Jackson Five Friday: A Christmas Card Injury

Hey Friends,

Have you seen social media quips like “I’m old enough to remember when…”? The thrust is that times change so quickly these days that what is being remembered happened last week. It’s kind of amusing. Other threads talk about how you can identify where you are or where you’re from without actually saying it. For example, I’m from the state that people use their right palm to illustrate the geography. Well, I have a sad twist on that kind of thing: I’m so old that I hurt my neck writing out Christmas cards. Like for real. My neck has not been right since last Saturday. On Thursday all five of us were in the car (a gift in itself), and I randomly cringed and moaned with various turns and bumps.

One of my sons said, “Geez, Mom! Do you need to see a doctor?” To which Will responded, “Hey, I’m a doctor.” The good doctor insisted on “working” on my neck yesterday for a solid fifteen minutes, no matter how much it hurt. I think he may have cured me. Oftentimes the cure requires pain. Christmas is the beginning of the ultimate illustration of this truth.

Christmas is not about Santa nor exchanging gifts, as fun as those things are. Christmas is about the incarnation of God. God became flesh to dwell among us. He left Heaven to endure the hardships of life, and no one has ever been treated as unfairly as Jesus. He lived the perfect life, modeling for us precisely how to live. He was the kindest, most loving person to grace this earth, and yet He was mocked and killed. For a few days it looked like evil had prevailed. But sometimes the cure requires pain — certainly for my neck injury, and infinitely more so to cure our sin natures. Jesus paid the price for all our sins because God is just — no wrongdoing is just swept under the rug, eyes are not averted. No, indeed every sin is known. Every sin has a cost. Jesus, that humble babe in the manger, endured the penalty. May we give thanks today for the beautiful Christmas decorations, for the gifts under the tree, but most of all for the truth that although sin left a crimson stain on our lives, Jesus washed it white as snow. In that sense, we all are offered a white Christmas: the Christ-child paves the way to a white-as-snow record when we stand in judgment before the Ultimate Judge, who is also the Lover of our souls. Praise the Lord, that my many many stains have been washed away by the loving sacrifice of my Lord and Savior. I hope He is your Lord and your Savior too. Merry Christmas!

“Come now, let us settle the matter,”
    says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
    they shall be like wool.”

Isaiah 1: 18

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Goodnight Moon

Hey Friends,

Even though I woke up at 3:45am, I’ve not had a chance to sit down and write the post I intended to today. Now I’m in bed and looking out at the moon that looks like a cow should be jumping over it, just like in the children’s classic, Goodnight Moon. It sits whimsically low in the sky and is crescent shaped, with a hazy golden tint. I hope you got to see it tonight too, and that it reminded you of Psalm 19:

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.

 They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.

May we always have eyes to see the heavens declaring the glory of God, and may we pray for clear skies to see the Christmas Star on the 21st.

But as for today, “Goodnight stars, goodnight air, goodnight noises everywhere.”

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Joy and Pain

Hey Friends,

I hope you’ve had a wonderful week. On Tuesday I wrote out some cards, mailed some books and donated some clothes. I felt a surge of accomplishment because I’d been meaning to do these things for a long while. That same day my husband texted in all caps: PASSED THE BOARDS!!! This is a snapshot of the chasm between us.

Me: “Woo hoo, I remembered to drop off the donations!”

Him: “I passed the boards.” Unstated but equally true was “in the midst of a global pandemic with an incredibly stressful and taxing job, I somehow managed to redeem tiny snippets of time between meetings to study for and pass an eight-hour-long comprehensive medical board exam, even though I don’t currently practice medicine.”

It kind of cracks me up. Every December as I reflect on our marriage (25 years on the 29th), I marvel that he hasn’t rubbed off on me at all, at least not in the discipline department. But we are a good team. It would not be possible (and I’m more certain of little else in life) for us both to have the level of career success that Will has, and also a happy home life. Fortunately, he is wise and always treats me as a partner in his accomplishments. It is not demeaning to my intellect or self-image to recognize that my role in his life and in the lives of our sons is one of support. In fact, I know that even though I might drive around with donations in my car for weeks or even months, God has given me other gifts. I am good at encouraging, supporting and advising. When did society stop valuing these roles? So many lies have taken root in the last century, and I think we are only seeing the first rotten fruits of the distortions.

Anyway, that’s all just an aside, what I’ve been thinking about is how hard this month is for so many, not just in 2020, but every year. Sadly, the twinkling lights never manage to keep sorrow at bay. People still face tremendous loss. The pain of holidays without a loved one is often overlooked. The eighth anniversary of Sandy Hook is on Monday, and those precious ones would be in high school now. How do parents ever move on from such unfathomable sorrow? Sometimes I think it’s good to let ourselves ponder not just the joy of the season, but the gravity of the suffering we face in this life. Before the coronavirus, and in some odd way even within the pandemic, our culture wants to numb out the reality of suffering and the inevitability of death. It’s not healthy, but living in denial never is.

Another subject that our culture fails to authentically engage is what it means to love. We like to think about fairytale romances and beautifully close-knit families, but that’s the Hallmark version. Scott Sauls rightly says all true forms of love are “messy, costly and inconvenient.” If the love you are showering on others doesn’t ever feel messy, costly or inconvenient maybe it’s not even love.

But the birth of Christ addresses both these issues: (1) His birth is the promise of heaven, where every tear is wiped away; and (2) His life is the manifestation of perfect love, and more costly and inconvenient than any mere human could dream up.

This Christmas I hope we can all aim to truly love those around us, and to take hold of the wonderful truth that Jesus paid our way to heaven.

Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away…Behold I am making all things new.

Revelation 21:3b-4, 5b

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Receiving Like a Little Child

Hey Friends,

I love this time of year, but I do miss having little ones whose joy and anticipation about Christmas is irresistibly contagious. We have never done a ton of gifts (Jesus got three and that was our model), so I have not felt crazy pressure to go nuts like some people. Plus if you put a drivable toy Jeep next to the tree for a three year old, you don’t need anything else! And as my sons have gotten older, we’ve tried to make it less about stuff and more about experiences. For example, Sam got tickets to a Houston Rockets game (they were playing the Orlando Magic) a few years back. But I do miss the excitement and the happy dancing eyes that are unique to little children.

Little children are special. Jesus certainly thought so. Not only did he correct His disciples when they assumed He was too busy for them, He also said: “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:17). Have you received — by no merit or effort of your own — the kingdom of God like a child? I hope so.

I was talking to one of my closest friends a few weeks back. She was telling me that she thinks of herself as having a simple, childlike faith. She was actually not saying this to pay herself a compliment. In fact, almost the opposite. Her phrasing sounded more like she was in some way criticizing her own lack of profundity. Ahh, but that Oswald Chambers quote I used last week applies again. We need to be mindful of not posing as profound people: “God became a Baby.” Plus, I told her that her childlike faith is a gift from God that was born out of suffering. I told her to never let anyone demean the gift she has. In so many words I said, “It’s not a matter of being some kind of simpleton. Your faith is a rare blessing sometimes bestowed on those who’ve known tremendous loss.” Do you know an adult who exemplifies childlike faith? I bet the person who jumps to mind hasn’t lived the easiest life.

This Advent may we spend time soaking in the wonder of the miracle of Jesus’ birth. May we have lots of interactions with little children who are so eager to believe, and may we recognize and treasure the adults in our midst who readily receive the Kingdom of God just like a little child. And may we pray continually that God will make us more like them both.

How can you make room in your life to better receive the fullness of God’s Kingdom? How can you remind yourself that the goal isn’t uppity profundity but the trusting faith of a child?

Have a fabulous weekend!

With Love,

Kristie

P.S. I can’t resist adding what a person of childlike faith is not. They are not controlled by fear. They are not constantly concerned about what other people do, don’t do, say or think. They are not frenetic in their pace, but can linger over simple pleasures. They are not consumed by hate or rage. They do not look down on others as inferior. I’m sure we could make a pretty lengthy list. What other habit or quality does not characterize a person of childlike faith?