Jackson Five Friday: “Church? NO!”

Hey Friends,

I hope you’ve had a fabulous week. I certainly did. My oldest son had his high school graduation last Saturday and it was the best high school graduation I’ve ever been to. It wasn’t the commencement speakers, or even the pomp and circumstance, it was just the group celebration of a milestone. With so much isolation, with so few social interactions, a true celebration meant all the more.

But the weekend kind of wiped me out and on Monday I wasn’t feeling 100%. I think I was just tired because by Tuesday I was fine, but we are now aware of every little cough, ache and sneeze, aren’t we? Have you done any panic sniffing? Maybe panic is a little strong but I’ve felt sweet relief to definitively smell various items, from a nearby candle, to a bottle of alcohol or a random grab from the spice cabinet.

But Monday night we did miss going to a sweet graduation event at our church. It was a send-off to the high school seniors where parents share a quick piece of wisdom for their graduate. I knew just what I wanted to say.

When Dub (that’s what we call him at home) was a baby, he had terrible separation anxiety. He’d cry if I left the room. If you happen to be in this stage now, do not worry a bit. I can assure you they grow out of it. A year or two later and he never experienced separation anxiety again. But the poor child did not want to go to church, so as soon as he had learned a few words, he would emphatically communicate his wishes.

At the time we went to church on Saturday nights. Somehow he knew —as a one-year-old —that it was Saturday. As soon as I’d strap him in to his car seat, he’d start saying, “Church? No!” and simultaneously using his chubby little hand to indicate “NO” by shaking his flat palm back and forth. By the time we pulled into the parking lot twenty minutes away, he would have repeated this stance 20, 30 or 40 times. Sometimes we would try the nursery anyway, and other times we’d just keep him with us. But never did we give in and just not go to church.

My grandfather, “Papa,” died before Dub was two-and-a-half, but this quickly became one of his favorite stories. Just like me, he thought it was both sweet and hilarious. My mom told me that even as Papa’s strength was ebbing in his last few days, he would look up at her and smile, “Church? No!” and shake his hand just like Dub.

What I wanted to tell Dub at the send-off dessert was no matter how much you may think, “Church? No!” you cannot give into that. Observing the Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments, and it is also a means by which you are fed truth and community. My friend, don’t ever give up going to church. Yes, it’s a gathering of sinners, and people may rub you the wrong way, but Jesus came for the sick, and you are sick. It matters not if there’s a pandemic or it’s the Roaring 20’s, in this life, you will always be sick. You will always need the church. And the church will always need you.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭4:14-16‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Don’t be an infant tossed about. Seek and speak truth (a point also made by the headmaster at graduation last weekend) and do your part in the body of Christ. When you wake up tired on a Sunday morning, and you think to yourself, “Church? No!” get yourself there anyway. And if I ever slip out of the habit of regular church attendance, please, please remind me of this truth.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Uphill Both Directions

Hey Friends,

I hope you’ve had a great week. I have once again reached a Friday having accomplished close to nothing I had planned for the week. I’ll chalk it up to post-vacation blues, but I think part of it is just never having any time alone. The high-octane mode of cleaning, or insanely focused productivity, that I sometimes channel has been missing since March. It’s a phenomenon that requires an otherwise empty house.

Anyway, we’ve all heard the folksy claim that people used to have to walk miles to school, in the snow, uphill in both directions. And while that’s obviously an exaggeration, it does seem like people used to be hardier. I mean I feel like there’s an epidemic of wimping out. Obviously, attributing lack of productivity to post-vacation blues is the pinnacle of wimpiness. Thankfully I’ve come across a wonderful little poem that addresses this precise issue. It’s more than 150 years old and may or may not have been intended as a devotional, but can definitely be used as one. Take a minute and read it a few times.

Up-Hill

BY CHRISTINA ROSSETTI

Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night, my friend.

But is there for the night a resting-place? 
   A roof for when the slow dark hours begin. 
May not the darkness hide it from my face? 
   You cannot miss that inn. 

Shall I meet other wayfarers at night? 
   Those who have gone before. 
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight? 
   They will not keep you standing at that door. 

Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
Of labour you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
Yea, beds for all who come.

My friends, we need to toughen up! We need to embrace the truth that it is uphill, to the very end. Jesus told us we would have trouble and yet we act so surprised when troubles come. Where did this sense of entitlement to smooth sailing come from? Who started the myth that calm waters are anything but temporary? Harbors like the one pictured above are photo-worthy because they are so unusual.

Even though Rosetti’s poem is titled Up-Hill, there are at least four hopeful takeaways: (1) Others are on the journey, too; (2) The resting place cannot be missed; (3) The door is left open for you; and (4) There are beds for all who come.

What amazingly applicable words for today.

Jesus provides strength for the journey, a community to encourage you along the way, peace in all circumstances, and a bed in your forever home. Shouldn’t this all spur us on to be at least a little hardier?

And you want to hear some even better news? “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:17‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Can I get an Amen?

With Love,

Kristie

Lord Jesus help me to be grateful for the many gifts for the journey and for the eternal glory that outweighs momentary troubles. Help me to encourage others and not be at all surprised that it is uphill, all the way. Thank you for loving me and giving me Rossetti’s poem.

One Shot Away

Hey Friends,

I skipped posting on Friday because I was spending time with my favorite guys. Will and I played a Par-3 golf course with Sam while the older two played real golf nearby. Golf is an unexpected saving grace of COVID. Is there a better way to socially distance? My sons have too much time on their hands, but I’m thankful that some of that extra time has been devoted to being in God’s creation, while simultaneously having a competitive outlet.

At one point, Sam was rather dissatisfied with his initial shot. My sweet husband tried to encourage him.

“Sam, listen,” he said, “That’s the great thing about a par-3, you are always one shot away from being in a great position.”

When we were first married, my brother Craig was a golf pro at various clubs, and my parents lived in a beach-front condo. We lived SO large for poor twenty-somethings. Craig would set us up on the nicest courses in Florida. I’d only finish the hole if I was doing well — mostly I picked up. I am not and have never been a good golfer. We’d sometimes get to eat at the country club too, and days we didn’t golf, we’d alternate between hanging at the beach and Will reading on the balcony with my dad. They’d be out there for hours reading and talking and listening to the waves crashing on shore. They had such an easy, quiet friendship, and how incredible for me to observe the mutual respect between my two very favorite men.

We cherish those memories because they were the perfect escape from law school and residency, but all the more because by our seventh anniversary my dad and my brother Craig had both died. The blessing of having endured sudden and unexpected deaths of those you madly love is that you do not take life for granted. Experience proves that life is indeed a vapor.

But, even with quite a bit of golf over quite a few years, I’d never thought about the truth that Will shared with Sam on Friday. It’s true: on a par-3 you really are always one shot away from being in a great position. And that’s not just a maxim for golf, it’s true for life in general. We are always one decision away from committing or re-committing our lives to Christ. We are always one step away from repenting and turning to Our Creator and Lover of our souls. He is always at the door knocking. We are ever one decision away from answering.

Are you, right this minute, in a great position? Or do you need to repent? Do you need to turn off the fear-mongering cable news? Do you need to tell the Lord Jesus that you trust Him? Do you need to call someone and tell them you are sorry? Do you need to stop trying to control things that are out of your control? Do you need to relinquish your expectations of others? My friend, you are one shot away from being in a great position. Isn’t that such great news?

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”
‭‭Revelation‬ ‭3:20‬ ‭NIV‬‬

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Warts

Hey Friends,

No, I don’t have any actual warts, that I know of anyway, but I am now old enough to have misshapen fingers. My pinky on my right hand has a wholly inexplicable and disturbingly large bulge. I think, much like my poor eyes, my hands are aging at an alarming rate. Oh well. To live is Christ, to die is gain! I so long to meet more people who truly live lives that reflect the Christ-followers’ truth that to die is gain.

Instead the media would have you believe death itself is brand spanking new, a 2020 phenomenon. I try to counter this by constantly reminding people around me that they can’t guarantee another breath. Recently I told a painter, here at my house for an estimate, “You could die on the way back down to your car.” He looked at me, somewhat befuddled and said, “Well, thanks.” It was actually a pretty humorous exchange. But it’s the truth: we need to be ever-ready to meet our Maker.

Another media fallacy is that there are people who have no warts. Here’s a conversation I recently had.

Other person: “I just really don’t like it when he does ‘x’”

Me: “Have you heard the phrase ‘warts and all’?”

Other person: “What?”

Me: “You are called to love him warts and all. No one on this earth is perfect. Every single person will disappoint you. Every person has flaws. You have flaws. Loving someone — loving him — means loving him warts and all.”

Love keeps no record of wrongs. But our culture keeps impeccable records, and it keeps them for decades, even centuries. This gotcha vibe begs the question: What ever happened to grace? Its absence is ruining both societies and relationships. How can there be such ignorance of the self-destruction?

Stop for a second and think about who in your life needs your love and affirmation, warts and all? Is there a single person in your life that’s NOT on that list? Spoiler alert: there’s not.

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians‬ ‭4:2-3‬ ‭NIV‬‬

May we be humble, gentle and patient with others this weekend. May we shut off the the fear-mongering, hate-inducing media, and instead make EVERY effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace. May we love one another, warts and all.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: The Secret to a Happy…

Hey Friends,

It’s looking like a spectacular weekend to celebrate July 4th. The festivities may be different, but you can be immensely grateful for your country even if you stay home and watch that repulsive hot dog eating contest, which my family never misses. Mercifully, I imagine it’s cancelled this year. Of course that may result in my guys wanting to re-do their own contest from last year. I filmed and my four guys tried to choke down the hot dogs. It gave us all a new appreciation for Joey Chestnut. They were so confident and their abilities proved pitiful.

The wonderful adage “a happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers,” actually applies to life in general. Forgiveness is a part of any good relationship, and forgiveness is always, always part of being happy. If you don’t forgive — if you refuse to extend grace — you are a miserable person. Governments are made up of people and will always be flawed. In fact, the complexities and distance from consequences means government is always more flawed.

Our 25th anniversary is coming up in December. In 25 years of marriage do you think maybe we’ve had a few instances to forgive? One time on a Mother’s Day card my son wrote that I’m the world’s best forgiver — I don’t even know what the sweet boy had been forgiven of, but it’s an incredible statement. I’ll never forget it. But one thing I know is: I love being happy. And I realized a long time ago that to be happy you need to forgive. To be a happy spouse you need to forgive. To be a happy friend, you must forgive. To be a happy parent, you’ve got to let it go. To be a happy citizen, you can recognize and even mourn grievances, but you are also called to forgive.

Can you personally recall the truth of this statement lived out in your life?

It is to one’s glory to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11b NIV

We should all be able to point to a slew of examples. After all, the Bible also says:

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians‬ ‭3:13‬ ‭NIV‬‬

With Love,

Kristie