Jackson Five Friday: My Inner Legalist

Hey Friends,

I hope your Friday kicked off as spectacularly as mine. I’m so glad I was up to see the sunrise today, because as much as I love to stay in bed as long as possible, it would’ve been sad to miss the beauty above.

I’ve been thinking about how I’m legalistic about certain things. I think it’s because I have zero self-discipline. If I decide I’m going to run a mile every day on the treadmill, skipping a single day blows my entire plan. If I decide to limit carbs and eat one morsel of a piece of toast, all hell breaks loose, and it’s a day of carb-binging. Some people, like my husband, have inherent self-discipline and don’t need an inner legalist. But I recognize that my inner legalist is a God-given blessing.

On Sunday, January 5th, we drove home from vacation. It’s ten brutal hours in the car with five giant Jacksons crammed into a mid-size SUV. I drove a minivan for sixteen long years, and am thrilled to have that era behind me, except for road trips where nothing on earth compares to its spacious comfort. Anyway, I want to never drive home on a Sunday again. I detest missing church. My fragile little legalist ego feels totally defeated by it. If you cannot relate, it’s probably because you have self-discipline, while I am ever on the verge of being derailed.

C.S. Lewis said:

“…once [you] have accepted Christianity, then some of its main doctrines shall be deliberately held before your mind for some time every day. That is why daily praying and religious readings and churchgoing are necessary parts of the Christian life. We have to be continually reminded of what we believe…It must be fed…if you examined a hundred people who had lost their faith in Christianity, I wonder how many of them would turn out to have been reasoned out of it by honest argument? Do not most people simply drift away?”

Drifting away is a terrifying thought because I know myself. I know I could. I don’t forget to eat food. I am in no danger of accidentally starving to death. But I recognize my inclination to drift away from the God I love. I will never outgrow the need for daily reminders to consume His Word, to seek a community of believers, to gather with the body of Christ to worship. I need all of it more than physical food, but am perpetually inclined to try nourishing my soul with God’s creations instead of God Himself. It’s like the definition of spiritual insanity, but somehow I know I am not the only kook.

Blessed is the one…whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers. Psalm‬ ‭1:1-3‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Yes, whether you have an inner legalist or not, delighting over and meditating on the law of the Lord is the answer. How are you doing on this? Are you delighting and meditating? Where is your life planted? Are you yielding fruit or withering?

Lord Jesus, help me to do better. I want to be that sturdy, strong and fruitful tree. I know how to, but apart from your grace I cannot follow through. Help me, Lord, every day to seek first your kingdom. Amen.

With Love,


Jackson Five Friday: It’s Mental

Hey Friends,

Hope you are well. My guys started back to school on Tuesday, and I’ve already been to two basketball games, one of which was in Knoxville, and I leave for a swim meet in just a few minutes. It makes the eight days we spent away — just the five of us –all the sweeter. The daily agenda was simple: eat good food, hit the beach and play cards. I snapped the picture above on our last night of vacation and I think we look almost as chilled out as we felt. But we’re back to reality, where the daily agenda tends to be a little more complicated!

One of the things my husband often tells our swimmer is that this or that race is mental. He was not a competitive swimmer but ran track and cross country, and therefore is much more qualified than I am to encourage on the “it’s mental” aspect of racing. But I do believe it. In fact, mindset is vital in all of life.

“There is nothing that so paralyzes effort as discouragement, and nothing that more continually and successfully invites defeat,” wrote Hannah Whitall Smith, who died in 1911.

Don’t you just love that sentence? I feel like it would not be written today. We might say, “Discouragement paralyzes effort. In fact, nothing in the world continually and successfully invites defeat like discouragement.” The ideas are the same, but there’s less punch and pizazz.

Either way, the truth is compelling. Where do you feel like discouragement is hampering your effort? Where is discouragement inviting defeat in your life?

The world is full of pain and uncertainty, and in one sense it’s natural for us to be discouraged. But in another sense, if we are living lives surrendered to Jesus and if we, as His followers, believe what we say we believe, it is unnatural for us to be discouraged. Ponder these words of Jesus:

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John‬ ‭16:33‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Do you find yourself taking heart more or being discouraged more? It’s mental, isn’t it? The next time I feel discouraged, and I bet it’ll be mere hours from now, I’m going to remind myself, that Jesus told me to take heart. He didn’t say, you might just want to take heart, or you could take heart. It’s actually stated as a command. We could even think of it as a commandment: You shall take heart.

So, whatever you are discouraged about right now, take heart and remember that Jesus has overcome the world.

With Love,


Jackson Five Friday: 20 Questions for 2020

Hey Friends,

I hope your brand new year is off to a wonderful start. I’ve been thinking about how important it is to ask good questions, and to listen to the answers. Information has become more accessible in the last decade and yet the net effect is more ignorance. Raising deep thinkers is one of my primary goals as a parent, and yet I also recognize my own propensity for sometimes retreating to the shallows. I have patterns in my life that are not only joy-robbing but impede contemplation. So, here are 20 questions I aim to pose to myself and others in 2020?

    What explanation is there for the complexity of life on earth?
    Why is forgiveness such a powerful force to behold? Why are stories of forgiveness big news every single year?
    Why are those big stories of forgiveness invariably tied to Christians?
    Why do secular statistics consistently show that living a godly life is the path to a fulfilled life?
    Why did Jesus tell us to “consider the lilies” as a remedy for worry? And why don’t I do this more often?
    What does it mean to surrender your life to God? If guidance in the Bible is clear, then how can a person be surrendered apart from obeying?
    What does it mean to live into the truth that apart from Christ I can do nothing?
    How do the heavens declare the glory of God?
    What is it in the human heart that leads to striving?
    Can you name a single person whose striving has led to fulfillment? What does it mean when Tom Brady, whose striving has reaped such obvious dividends, still says there’s got to be more?
    Do you believe money can buy happiness?
    How do you explain suffering?
    Why do so many have a Charlie-Brown-kicking-the-football-expectation that government is the solution?
    Why do people hold on to grievances when they know it is self-sabotage?
    Where did you come from and where are you going when you die?
    Where did our concept of infinity come from?
    . What is the best feeling in the world? What is the worst?
    What does it mean to be a person of character?
    What is the purpose of your life?
    In 2030 what will you wish you did more of?

Praying today that we won’t be a society that evaluates what’s truly important at a Twitter level. Praying too that you know the truth of this verse, which reminds us that the answer to all our deepest questions is the same.

“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.” ‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭1:20‬ ‭NIV‬‬

With Love,