Jackson Five Friday: Take Your Lumps?

Hey Friends,

Well, my hearing is going. You guys know that because I told you about the time I thought the girl ordering my shoes said they would arrive in 47 business days, instead of 4 to 7. The thing is I probably take too much solace in the fact that I hear way better than my husband. I am almost like his interpreter, I am so often helping him understand what our sons are saying.

But this morning I was listening to my Pray as You Go app, and the Scripture reader is Irish or Scottish, with a very pronounced brogue. I thought he said, “the bridesmaids took their lumps.” And I puzzled over that, tuning out everything else. The bridesmaids took their lumps? Huh? I don’t remember taking one’s lumps being in the Bible, at all. But I finally figured out he was saying lamps, not lumps.

The bridesmaids took their lamps. Oh yes, some with oil and some without. Do you know what the story symbolizes? It’s a parable about being ready when Christ returns, in essence a warning about choosing to accept Christ’s atoning sacrifice before it’s too late. Isn’t it an awful idea to not be ready?

Honestly it makes the lumps of this life feel a lot less burdensome. The fearful masses drive me crazy. The increasing willingness of people to call evil good, and good evil. The self-righteous narcissists who are admired by our culture instead of pitied. The lack of strong and courageous leaders in our educational institutions, where healthy kids at essentially zero risk are paying an absurdly high cost for rampant fear. These are lumps that can feel joy-robbing to me, but I just need to make sure there’s oil in my lamp. It is not my job to de-lump the world, or even my little corner of it. It is my job to keep my lamp lit.

I don’t know what your lumps are today. But God does. God knows what is troubling your heart and He never says, “Oh get over it! Look how bad they have it.” No, He cares about what you care about. He longs to show you love and compassion. But there is a deadline in this life. You cannot put off answering His gentle knock at the door of your heart forever.

When the unprepared bridesmaids came back from getting oil for their lamps, they knocked at the door, saying,

“Lord, lord, open up for us.” But he answered, “Truly I say to you, I do not know you.” Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour. Matthew‬ ‭25:11-13‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Praying that you and I keep our lamps lit and our lumps at the feet of Jesus.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Nate the Great and the Case of the Exploding Brakes

Hey Friends,

A funny thing happened yesterday. Do you ever have something that gives you a laugh every time you think of it? I love it when that happens.

First you need a little bit of background about my son, Nate. He turned seventeen earlier this month and is one of the sweetest, smartest, best-looking guys on the planet. But he does have a flaw that has recurred quite a bit. Despite being counseled about how to call Mom with bad or even semi-bad news, he just doesn’t seem to get it. He doesn’t start with the recommended, “Everything is fine but…”

The worst, but not only, example was from February of this year. His school has a mini-term (it’s nine days long) with non-traditional classes. His class was literally called “Man Up,” which has got to be the best class ever given. Among other things, they learned to change a tire, they rode horses, and two of the nine days they shot guns. Did I sign a ten-page waiver for this class? Nope. No waivers. Just interesting table talk at dinner such as, “So, tomorrow we’re going to the range and shooting hand guns.” I know it sounds like I’m making this up. I promise you, I’m not. Being that Nate is overconfident about pretty much everything, it worried me for him to ride horses and shoot guns without a parent there to say, “Now Nate, please use every cautious fiber you’ve got. This is not the time to be overconfident.” The day he arrived safely home from shooting rifles I was thrilled, believing that was it for firearms. But at dinner I learned the next day was handguns.

I was on the phone when he called me from the shooting range, and when I clicked over I could tell he was very upset.

“Mom, I have some bad news,” he said. I am not exaggerating. That is what he said. So clearly, I immediately pictured fatal gunshot wounds. Had he shot his teacher? Had he shot himself in the leg? I wanted to die.

But he was fine. The gun he was shooting was too small for his hand and it cut him as it cocked back or something. It didn’t even require stitches. When I looked at his “wound” I laughed with utter delight. Embarrassingly, I had already reached out to the best hand surgeon in town.

You’d think that would be the end of the needlessly horrific phone calls. You’d be wrong. Maybe he is actually trying to kill me?

Yesterday, I was on the treadmill when he called, roughly twenty minutes after he left the house.

“Mom,” he said, “I have some terrible news…” But it ended up he didn’t run over some kid like I pictured. No, his new-to-him car was having some issues. Once I told him, yet again, what would qualify as terrible news and that this was not it, we got into the specifics.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I put the car in park, but I still had my foot on the brake, and I don’t know. I think the brakes just exploded! There was smoke everywhere!!”

I drove down to school with an extra set of keys and took Nate’s car over to a nearby mechanic. I could barely talk to him I was laughing so hard about the exploding brakes. The actual problem was some heater hose part snapped and the antifreeze all poured out. I’m sure it looked like a pretty big explosion in the parking lot. Nate said his friends thought it was hilarious, and every time I think about his brakes exploding I can’t help but smile. Given the entertainment value for years to come, I think $138 is a regular bargain!

I hope you aren’t surrounded by nay-saying doomsayers or frantic fear-mongers, because the Bible tell us to rejoice always. Of course there is a time for mourning but there also is a time for laughing. You know what the “time for everything” list is missing? A time for worrying. In fact, Jesus tells us we can gain nothing by worrying.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? … But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:25-27, 33-34‬ ‭NIV‬‬

So, my friends, don’t worry. God has a plan. Rejoice over it, and if you have something like an exploding brake story I’d love to hear it!

With Love,

Kristie

P.S. This outrageously beautiful photograph was taken by my friend who has been doing front porch sessions since early spring. She’s so very talented. The problem was this was the night before we took Dub to college and I look like I had drowned my sorrows in seven margaritas and not slept a wink in weeks. I feel terrible about sabotaging her beautiful work, but oh well, perhaps we’ll not wait seventeen more years for our next professional family photo.

The Shame of CYA

Hey Friends,

As of today my three sons are all in school. Although summer is wonderful, by the end of July, we’re inevitably ready for more structure. When mid-August comes, we’re really ready. Of course there ain’t no ready like 2020 ready!

But happy as I am, as overcome with gratitude as I am, I’m also concerned that things will get derailed.

Let me tell you a story that I think helps illustrate part of my concern. A young mama recently told me she was going to talk to her pediatric pulmonologist about the risks of Covid-19 for her toddler. This child has experienced respiratory distress in response to mild childhood viruses. Now that more is known about Covid-19, it was probably the mama’s hope that the physician guidance might would be softened a bit. Strict, long-term isolation is difficult for anyone, including for this highly social toddler.

But what do you think the physician will say? The physician will be motivated by their own interests. After all, we live in a litigious society, and the physician is not the one experiencing any of the negative implications of the recommendation. The physician is being asked to make a myopic assessment of one hazard. In a sense it is understandable that the physician will counsel the parent to take extreme measures to isolate. It’s a simple application of CYA (cover your ass).

Of course life is too complicated to focus on just one factor, and while CYA may be somewhat understandable for physicians, it has no place in true leadership. Nevertheless, here we are: there ain’t no CYA like 2020 CYA. Policies based on CYA concerns are now ubiquitous, all singularly focused on the coronavirus, which for the majority of people under sixty is benign.

Meanwhile, you probably know that suicide and overdose numbers have skyrocketed. Yet websites with suicide/OD tickers aren’t popping up everywhere — instead we still have the Covid case number trackers, which by themselves are not very informative at all, and appear to be aimed primarily at alarming shallow and unquestioning cable news addicts. I’m so sick of it. I want those in authority and in the media to feel debilitating shame about the manipulation of the narrative and the many lives destroyed by their absurd and illogical policies. I almost wish there could be a class action lawsuit brought against the lockdowners for the lives lost in the name of CYA. It’s not science, and it’s not about saving lives. The lockdowns have been far more deadly than the virus itself for many demographics, and the long-term effects projected around the globe are terrifying. Obviously suicides and mental illness are harder to pin on policy than deaths from a virus, and that’s how they get away with it. But I see the blood on their hands, and I am increasingly optimistic Americans are waking up.

We need leaders who are strong and courageous, leaders who actually care about the flock they are leading. When you hear about a new policy or recommendation, ask yourself what role CYA is playing in it. Ask yourself if the person in charge is being honest about the impact as a whole, or merely myopically and often ineffectually mitigating the risk of Covid.

My back-to-school resolution is to daily walk barefoot on the treadmill while using the app “Pray As You Go.” And I don’t mean to brag or anything, but I’m two for two! Anyway, this morning the reading on the app was from Ezekiel.

As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. Ezekiel‬ ‭34:8-10‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Can I confess how often I read Ezekiel? Pretty much never. But this passage addresses exactly what’s been eating at me: Shepherds who feed themselves at the expense of the flock. It’s CYA for shepherds and God condemns it. How are your local health officials shepherding the flock? How about the school officials? How about your mayor or your governor? Are they strong and courageous, transparently acknowledging unintended consequences and the complexity of risk? Or are they still in the inexcusable myopic phase, acting as if Covid is the only risk that exists? I am praying all of them will be strong and courageous, and I am praying that the cowards who are in positions of authority will resign or be fired. And let’s be honest, if a predictable uptick in covid cases makes you panic then should you really be leading anyone or anything?

Heavenly Father, please remove the shepherds who do not care for the flock. Thank you for sending Jesus to be the one true shepherd, who not only didn’t put himself before the flock, but gave His very life so that I might have eternal life. Forgive me Lord for any cowardice or lack of trust, help me and mine to be strong and courageous. In Jesus Name, Amen.

With Love,

Kristie

P.S. Since the “Pray as You Go” segment ended before I was ready to be done walking, I scrolled through my music and oddly picked a Christmas song. It was exactly what I needed to hear, and I bet it’ll bless you too. May we never forget that Hope is Alive.

P.S.S. As always, these views are my solely my own and do not reflect those of anyone I may know in healthcare.

Jackson Five Friday: “Smiling’s My Favorite” ??

Hey Friends,

Hope you’ve had a lovely week. We dropped my son, Will, off at college. The drive away was awful. I am so sorry that I have failed miserably to be sympathetic to those who have gone before. It’s crushing and I’m sorry for anyone who has, or will ever, do it. And of course it has nothing to do with whether they’re ready or happy. Instead it’s just a deep and unmistakable line in the sand marking the end of a beloved era. I had been told it was hard, but I did not appreciate that the line isn’t drawn in the sand at all, but is drawn by a wickedly sharp and jagged dagger across your heart. Would an actual physical stabbing hurt worse than having my husband drive off with our son standing there and me half-dying in the passenger seat? Pshaw!

Letting go is hard. I struggle with it in a somewhat unusual way: in the car. I am not a timid driver, but if I am the passenger I pretty much act like death is imminent for half the ride. It’s weird because I have not been in a single accident with my husband or either of my driving sons. But there’s been some close calls, and I often hang on to the little handle above the passenger seat for dear life.

Last Friday we went out to lunch as a family. For school-required quarantine reasons, we knew it would be our last outing as the five of us. It was such a fun time, with a gorgeous view of the river and yummy food. When we left, I let Nate drive. A few minutes later we had this conversation.

Nate asked, “Why are you holding on?” At that moment he was in some very benign driving situation, where it was clear I had no cause for alarm whatsoever. I grinned at him from ear to ear.

“Holding on’s my favorite!” I answered and died laughing just like my mother would have, who always appreciated a good Elf reference.

But the truth is that holding on is my favorite. I struggle with not having a ton of compassion for healthy, under-sixty people who live in fear of COVID (the data doesn’t support being terrified), and I feel frustrated by the absurdity that there’s any option or has been any option other than to live with the virus. A man in Rome, Georgia who did not travel and did not attend some super-spreading funeral was diagnosed in the beginning of March with COVID-19, and anyone with a shred of honesty knew then that it was out of the bag, way out. If a random dude in small-town America, who did not travel, had this thing then we needed to understand the likelihood we were all getting it. The reasoned response would be to protect the old and infirm and have the rest of us face reality.

But here I am all chill about a virus (if it’s the Lord’s timing, it’s the Lord’s timing, and to die is gain anyway), but strap me in to that passenger seat and I turn into a weirdo gripped by fear?

There are differences. The risk for my sons is obviously much greater in the car than from COVID, but I don’t think that’s entirely the basis for my behavior. I think sometimes we just don’t make sense. People do things they know they shouldn’t. They even do things they intend not to do.

The Apostle Paul says it best:

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.” Romans‬ ‭7:15, 17-21 NIV‬‬

So much truth! When I want to let go, and trust that God has a plan, evil is right there with me, white knuckling my grip. I want to be reasoned and consistent, but I’m a sinner and I cannot carry it out. I need to pray daily for wisdom and for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

I hope that’s your daily prayer too!

With Love,

Kristie

P.S. As always these views are solely my own and do not reflect on anyone else who may or may not work in healthcare.

P.S.S. If you do not know what your irksome quirks are, are you really self-aware at all? And I always tell my boys when we talk about my many flaws that it is good for them to learn. It doesn’t matter how much you madly love someone, good relationships always require grace, lots of it.

Jackson Five Friday: Road Rash

Hey Friends,

Hope you’ve had a great week. Other than a little road rash incident on Monday — more on that later — I’ve had a fabulous week. I’m growing more and more optimistic about how our world is going. There are two keys to this optimism: (1) never for a single second turn on cable news; you can stay informed without being fed fear-inducing lies; and (2) actually talking to sentient human beings, preferably face-to-face. Praise the Lord they are so very different from the alleged humans on Twitter. I’m not saying that to be demeaning in any way. There are just a LOT of Twitter accounts that are not actual humans. Some are frauds created by pitiful, lonely souls who are trying to paint a certain narrative, and many many others are literal bots. If these are your inputs, you are almost guaranteed “low-grade depression,” or worse. Trash in, trash out.

It’s always unwise to be undiscerning about your mental diet, but you know what else is unwise? Trying to climb a steep grade with your hands tied behind your back. That’s essentially what I did on Monday. I took Nate and Sam to a nearby swimming hole where you can jump off rocks into crystal-clear water. I intended to jump too but didn’t, and so you might have thought I’d be injury-free. Nope. I found a way. From the jumping off point back up to the main hiking path is only 40 or so feet. But the grade is steep and the rocks are many. Nate led the way, I was in the middle and Sam brought up the rear.

Stupidly, I had not brought a drawstring bag, despite the fact we possess many of them. So as I was climbing I had my cell phone in one hand and our trash in the other. When I slipped I clung tightly to my stuff, and slid on the rocks down to an alarmed Sam behind me. So technically it’s not road rash, but rock rash. Either way it was utter idiocy.

But I was thinking about how this kind of inexplicable self-handicapping is pretty common. The Bible is full of wisdom and truth and yet many actively avoid it. Have you ever heard a speech where the speaker did intellectual backbends to share a piece of wisdom without attributing it to Jesus? On the one hand it’s amusing to watch people embrace truisms as fresh and new, when it is precisely what Jesus or Solomon said. But it is also heartbreaking that people have such easy access to Truth, and yet continually run from Him.

And it’s even more inexcusable when someone like me knows the way to peace and wisdom and still doesn’t begin each day in the Word of God.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:17-18 ESV

Does that not sound wonderful? Pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy, impartial and sincere? A million times yes! And you know what’s even better? God promises to answer our prayers for wisdom.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him. James 1:5 ESV

You may not handicap yourself by climbing this uphill life with your hands full, but are you handicapping yourself by failing to ask for wisdom? I’m guilty on both counts. Fortunately, my road rash is a vivid reminder to do better.

So, friends, don’t handicap yourself. Spend time in God’s Word, ask Him for wisdom, and for heaven’s sake at least take a drawstring bag for the steep parts. We live in a fallen world, and the journey is uphill to the very end, why risk adding self-inflicted road rash to the mix? Instead, put yourself under the stream of God’s love and mercy. As Dallas Willard said, “Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning.” Choosing to abide is an act of the will and we can choose it every day.

Cheers to making every effort to abide!

With Love,

Kristie