Jackson Five Friday: The End of the World

Hey Friends,

I hope you’ve had a great week. I mostly have. Sometimes I give into the temptation to scroll through social media, and that’s always a buzz killer, but when I resist it, I tend to stay pretty optimistic. By God’s abundant grace, my default mode is glass half-full.

Last Friday I had lunch with a friend who I tend to see eye-to-eye with. In fact, I even see eye-to eye-with her physically — she’s only a half inch shorter than I am. But we agree on lots of things. We were talking about a book we’d both read and she said, “The one thing I didn’t like was x.” And honestly it’s kind of an odd and insignificant tidbit about that book, but I found it to be a stumbling block as well. Those “me too” moments are especially bonding when you have both lived somewhat transient lives. She’s only been in Chattanooga a few years as well.

Anyway, as we wrapped up lunch and walked to our cars I said something that I’ve replayed over and over again in my mind. We’d ended our lunch talking about the many unknowns in the upcoming election, and as I told her how lovely it was to be with her, I said, cheerfully, “Well, even if it’s the end of the world, that’s not the end of the world.” I don’t even know where that came from but I think it’s both funny and profound. Truly, if the world as we know it ends this coming week or in the weeks ahead, as a follower of Christ, that’s NOT the end of the world.

As Paul wrote the Ephesians:

…I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,  may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:17b-19

No matter who controls the White House or the Senate, God is still Sovereign. He is on His Throne today and He will be on it on Tuesday and on January 20th and forever. I hope you see the issues the way I do. I even hope you vote the way I do. But I am called to love you regardless. I am called to treat you with love and respect, no matter what. I am called to speak honestly, but always with gentleness and respect. As a follower of Christ, the world ending is not the end of the world for me. Nothing whatsoever can separate me from His love that is higher and deeper and wider and longer than I can fully grasp.

I may meet my Savior face-to-face before the world entirely unravels, and that’ll be just fine, but if I witness the collapse of society, my prayer is that I will persevere in proclaiming His Name and giving thanks in all circumstances.

Can you too, no matter what happens, give thanks and proclaim the name of Jesus? Whatever circumstance we find ourselves in next week, we need to remember God’s faithfulness, acknowledge His sovereignty, believe He has a plan, and count our blessings.

I hope you have a fabulous weekend!

With Love,


P.S. Hopefully the photo above I just snapped at my favorite coffee shop will not mark my last visit here.

Jackson Five Friday: Sensitivity Training

Hey Friends,

It is a beautiful fall day here in Tennessee. I love how you can see the season fall down the mountain. The tip is discernibly deeper into autumn than the base. It’s lovely.

You know what’s not lovely? The small-mindedness of sensitivity training. Let me explain. Am I all for people being cognizant of other people’s feelings? Am I in favor of kindness and respect for others? Of course. In fact, I came across an excellent summation of my views just this week. Marilyn Robinson said, “I concluded long ago that reverence for ourselves and reverence for God are mutually dependent, inextricable.” The Christian worldview requires that each person be treated with dignity and respect because each person is made in the image of God. The more you revere God, the more you treat each person with reverence. Starting with the view that we are mere animals, evolved from a glob of cells, will never logically lead you to revere any person, much less every person. How could it?

And yet the lack of worldview is only part of what makes sensitivity training small-minded. There are two other aspects that are vital yet missing. First, before we do any airing of grievances, we need to have some idea of why. What’s the end goal? If there’s not a specific goal in mind, the airing of grievances will likely be about as therapeutic as the Festivus ritual — meaning, not at all. Secondly, effective “training” would involve two but related prongs of biblical wisdom: (a) it is to your glory to overlook an offense; and (b) forgiveness isn’t optional.

Maybe take a minute to think about where in your life people air their grievances. Think specifically about the motivations of people who post such things on social media, who rant on cable news, who bombard institutions, or who complain profusely over lunch or coffee. Is there an understanding when those hurts are shared that every single person involved is made in the image of God? That every single person in that narrative is worthy of dignity and respect? Is there an aim for healing? To move beyond the offense, or even by the grace of God, to overlook it? Is there an explicit aim to forgive, as is required of all Christians?

If those considerations are entirely absent, and sadly, we all know they often are, then I’m not sure it’s a useful exercise. Brennan Manning said, “Only reckless confidence in a Source greater than ourselves can empower us to forgive the wounds inflicted by others.” Do you have reckless confidence in the Lover of your soul, that He will empower you to forgive the wounds others have inflicted upon you? I hope so.

Should we be careful about how we treat others? Yes! Each person is of infinite worth, made in the image of our Creator. Should we be careful about the words we use? Absolutely! These verses from James are always sobering:

Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.  The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind,  but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 

James 3:5b-10

Be kind. Love everyone. Guard your tongue. But let’s also acknowledge that we all benefit from learning to overlook offenses, instead of looking for them. And we are freed by the act of forgiving, even when the wrongdoer fails to repent.

I found this little paragraph from Scott Sauls thought-provoking on so many levels:

The pious Pharisee’s bravado and righteous indignation is merely a mask for self-justification. Forming a mob around a common enemy — around the “sinners” — was groupthink of insecure and small-minded men. They were looking for a way to medicate their fragile egos at the expense of a scapegoat — a scapegoat who was no more shame-worthy than they.

befriend: create belonging in an age of judgment, isolation and fear

Where do you see mobs forming around common enemies today? Do you see the role of fragile egos and groupthink? Do you see a tendency to scapegoat others who are no more shame-worthy? I do, and I pray for these situations that while nothing new under the sun, seem so very pervasive. I pray for self-awareness, for a rejection of scapegoating. I pray that we’d all repent of our pharisaical ways. I pray that we will understand it is to our glory to overlook offenses, and that forgiveness is for our own good and always required.

Have a fabulous weekend letting the love of Christ rule in your hearts and not letting any bitter root take hold.

With Love,


Jackson Five Friday: Whatever Happened to YOLO?

Hey Friends,

I am forty-eight and although the world has changed a lot since 1972, change in recent days is supersonic. I am not someone who is resistant to change. In fact, I enjoy mixing it up. I’ve lived in my current house almost five years, which is noteworthy because I haven’t lived for five years in one place since I was seven years old. I am game for new adventures and making new friends. But I think we should resist the brisk winds of change that swirl in our culture today.

Don’t you wonder whatever happened to YOLO? How was the truth that indeed we only live once so swiftly abandoned? The cowering in homes because of a virus is mind-boggling to me. If we could stomp out viruses I’m sure we would’ve done so with the common cold, or AIDS, or the many coronaviruses that have come before. I’ll concede that you can have some success with delaying getting it, but at what cost? I appreciate the many old people who choose to continue living instead: “well, they died doing what they loved: LIVING.”

I realize that opinions are all over the map on this. I think it’s interesting to talk to people who say things like, “Well, my parents are not concerned, but his parents are ultra-cautious.” In the last few months I’ve had numerous conversations about how friends are navigating the divergence of opinions amongst their own families. But just like YOLO is a thing of the past, so is “You do you.” Instead, people are suddenly entitled to berate you about how to do you. The golden rule itself has been co-opted. It used to be you needed to consider how you would want to be treated, and then act like that. But now, it seems the winds of destructive change have re-defined it. Now, it’s you get to decide — not how you would treat someone like you — but how I should treat you. And worst of all, love has dropped out of the equation entirely. But I’m not kowtowing to this absurdity. You aren’t telling me how to live. And whether you live, cower, or bury your head in the sand is totally up to you. I’ll pray for you. I’ll even share my opinion if you happen to want it. But I will not tell you how to live your life. I’ll also, by God’s grace, continue to love you and respect you because you are an image-bearer of God. The culture demands we weigh in and affirm or condemn x, y and z. But that’s not motivated by love either. It’s motivated by the push to conform. And I’m not kowtowing to that absurdity either.

The scary thing is not just the rapidity of the fundamental change, but the lack of any pushback. Meanwhile, two friends from college have died this year. Both of them appeared to be vibrant and healthy but dropped dead — one of a heart attack and one of an aneurysm. That could be me. That could be you. We are never promised another breath, and if you haven’t experienced devastating loss, maybe spend some quality time with someone who has. Maybe they can re-light your YOLO spark.

I have a chalkboard over my kitchen table. When I bought it I envisioned myself often writing new memory verses on it. The lettering would be beautiful and the truth always new and profound. I think I’ve had the same verse in my own wretched handwriting up there for three years now. Maybe it’s because I’m lazy and terrible at follow-through, but it might because we all still need this verse, desperately.

“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:13-14

So, my friends, I pray you are watchful and discerning. I pray you will stand firm and strong. And I pray we will all be motivated by love, all of the time.

With Love,


P.S. I do not know the swimmer in the picture above, but she was quite advanced in age and it was 7pm in October. She was alone on an unguarded beach. I’m not sure I would take YOLO quite that far, but I let her do her.

Jackson Five Friday: The Check Engine Light

Hey Friends,

I recently had occasion to drive a 2012 Volkswagen Jetta 700 miles. I won’t bore you with the details of why, but trust me when I tell you that I have something sort of like the Midas touch. The difference is instead of stuff turning to gold, stuff just gets incredibly complicated. So suffice it to say this little trip was no different. Prep for the trip included two visits to the body shop and two trips to my favorite mechanic. Nonetheless, I headed out on a Sunday afternoon and the check engine light still came on less than 200 miles in.

I turned the radio off. I tried to listen intently. But this Jetta doesn’t exactly purr at baseline. Of course I hardly know what baseline would even sound like. Was that high-pitched effort normal at 70 mph? Who knew? It felt a little like The Little Engine That Could, but she made it. The next day the light disappeared. I searched the internet about possible explanations. Pro tip: in some cars, the check engine light can be an indication that the gas cap isn’t properly sealed. I guess maybe that’s all it was.

But here’s the thing: I knew that. I’ve actually experienced that some time in the past, but it’s been a while so it just didn’t occur to me. If I had remembered, I could’ve adjusted the cap, and not tried to evaluate engine noises for a solid 500 miles. I could’ve relaxed, and not been concerned that the little engine might not make it.

And that’s exactly how we are in life too. We know certain things, but we are so forgetful that we sacrifice the peace that God intends for us. The Bible constantly tells us to remember, to forget not, to meditate on the truth, to hide God’s Word in our hearts. And yet, we tune out the music of life and focus instead on what could be. We rob ourselves of joy by worrying about the what-ifs. We forget that God has a good, pleasing and perfect plan. We forget that He determines our steps. We lose sight of freedom. We fool ourselves into believing that we can add even a single hour to our lives, that we can and should figure it all out.

What are you prone to forget that costs you the joy and peace for which you were designed? How can you remind yourself of the applicable truths that lead you you back to surrender, peace and freedom?

Bless the Lord, O my should, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. Psalm 103: 2-5

Of course, there is also a time to forget. For example, what should you do when you hear crushing news about someone you revere and admire? You should certainly avoid replaying it over and over in your mind, and you should ask the Lord to help you think on other things. But people will always disappoint us.

In a sense, it is kind of interesting that the fall from grace of someone you esteem is as discouraging as it is. After all, it happens over and over and over again. But we don’t get used to it. We don’t get any better at just brushing it off. C.S. Lewis wrote about how our longings that go unfulfilled must point to something. And maybe this is an example. We long to have people not disappoint us. Have you ever considered that this points to Jesus? Because He will never ever give us that sinking feeling. He will never leave us disheartened, disillusioned or dissatisfied. He is incapable of deceiving, or overstating His love and care for us. He is the personification of Truth and Love. The next time someone’s humanity leaves you disillusioned, let it be a reminder to look on Jesus as the only source of perfect, unfailing love.

Lord Jesus help us to look to you as the source of truth, as the door to freedom, as the author and perfecter of our faith. Help us to remember what we need to remember and to forget what we should forget. Help us to not miss the freedom and peace you have for us in this fallen world, and help us to look with eager anticipation of living forever with You.

May we remember and forget in the godliest ways imaginable this weekend and always!

With Love,


P.S. It has not escaped me that a large number of my stories revolve around cars and trips. Perhaps I should write a little book called Lessons Learned from Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

Jackson Five Friday: A Revival of Gratitude

Hey Friends,

I hope you’ve had a great week. Last year in Tennessee we had record breaking heat around this time, and now temps are about where they should be. It’s chilly in the morning, warm in the afternoon and fire-pit worthy at night. In short, perfection.

As Anne of Green Gables said, “I’m so glad I live in world where there are Octobers.” That quote starts playing in my mind pretty much as soon as fall is in the air. And I’m not going to let the state of our world impact that sentiment one bit. In fact, I am more and more convicted that what we need is a revival of gratitude. How often do your recent conversations center on how thankful you are? I bet you are like me, not enough. And we know that whether you are full of gratitude or full of misery, both attitudes are highly contagious. Why don’t we commit to be super spreaders of gratitude?

My mom came from a very large family. Her dad had six siblings and his mother, Ida Mae, was widowed at the age of 36. This amazing woman refused government assistance during the Great Depression and by God’s grace alone raised amazing, God-fearing, hardworking children. Ida was a three-pound preemie born in 1894, who they incubated on the wood stove. She was hardy to the core, and lived to the ripe old age of 99. If she’d lived just two more years, she could’ve been at my wedding! Which is kind of mind-blowing.

Anyway the descendants of Ida are a special, special bunch. My mom’s cousin Gayle is one among a handful that I keep in contact with. She lives in Michigan and most summers (like 15 out of the last 17) I get to see her when we vacation there.

Gayle called me on the morning of August 11th. I missed the call so she left a message. She told me how much she missed seeing me this summer, how much she loves me, how often she prays for me. I called her back. We chatted about a whole host of things. How her family was doing, how she was doing since losing her husband two years ago. And then I told her that that very afternoon we were driving to Knoxville to drop my son off at college. Inexplicably I started sobbing on the phone. If you know me, you probably know this is an exceedingly unlikely event.

My own mother’s funeral was three years ago today. Can you even fathom what a gift it was that Gayle (a mother-like figure to all who are blessed to know her) called me and comforted me on August 11th, of all days. That was my Savior whispering via Gayle, “I love you.”

Sometimes I’m reluctant to share something like this because I feel like my own spirit could respond to such a story with skepticism. But on the other hand, for me, a handwritten note on the table from God Himself would have been only marginally more impressive. I never talk to Gayle. I’m certain God prompted her to call me. How can I not be eternally grateful for such tender comfort?

I’d love to hear something you are grateful for too. Maybe it’s this lovely time of year — the smell of a cider mill, even. Maybe it’s some special way that God demonstrated his tender affection for you. Truly I’d love to hear. May we all be super spreaders of joy and gratitude this weekend and always.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7

With Love,


P.S. I took the photo above this afternoon. This park is right up the street from me but has been closed during the pandemic. It opened again this week, and it is possibly even more majestic than I remember it being. Rejoicing that I can walk here once again!