Jackson Five Friday: Fill in the Blank

Hey Friends,

Hope your week has been as slow and lazy as mine.  Nate is at the beach with our church, Sam’s swim season is wrapping up, and Dub, of course, drives himself everywhere.  This is the first week of summer that I’ve not raced anyone to camp (as an attendee or counselor), or to driving school a half hour away.  Instead I’ve made big breakfasts after swim practice and leisurely read Scripture to Sam while he ate.

There was a season maybe six years ago where my carpool buddy did the morning run.  I started reading the boys a devotional at the door as we waited for her van to pull up.  To engage them I would intermittently skip a word, mostly at the end of sentences, and let them try to fill it in.  I even offered monetary rewards for correct answers.  I hadn’t thought about that in years, but as I read to Sam this week, I did the same thing.  It’s encouraging how adept he is at filling in the biblical blank, because I’ve been horribly inconsistent with Scripture and devotional reading.  We read Psalm 23, Romans 12, and 1 Corinthians 13.  These are passages familiar enough to most believers that filling in the blank is not very challenging.

He makes me lie down in green __________, he leads me beside quiet __________, he __________ my soul.

Do not repay anyone __________for __________… Do not take __________, my friends, but leave room for God’s __________

Love is patient, love is __________.  It does not envy, it does not __________.  It is not proud.  It is not __________, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily __________, it keeps no __________ of __________.

Even though these are some of the most commonly quoted passages, and we know the right answer, the real issue is whether we live the right answer.  Do we rest in the green pastures of summer, savoring the quiet waters, knowing only God can restore souls?  Are we tempted to repay evil for evil, or do we know that it is God’s to avenge?  Are we kind or boastful?  Are we rude or easily angered?  Do we keep records of wrongs?

Like anything else in the life of faith, we don’t just have to try harder to not keep records of wrongs, or to live out any of these principles. Giving it your all is not the answer.  Any gains you make will be slight and temporary.  Real transformation happens when we live our lives yielded to the work of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 12:1-2).  Anything good in me is a reflection of Him. Apart from Him, I can do nothing. (John 15:5).  The call is to live by the Spirit, ever yielding to His good, pleasing and perfect will.

“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).  Come up with whatever worthy fill-in-the-blank you want, being in step with the Spirit is the only way to truly live it out.

With Love,



Jackson Five Friday: Comfort and Peace

Hey Friends,

Hope you’ve had a wonderful week with lots of patriotism and gratitude for the freedoms afforded Americans. We haven’t been home for July 4th in a few years, and so we especially enjoyed a low-key day ending with fireworks shot off the side of the mountain. It may not have been as big as the fireworks we used to frequent on the National Mall, but bang for effort, it can’t be beat.

This year I’ve been contemplating what it means to have the peace of Christ. I gave a chapel talk in January on this topic, and somehow I just keep coming back to it. I guess in part it’s because there continues to be a situation in my life that has the potential to be a tremendous peace killer. Mostly, it has just made me cling to Jesus all the more, but there are moments that I let anger creep in. Anger is always ready to take over and wreak havoc. But as Ann Voskamp puts it, “anger is the lid that suffocates joy.” And that’s such a great way to think about it, because who wants their joy suffocated?

Do you have circumstances in your life that feel unjust? How do you embrace the peace of Christ in the midst of those kinds of situations? In one sense, the answer might be a multi-volume tome, but in another the answer is simple: “Nothing can set our hearts at rest but a real acquaintance with God.” (Hannah Whitall Smith, The God of All Comfort).

When we know and trust God most, peace is a byproduct. When we know God the most, we can’t help but trust Him. It’s almost like the illustration from Dietrich Bonhoeffer that simplifies so much. He said, in essence that the life of faith is like a self-reinforcing wheel. You can jump on anywhere, and get it spinning. You can jump on with choosing to believe and then you’ll be able to more easily obey God’s Word, or you can start obeying and the more you live according to God’s Word, the more you’ll believe. In short, trusting and obeying are components of a snowballing faith. But we must be mindful that the object is Jesus, it’s not self-help or self-improvement or self-actualization. It is all about Him. Hannah Whitall Smith also said, “Comfort and peace can never come from anything we know about ourselves, but only and always from what we know about Him.”

So the question becomes what do I know about Him? What do you know about Him?

I know He loves me and that He died for me, and I pray you do too.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans‬ ‭5:8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

With Love,