Jackson Five Friday: Keeping it Simple

Hey Friends,

Hope you’ve had a wonderful week. My sons finished up the school year, and we’ve been in celebration mode for a few days. Monday is back to sports and routine, but our schedule for the summer, at least from this vantage point, appears to be a little simpler than in years past. I don’t anticipate running around like a chicken, doing a million things. I’m really trying to give up hurrying, and find myself saying aloud, “What’s our hurry?” The leaner calendar has required saying “no” to some things, even things that we love and do every year, but I am optimistic about the relative simplicity of the next couple months.

And simplicity is good. I need more of it in all areas of my life, but especially with regard to faith.

A.W. Tozer said, “The simplicity which is in Christ is rarely found among us. In its stead are programs, methods, organizations and a world of nervous activities which occupy time and attention but can never satisfy the longing of the heart.”

Let’s rid ourselves of the “world of nervous activity” both in life and in faith. May we keep it simple and pursue knowing God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. In John 6, Jesus explains that the work of God is for us to believe in him whom he has sent. (John 6:29).

Our work is to believe God, but we cannot hope to believe Him without knowing Him.

When was the last time you made a new friend? How did it happen? You probably listened to this person, and talked with this person, and just spent time with them. We get to know God the same way. He is a Person. We can talk to him by praying, and listen to Him by reading His Word and sitting quietly before Him. It’s pretty simple.

Yet even though it’s simple, sometimes my time-management choices would indicate I don’t give a hoot about knowing God. Praying today that this summer my pursuit of God will be both simple and devout, that at the end of each day I can point to ways I pursued knowing and believing God more.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Chopping Broccoli

Hey Friends,

Hope you’ve had a lovely week, and weren’t unjustly accused of serving broccoli every night. Because although the bulk bag from Costco, coupled with the fact that Sam thinks broccoli is yummy, may have caused me to over-serve it, I assure you it wasn’t every night.

But the accusation somehow made me think about the tree-like vegetable in a new way. I’ve had Dana Carvey’s Chopping Broccoli song running through my mind, and Lookout Mountain suddenly looks to me like a huge mound of broccoli.

Truly. Doesn’t it?

The other day I was walking this path, envisioning a human enlarged a hundred times over breaking off the tree tops and munching upon them, the mere mortals running around screaming, perhaps fleeing in terror like the microorganisms living on actual broccoli. You may be thinking, “Girl, you need a job. You’ve got way too much time on your hands if you are delving this deep about broccoli.” Seriously, it’s a little pathetic.

But anyway, isn’t it kind of amazing how scientists have developed stronger and better microscopes, but the findings are far from exhausted. It’s never, “Yep, this is as small as it goes.” Instead, we plunge the oceans and send people to the moon, while your fingernail holds infinite mysteries.

The complexity of the infinitesimal has to shake the faith of the atheist. It so clearly points to a Creator. Why would one choose to live without meaning and without reasonable explanations? I cannot relate. I get it that submission is hard. I get that people want to live the way they want to live. But I feel like the battle would be so tiresome, having to wake up every morning and have to fight off the best explanation for life all over again, having to tell yourself that as good as it sounds–that the Creator of the universe lovingly made you for a specific purpose –that it’s all random and meaningless. Day after day. Honestly, it sounds like hell. I’d much rather cling to the best explanation there is, even though it’s incomplete, even though this side of heaven some of my questions will never be answered. This side of heaven I will always need faith. Sometimes I will choose to believe. And I’ll never stop praying, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” Mark 9:24.

So I don’t know how much broccoli you eat, but I hope it reminds you of God’s infinite creativity. And I hope when you spend time outside this weekend, that you see trees upon trees, all declaring the glory of God.

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭19:1-4‬ ‭ESV‬‬

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Difficult People

Hey Friends,

It is a gorgeous time of year here in Tennessee.  Last night Will, Sam and I took the golf cart to Sunset Rock and watched the sun slip below us.  Isn’t it stunning how fast it goes?  Once it starts to sink into the horizon it appears to jump into hyper speed.  If the sun really is moving that fast all day, no wonder life flies by.  Then we came home and laid on our lounge chairs, and the moon was so bright that it was almost like daylight.  I hope you too have had time this spring to behold creation and sit in stunned reverence.

Because mini-retreats may be more important than ever.  No other generation has been bombarded 24/7 with the tumult of the world.  Blissful ignorance was more conducive to feelings of peace and harmony, and I don’t think for a minute we were created to carry the burdens of our world.  Two thousand years ago when Jesus told his followers to give Him all their cares and burdens, He wasn’t talking about their burdens regarding world peace or conflicts across the globe.  People didn’t even carry burdens from across town, because mostly they didn’t know about them.  Forgive the hypocrisy of writing this on a blog — the irony is not lost on me — but I think we need to focus more, not exclusively but more, on where God has placed us.  Do what you can do in your circle.  Make an impact with the people you brush shoulders with every day.  Weighing in on every conflict, even just being informed about every conflict, is exhausting and ineffectual.  Social media has fed this fruitless fire in such a harmful way.  Let’s quit thumbs upping accomplishments and hug someone instead.  Let’s quit venting about injustice and go do something tangible.

The thing is when you stop trying to love humanity, which is easy, and instead start trying to love actual people, you learn something: people can be difficult.  But I came across the best quote this week. I think it’s going to help you.  I know it helps me.

Before I tell you what it is, I’ll tell you the circuitous way I came across it. One of the sweet ways I bonded with my mom was through music. Only God knows how many songs I played for her over the years. As a teen, I remember playing The Cure’s Pictures of You. I knew she’d like it. When I first heard the Gettys, I immediately ordered a CD for my mom. Her devotion to their music rivaled my own. One year she and I got to see An Irish Christmas together.

But the best musical gift I ever gave her was when I took her to the Gaither Homecoming concert in 2004. The Gaithers wrote many of my moms very favorite songs, and we talked about that evening for years. When I went through my mom’s belongings, I came across the book Because He Lives: The Stories and Inspiration Behind the Songs of Bill and Gloria Gaither. I read it a while back but was flipping back through it this week.

And that’s where I found this quote:

Think of the hardest person to love you know, the most difficult person in your life. You can just count on it: That is a person who doesn’t feel loved. That is the person who most needs to be loved.

You only have to reflect for two seconds to be convinced Gloria Gaither is spot on. You can just count on it! And that really helps me to understand others and to understand myself when I’m the difficult one. I hope it blesses you as well.

Paul’s words that close out his second letter to the church at Corinth summarize our responsibility:

Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love will be with you. 2 Corinthians 13:11.

May we rejoice, restore, comfort and agree together this weekend and always.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Taken for Granted?

Hey Friends,

Hope you’re doing well, and have sweet Mother’s Day weekend plans. I kicked off the festivities by attending a Mother’s Day brunch with Sam at his school. Part of the morning included receiving a list of sweet thoughts from Sam, the prompts for which were provided by an adult skilled at getting answers that are funny, heartfelt and unexpected. But one prompt was left blank. It was the one that said, “A song I remember you singing is…”

I was perplexed. And then his explanation made it even worse. “Oh, yeah. I left that one blank,” he said, “because I don’t remember you ever singing to me.”

What????

I sang to him all the time. I have plenty of videos of him singing the songs back to me. I prided myself on singing to all three of my boys. I memorized new verses of songs I knew with the sole intention of singing them as lullabies.

Yet at twelve years old the little cherub, who was once so comforted by my voice, has zero recollection of it ever occurring. Thankfully, before I had a full-on pity party over being taken for granted, I reminded myself why I sang in the first place. Was it to be recognized or remembered? Of course not. I sang to Sam out of love.

And really we do lots of things as parents that will never be appreciated. I hauled our older two boys around Europe when Will was stationed in Germany for two months. They don’t remember a minute of it. Here’s Nate and me in Amsterdam.

When I was pregnant with Sam, we took Dub and Nate on the Disney cruise. We are not cruise people. We are park-it-at-the-beach-and-read people. But we thought it would be fun for them, and it was easy to do since we lived twenty minutes from Port Canaveral.

Here’s Nate with Goofy Santa on board the ship.

Dub was just five years old but every fiber of his being disagreed with the very existence of Goofy Santa and he refused to even look at him, much less pose with him. But even Dub’s disdain for the absurdity of it all was soon forgotten. Memories galore have been made and quickly forgotten.

Our culture prizes recognition and accolades, but as good as they feel, they cannot be our motive. Instead, love should be the driving force in all we do.

Jesus said, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 6:1 ESV.

And Paul said, “Let all that you do be done in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:14 ESV.

Lord Jesus, help me not to crave recognition or be wounded when things go unnoticed or forgotten. Help me, Lord, to do all things in love and never for the sake of being seen. Give me a pure heart, Lord, and help me to love my people well, because You have loved me well.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Sweet Aromas

Hey Friends,

Do you have some favorite aromas? Maybe the smell of something yummy on the grill, or the scent of gardenias? One of my all-time favorites was the smell of my Gramma Cummins. The subtle but consistent smell included a mix of her perfume and I don’t know what. But it wasn’t just the perfume, because I’ve tried spraying it around my house. When I picked up my wedding dress I stored it in my Gramma’s closet until the big day, hoping it would absorb her. What I’d give to have a candle or spray that replicated her aroma. On a simpler, less nostalgic note, I also love the way a Frosted Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop-Tart leaves a lingering sweetness in the air. It’s probably why I occasionally buy them for the boys. Who cares that they love them. It’s about that pop-tart aroma.

Have you ever thought about the fact that Jesus has an aroma? Because Paul talks about it in 2 Corinthians 2:14-16:

“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.

Periodically we should stop and ask ourselves about how well we are spreading the fragrance of Jesus. It’s a lovely image but what does it look like — or smell like — in day-to-day life? Maybe it would help to think about a person you know who does this well. I imagine you will immediately think about how grace-filled that person is, how they exude the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.

I’ve been thinking about another aspect of spreading Christ’s aroma, in part because of a podcast I listened to this week. It was an interview with David Brooks about his new book, which I have not yet read. But in the interview Brooks talks about how a community of people in Washington, DC helped him grow relationally. He describes a Thursday night dinner group where the default greeting is hugging instead of a handshake. Even in the brief interview, you get the sense that this group has a sweet aroma, drawing in outsiders with grace and kindness.

Does that describe the Christian community you are living in? Communal aromas are vital too, and I think Paul’s words leave room for the individual and the corporate application.

In another part of the interview, Brooks talks about how oftentimes he doesn’t relate well to people of faith. If I was friends with Brooks, I’d love to plumb the depths of why. If I had to guess, I’d say one of two things. Some of the communities he’s been exposed to are more legalistic than loving, and/or Brooks is reluctant to appreciate child-like faith. I think that’s an unfortunate struggle for some intellectuals. There’s a propensity for making things more complicated than they are. Simplicity can be its own stumbling block, even when the aroma is sweet.

The call then is both to spread the fragrance of Christ and to appreciate it in others, even when they are not the fulfillment of our own ideal. May we all, by God’s grace, do better in loving each person as immortals made in the image of God.

And may we avoid the pitfall that Dostoyevsky articulated: “The more I love humanity in general, the less I love man in particular.” Instead may we trust that God will help us love each person we encounter. Just like C.S. Lewis said, do not worry whether you love your neighbor, just act as if you did.

Help me, Lord Jesus, to spread your fragrance by loving others well.

With Love,

Kristie