Nate for “stomping” his opponent in flag.


There’s backstory to that too, but I’ll save that for another time.

Anyway there is a mom I know and love who once gave an interesting piece of advice to her tween-age daughter.  When the daughter once used the term “sucks,” as in “this sucks,” the mother gently tried to redirect her.

“You know, Honey,” she began, “Don’t say ‘sucks,’ say ‘blows.'”

This has become part of our lexicon.  For years when Will and I hear someone say that something sucks, we look at each other and smile over this timeless piece of hilarious advice: “Don’t say sucks, say blows!”

Another tidbit that you need to know is that at the Nashville Predators hockey games, they have an odd chant.  I found it a little off-putting the first time I heard it.  When the Preds score, the crowd all yells at the opposing team, or maybe it’s directed to the goalie, I’m not sure.  But the level of compliance from the crowd is startling — they chant, over and over again, “HEY…YOU SUCK!”  It seems it’s actually a long standing tradition with the Preds because here is video of it posted in 2007.

Thankfully Sam never repeated this charming little refrain, well not until Saturday when he decided to implement it against the dedicated parents who were using this frigid but otherwise free morning to play football with their kids.  And of course I was sipping hot chocolate with some sweet moms on the sideline when Sam decided it was the right time to yell at the parents, “Hey!…You suck!”

Yes, it was rather mortifying.  If my face wasn’t already red from the cold, it turned a rapid pink then.  I couldn’t explain the reference fast enough.  Sadly these moms had never been to a Preds game and didn’t know what I was talking about.  I’m hoping they don’t think we just yell at each other at home, in a sing-songy way “Hey…You suck!”

I didn’t think Will was in earshot of this proud moment and I didn’t remember to tell him about it until later that night when just the two of us were out.

“Oh my gosh,” I said, the embarrassment flooding back to me. “Did you hear Sam today at the game?  He did that Predators chant thing to the parents?  Hey…You suck!”

“Yeah,” I heard him, he said.  “I told him: Don’t say sucks, say blows!”

I laughed, horrified.  “You did NOT!”

“Yes, I did,” he said.

What a gift it is that God has given me people that crack me up!  But on a more serious note, we really do need to be careful to not adopt the ways of the crowd.  We are called to be set apart, but we clearly trend in the direction of the crowd.  Since my life (and yours too if you have eyes to see) is highly orchestrated, I read the following passage just days after this embarrassing episode.

Since we all have everyday experience of the unreliability of crowds to discern and reflect the truth, it is puzzling that the appeal to numbers continues to carry so much weight with us…a rudimentary knowledge of history corroborated by a few moments of personal reflection will convince us that the truth is not statistical and that crowds are more foolish than wise…The crowd makes spectators of us, passive in the presence of excellence or beauty.  The crowd makes consumers of us, inertly taking in whatever is pushed at us.  As spectators and consumers the central foundational elements of our being human — our ability to create, our drive to excel, our capacity to commune with God — atrophy.

There is nothing wrong, of course, in being in a crowd, and often is unavoidable.  If I want to watch some highly skilled athletes play a game and 50,000 other people also want to watch, I can hardly avoid being in a crowd, nor does it damage my life.  But if in addition to watching the game I parrot the profanity of the crowd and imitate the behavior of the crowd (because 50,000 people must be right), then my life is falsified.

We cannot avoid being in crowds.  Can we keep from being crowd-conditioned?  Can we keep from trading our name in for a number, letting the crowd reduce us to mindless passivity?

Eugene Peterson, Run with the Horses, p.132-133.

I mean how crazy is that?  That after my son parrots the profanity of the crowd, I read about that exact scenario days later.  Crazy?  Or Divine.  Since this type of happenstance happens to me all the time, I know it’s Divine.

But regardless, the truth of this passage is hard-hitting.  More than in 1983, when this book was written, the masses of 2016 are convinced that the masses know best.  Only a moment’s reflection confirms, as Peterson writes, the absurdity of this.  Yet groupthink prevails, and unless we are intentional in resisting, our natural inclination is to fall in line.  As a mother, this scares me.  Sam may be picking a most inopportune time to yell out, “Hey…You suck!” but worse is the idea that the passivity of being crowd-conditioned means diminishing ability to create, to excel, to commune with God.

We can resist the rudderless forces of culture by living in biblical community, by praying, by serving in Christ-honoring ministries.  We can daily put on the full armor of God from Ephesians 6 (belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, gospel-of-peace shoes, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God), but I believe the most important thing we can do is to live submitted to Scripture.  Crowds can scream and yell, the masses can live trying to please the world, but I want to live my life anchored to the Word of God.  I don’t need a poll to know how to think about something, read what “experts” say, or look deep in my own heart.  I need to crack open the Word of God and live by it.  Just as Amy Grant sang back in the 80’s, and David wrote thousands of years ago, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105).  Every.  Single.  Day.

I hope you too seek this Lamp for your feet and Light for your path.








Jackson Five Friday: Double Lockdown, Single Bat, and a Revival


It’s been quite a week, from terror at Ohio State, to devastating fires in Gatlinburg, to deadly tornados in our area.  It’s been one thing after another.  Tuesday, the night of the tornados, I finally fell asleep around 2:45am — the nonstop thunder was keeping me awake, but my phone also blared two times to take cover immediately.  Then, in the distance, very faintly, I heard a tornado siren, which I had no idea we even had.

Yesterday started out fine.  I read my own Advent devotional, which is oddly a blessing.  How one can be encouraged by one’s own words is sort of a mystery.  I’m hoping it’s not a sign of early dementia.  But the peace was fleeting.  By about 10am my older sons’ school went on lockdown because of a nearby shooting.  Not long after we got a message that the lockdown had been lifted, a new lockdown was issued.  A double lockdown day doesn’t exactly add years to a mama’s life, let me tell you.

Then last night I got home from a volunteer event just after 9:30.  Daddy Will and Sam were already in bed.  I poured myself a glass of wine, sat on the couch and started to ask Dub and Nate about the day, about the two lockdowns.  We had only been talking for a minute or two, when out of the corner of my eye, what should appear?  Santa?  Tiny reindeer?  I wish.  I really do wish.

“Oh my gosh,” I exclaimed.  “There’s a bird in the house!”

Dub looked over to where I was looking in the kitchen, “That’s not a bird!  It’s a bat!”

The three of us somehow, with much bravery exhibited by Dub, shooed the bat out the door, at least we think.  It’s kind of hard to explain the configuration by our back door but we did not actually see the beastly thing flutter out the open door, but we haven’t seen him again despite a thorough search.

When I went to bed it was hard not to think that he might come darting in like a frantic loon again, but somehow I fell soundly asleep.  I slept like a baby right up until my phone started that horrific blaring again.  This time it was an amber alert but my blood pressure must have been through the roof before I could read the actual alert.  Getting back to sleep is never easy when your heart is pounding like you’ve just finished a race against American Pharoah.

Speaking of running with horses, the book I am reading right now is about the prophet Jeremiah.  God once asked him, “So, Jeremiah, if you’re worn out in this footrace with men, what makes you think you can race against horses?”  Hence, the title of Eugene Peterson’s book, Run with the Horses: The Quest for Life at It’s Bestwhich was originally published in 1983.  Even though I’m still only a third of the way through I highly recommend it!

The book is about living all out like Jeremiah– embracing adventure and wholeness, but begins with a section about how life, for many, is essentially meaningless.  Peterson writes:

The puzzle is why so many people live so badly.  Not so wickedly, but so inanely.  Not so cruelly, but so stupidly.  There is little to admire and less to imitate in the people who are prominent in our culture.  We have celebrities but not saints.  Famous entertainers amuse a nation of bored insomniacs…Petulant and spoiled athletes play games vicariously for lazy and apathetic spectators…

He doesn’t exactly mince words, does he?  Following right on this description is this profound observation: “This condition has produced an odd phenomenon: individuals who live trivial lives and then engage in evil acts in order to establish significance for themselves.”  Can this, in part, explain terrorists, arsonists, and others of their ilk?

Jesus provides meaning and purpose for my life.  His Word provides context and consistency for my worldview.  I know where I’ve come from and where I am going.  I am not rudderless in search of meaning.  But what if I was?  What might I do to establish significance?  Certainly Peterson’s theory is worth pondering.

Maybe you’ll spend time thinking about it too.  But can I ask two big favors?  Will you please pray that last night’s bat was the one and only?  And secondly will you pray that the United States experiences unprecedented revival?

Because Jesus clearly declared that He is THE answer.   In John 14:6 He says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except by Me.”

Friends, I hope you know Jesus as Lord and Savior — as the way, the truth and the life.

With Love,