Jackson Five Friday: Racism, Book Club and a BIG Prayer Request

Happy Friday, Friends!

It’s a full-out spring-like day today in Tennessee, and new life is always uplifting to behold.

This morning I went to a book club which was just launched at my sons’ school.  The book was Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult.  It is the story of a black nurse wrongfully charged with the murder of the child of a white supremacist.  The author’s treatment of race, and of the story itself, is through three lenses — the nurse, the white supremacist, and the nurse’s white female defense attorney.  If you’ve not read it, it is definitely worthwhile, but do not read the rest of this post because it will spoil the book.  If you have read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

The nuances of being a successful black woman in a white neighborhood seem to be fleshed out beautifully (I can only say “seem to be” because obviously I’ve not lived it).  But the book will make you think about things you say and do in a new light.  I had never read anything by Picoult before and am very impressed by her depth of character development.  The prosecuting attorney stood out as unrealistic, but every other character is developed enough to at least establish some semblance of empathy in the reader — not for what they stood for, but at least an inkling into how the character ended up that way.

One thing that the book club discussion really fleshed out is how insensitive people can be, how utterly oblivious.  I can think of two examples in my own life that are illustrations of how perceptions and reactions can be way off.

When I was a summer associate during law school, we took a boondoggle of a trip to Seattle.  We were wined and dined like crazy — it was so fun (well, except for that part where I almost died in the desert, but that’s another story).   One night we had dinner in a restaurant on the water (not in Seattle itself, but nearby), and the deck of the restaurant faced west to the mountains.  The sun setting over that mountain on that water is still one of the most magical things I’ve ever witnessed.

It was at this restaurant that I came close, so terribly close, to revealing my true numbskull colors.

I was sitting at a table talking to the person sitting on my right, when an Asian gentleman approached the table on my left.  He was dressed in plain black pants and a plain white shirt.  He asked something about the chair, and for some reason in my “blink” assessment I thought he worked there.  I thought he was taking the chair to move to another table.  I almost asked him for a glass of water.  But my assessment was off in every way.  No, he did not work at the restaurant.  He was the managing partner of a division of the law firm and he was asking to sit next to me.  It is in those kind of horrifying moments that you realize how flawed your thinking can be.  I have thanked God many times that I did not get the request for water out of my mouth before I came to my senses.

A funnier example happens to me with fair frequency.   I am just a hair under six feet tall without shoes.  Sometimes when I’m in a restaurant and I go to use the bathroom, I’ll encounter some unsuspecting woman leaning into the mirror putting on lipstick, or just washing her hands.  In this scenario the approach from behind of a figure six-feet tall is, evidently, startling.  Many times I’ve had women do a double-take of me, as if I do not belong there.  The nervous smile revealing the erroneous snap judgment is obviously nothing compared to systemic racism.  That is not my point at all.  My point is that we all make thousands of snap judgments each day and we can always benefit from reminders to be more intentional, more sensitive, and more aware.  Yes, these are small things, but small things add up.

So one take-away from the book is that small things matter.  Another is that love is the great healing force in this world.  Turk is the name of the white supremacist and in the end there is a great redemptive work done in his life.  The author justifies Turk’s about-face by showing that Turk not only loves deeply but is the recipient of great forgiveness.  This part of the book falls a little flat for me.  Perhaps because the love and forgiveness portrayed in the book are purely human.  I’m not convinced that’s enough to transform someone so filled with hate.

Plus I happen to be friends with a real-life “Turk” named Tom Tarrants.  His escape from hate was through coming to know Jesus as his Lord and Savior. You can and should read about him here.  His story is amazing but points once again to the truth that Jesus is the answer.  Redemption apart from Christ himself is incomplete.  We are all called to die to self — it’s just easier for us to condemn the Turks and Toms of this world without seeing the darkness of our own hearts.  But the truth is we all need forgiveness. (Romans 3:23).  We all need our hearts of stone torn out and replaced by the heart of flesh.  Jesus won’t make you do anything. He lets you reject Him and His offer of grace. But why would you?  Why reject unconditional love, a heart of flesh, and guidance for your life?  There’s not a single good answer.

I hope you live each day with the peace that only Jesus gives.

But, changing gears, here is my BIG prayer request:  I am driving my mom this coming week from Detroit to Pittsburgh for stem cell treatment.  Could you please pray over all the details but especially that the treatment would work for my sweet mom?  It would mean so much to me to know you are praying.

With Love,


 Jackson Five Friday: Identity Issues 


Happy Friday!  It’s a particularly great day in the Jackson household.  First, Sam has an unexpected day off from school.  Sadly there is such widespread illness in Hamilton County that the public schools are closed. They announced this to students yesterday right before dismissal. Sam came running down the hill to meet me, more elated and stunned than Tom Brady was last Sunday night.

This means that Sam is in the backseat while Will drives the three of us to Knoxville. Dub is swimming this morning in the high school state meet for Tennessee.  This meet, today and tomorrow, closes out his freshman year of varsity swimming.  Since his amazing school and coaches allowed him to also play on the freshmen basketball team, which wrapped on Monday night, this meet marks the end of an intense few months. Balancing both sports and challenging classes have left me  awestruck.  We are pretty dang proud.

Yet I never want Dub to find his identity in his many gifts or accomplishments.  I pray that unlike some who spend a lifetime trying to “find themselves,” that Dub and his brothers will always know who they are.

It’s always a mistake to reduce a complex creature, made in the image of God to live for eternity to just a few traits. Yet people do this all the time. I’m a swimmer.  I’m a basketball player.  I’m an athlete. I’m a liberal. I’m a conservative. I’m a musician. I’m a poet. I’m a doctor. I’m gay. I’m straight. Even I’m an ENTJ or any other personality type. We are unique, nuanced and complex — no one’s identity can be summed up or limited by these terms.

On the other hand, three valid summations do spring to mind: (1) I’m an image-bearer of God, of the one true King; (2) I’m a sinner; and (3) Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, I’m forgiven.

Unlike the list above these truly inform who I am. May my sons know the primacy of these components when they contemplate who they are.  May they never fall into the trap that one little aspect of them, or even one amazing accomplishment defines them.

Thanking God this morning for my wonderful son, and praying that he will live life knowing his identity is not found on the basketball court nor in the pool, but in Jesus Christ.  As I looked through some resources about finding our identity in Christ, I came across this list compiled by MercyMe (love their music).  It’s worth printing and tucking in your Bible.  That’s what I just did.  I copied and pasted into Word and used 11 point font so that it would fit on just two pages.

It’s an amazing, extensive list, but maybe my two favorite verses are these:

Romans 8:17 —  “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

Hebrews 2:11 — “Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.”

I’ve given God many, many reasons to be ashamed of me, but how incredible is it that He isn’t?  I am made holy.  I am a co-heir with Christ.  May I never get over how utterly amazing this is!  May my identity always rest in these truths.

Praying hard today again for the return of civil discourse in America and for my own sons to know who they are and whose they are!

With Love,


P.S. Click on the list and tell me which is your favorite verse and why.  I’d truly love to hear.

Jackson Five Friday: American Pharisees

Hey Friends,

This week has been a mixed bag for me.  Parenting is hard sometimes.  If it’s not hard at least part of the time, then there’s something amiss ( Hebrews 12:11).  In addition, now that I’m feeling more settled in Tennessee, I’m contemplating going back to work in some capacity –thinking through and pursuing what would be best for me and for my family is both exciting and stressful.  Then there’s the daily hammering I get via newsfeeds –the prevalence of groupthink is staggering.  Where have all the rational, deep thinkers gone?  Humility would require something like this: “These are complex issues.  I won’t pretend to have the answers.”  But no, instead the masses who pontificate on every little thing just keep growing.  Free speech means you can say whatever you want, but that doesn’t mean every opinion matters or should have equal weight.  Let’s filter for significance.  For example, unless you give 10% of your gross annual income and can point to your calendar to evidence some level of volunteerism, why weigh in on how to help the needy?  Unless these minimum requirements are met, you aren’t really invested in helping others.   I know someone rather well who meets these standards and who has also read voraciously about how best to help people.  Yet you’ll never find him just spouting off with all the answers to everything under the sun.  Dang, he’s sexy.

People often don’t even ask the most infantile of questions.  Soundbites and Twitter have replaced careful consideration of any policy or theory alongside its alternatives.  It’s as if the often enlightening question, “What’s the alternative?” has been eliminated from our logic toolkit  Has our attention span really narrowed that much?  There also seems to be a real struggle by some to comprehend that the government does not have some secret, infinite source of funding.  Uncle Sam is not America’s rich relative with trillions of extra dollars lying around.  Whenever the government spends a single dollar, it comes from fellow Americans.  Ignorance of this basic fact is perplexing, to say the least.  Utter hatred, coupled with the lack of measured analysis, can really be disheartening.  How do you break through this mob mentality?

Maybe you don’t.  Maybe you just can’t break through when people begin to find their identity and purpose in mobism.  There is a self-righteous thread in it that feeds the ego — the sense of self-importance seems to snowball into an American Pharisee.  Pharisees say that unless you follow our rules, and believe what we believe, and protest what we protest, you aren’t worthy of respect.  Pharisees don’t listen to opposing views, and they don’t reason through anything.  Worst of all, Pharisees never offer grace to anyone.

So what is the solution?  In one sense, it’s easy.  The answer is Christ.  Embracing Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior gives you an identity and purpose.  Apart from Christ I can do nothing. (John 15:5).  Through Him I can do anything. (Philippians 4:13). The purpose of my life is to glorify Him.  It’s really very, very simple. But in another sense, it’s very, very hard for people to humble themselves before the Lord, to recognize that He alone is Holy, that He alone is Sovereign.  The Bible says that each person is made in the image of God.  We are called to love and respect each and every person.  We are called to pray for all people.

This week in my Bible study, I learned about how Nehemiah prayed for four months about the state of disrepair in Jerusalem.  He had heard about it through his brother, but he himself lived a thousand miles away.  As the official cupbearer, Nehemiah had daily access to the king, but he didn’t act hastily.  No, he prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed, mourning and fasting for four months before finally God opened the door to speaking to the king about returning to his beloved homeland.

I found this very convicting.  I had to ask myself, “When was the last time I consistently prayed about something for four months?” I have a hard time doing this for personal concerns, much less the well-being of my country. 

So today I am committing to praying for the return of civil dialogue. Nehemiah prayed about building a wall of protection around Jerusalem, a physical wall.   I am praying for fewer barriers, for the figurative walls between our divided nation to come tumbling down, for the return of civil and respectful discourse.  

Will you please join me in this specific prayer?  

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Love to you,