Jackson Five Friday: Invasive Species

Hey Friends,

A couple of Christmas vacations ago, I took just Sam golfing in Florida. It was a lovely little par 3 course that has just one problem: iguanas. They are everywhere on the course. I have vacationed in that same area essentially my entire life and when I was a child they weren’t there. Even twenty years ago I do not remember seeing them, but now this invasive and disgusting species is commonplace.

On one hole, Sam’s ball was between the pin and three or four iguanas hanging out near a little pond. As Sam was about to hit his shot, being the daughter of Judy Huber (who loved to tease), I considered how I might make him think the iguanas were about to attack. But the anticipation of the ensuing hilarity kept me from devising a good plan. I ran over to him feigning panic and inexplicably yelled out, “Charge!”

He did not for a minute think the iguanas were coming for him. But dang if we didn’t laugh and laugh and laugh over my failed prank. In fact we can still get a good laugh reliving the moment.

Then in a strange turn of events this Christmas vacation an iguana did in fact charge. I was out walking on a path that parallels the beach (see picture above). Between the path and the beach are sea grape trees which provide lovely shade for my morning strolls. I never knew that iguanas go in there. But a huge one — honestly I cannot overstate how mindbogglingly massive it was — charged out of there causing me to nearly jump out of my skin. For 0.7 seconds I marveled at witnessing an iguana running at full speed, but then unbelievably the charging stopped. The enormous, lightning-fast Usain Bolt of iguanas got run over, and I watched it die. The sound was about like the car running over a small tree trunk. I probably screamed because I’m a weirdo like that, but I’m not sure because I was alone. I guess it’s good when an invasive species dies, but death is never pretty, is it?

You know what is even uglier and more invasive than iguanas? Sin. God created this world to be perfect. Before sin entered the Garden there was no hint of destruction. Post-fall we see evidence of decay all around us. Sorrows and pain are everywhere. If we are honest, we all know that nothing is as invasive as sin. Life on earth daily testifies to the truth of the Bible: the wages of sin is death. Left to our own devices we have no way to push back the darkness. Sin mars everything it touches and it rages on until death comes. But God loves us so much that He sent His Son to reverse the fall. Jesus paid the price for all our sins. He offers us clean hearts and purpose. We can partner with Him to shed light in a dark world, and to help restore what was intended. This restoration will not be complete until Jesus returns but I don’t even want to imagine a world without the partial-redemption we now enjoy.

Do you ever stop to consider the cost of forgiveness? Jesus on the cross is such a horrific image. The brutality He suffered, and the grave injustice of it all. These are things we avoid thinking about. We just want the clean heart, the ticket to heaven, and the deep purpose and steadfast love for the here and now. We don’t want to linger over what was suffered. But I think that’s a mistake. Those who have been forgiven much, love much. You can’t appreciate how much you’ve been forgiven if you don’t take a good, long and frequent look at your own heart. Without counting the cost, you also can’t appreciate the forgiveness that is required in daily life. Tim Keller said, “Forgiveness is always a form of costly suffering.” Our culture has largely abandoned the goal of forgiveness, and as Christians we need to constantly model and highlight both the goal and its cost. To apply Keller’s words, where do you need to be willing to suffer in a costly way to forgive someone? How can you encourage those around you to embrace forgiveness even when in the short-term it’s painful to do so?

The Lord’s Prayer states it so simply: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12).

May the word “as” in that verse be a tremendous motivation to us all.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Home Signage

Hey Friends,

I hope you’ve had a great week. This week, along with every other week, I’m grateful to live with people who make me laugh. No matter what is going on in life or the world, my husband and sons seem to find ways to crack me up. I never want to take that for granted.

If you know me, you probably know that I don’t watch TV. I truly do not know a single channel and never turn it on. I don’t have any interest in it. I can get into it when others are watching, especially a game or occasionally a documentary, but most of all, I like commercials. Commercials are more my speed. Short and sweet, and sometimes quite entertaining. The one I like now is the Progressive guy who helps people not become their parents (click here if you don’t know what I’m talking about). The slide to becoming our parents does feel almost inevitable. The coach holds up the artful sign, “Live. Love. Laugh.,” and queries his students, “Do we really need a sign to live, laugh, and love?” They think maybe they do, but he’s direct and firm: “The answer is ‘no.'” The music and the whole vibe add to the humor. But here’s the thing, if we swap out “Live. Laugh. Love.” with another popular home sign, “Gather,” the bit wouldn’t work, would it? Why is that?

First of all, the coronavirus has eliminated a great deal of gathering. My little family of introverts has been relatively unscathed. We spend a lot of time with just us, anyway. My sons have all been back to school since August, and our church meets in person or online. I’ve had in-person Bible study and book clubs that have continued to meet, except now they are outside. We can attend Nate’s basketball games, and limiting our social imprint is entirely consistent with our frequent family card games on weekends. My parents are both deceased and we don’t live near any family. Would I be eager to attend a beautiful dinner party of some sort? Of course! But, I’m not devastated by the absence of such outings either. However, I am increasingly aware that my situation is somewhat uncommon. I see the isolation taking its toll on people. I hear the low-grade depression in their voices. Are we just not concerned with mental health anymore? COVID-19 seems to be the overwhelming health concern, despite the statistics (for example, drug overdoses are truly staggering). President Biden said the death toll is like that of World War II (over 400,000). The average age of a soldier in WWII was 26. Do you know how many Americans have died of COVID-19 in the 15-54 year old demographic? The answer, according to the CDC, is 25,076.

What is the agenda of people who use numbers to so skew perceptions? Losing 400,000 soldiers when the total population of the United States was 131 million is not remotely comparable to losing 25,000 people today. Why do people want to hide the fact that the vast majority of deaths are among the aged? I find it all very perplexing. We are all going to die. Every single one of us. Increasingly the pertinent question has become, how many of us are going to actually live?

But back to the “Gather” sign and the Progressive coach, maybe it’s a reminder we actually do need. The verse I used to name this blog is from Hebrews 10:24: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” But the next verse continues the thought: not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” So whether you have the signage or not, the Bible counsels against giving up gathering.

So how are you doing from a mental health perspective? How about those around you? Do you need to find ways to safely gather as the writer of Hebrews counsels? I hope you have great discernment in evaluating the many risks we face each and every day. I hope you do not fall into the trap of thinking this virus is the only potential harm in the world.

Praying tonight for my family to wisely weigh costs and benefits, to seek first the kingdom of God, and to continually spur one another on to love and good deeds.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: The Death of Credibility

Sunrise 1/15/2021

Hey Friends,

Hope you’ve had a great week. I’ve had one of those weeks where I’ve looked so forward to sitting down and processing life through writing. I’ve jotted down all kinds of blog ideas and if time allowed, I’d write a mega post — there are so many issues I’d like to fully unpack. But the day is almost over and I’m just now at the computer so I’ll be brief: sadly, so far 2021 seems like more of the same. Lies, lies, lies and more lies, accompanied by shameless attempts to craft certain pre-determined narratives. It can be very discouraging. Are facts no longer relevant? Does common sense play any role at all? Are thoughtful questions no longer allowed? On the one hand the death of credibility is disheartening. We long for someone on the national level to be honest, upright, even noble, but on the other hand why would we think it would be any different?

We are steeped in sin at birth. Even on a personal level the reality of this truth packs a punch. You may think the world of someone, but eventually you learn that no person is disappointment-free. The facts are every person is a hypocrite, no one maintains credibility, and disappointment is an inevitability. It’s sad, and yet awesome at the same time. How is it awesome? Because the pervasive letdowns should lead us all to the feet of Jesus. Because He is never hypocritical. He will never lose credibility, and He will never disappoint.

One of the first verses my sons learned was “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8). It’s such a simple concept, but what a great reminder for 2021. The world may feel insanely out of control, but Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. He does not change. He’s not surprised by anything that is going on, and His love for you is just as unquenchable as ever. Love the people in your circle of influence. Continually point them to Christ. Recognize there is nothing more toxic than unforgiveness. Ask God to reveal and ruthlessly dig out your own bitter roots. And proceed with peace, knowing deep down that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Happy or Holy?

Hey Friends,

I’ve been thinking about what it means to really really love someone. Does it mean that you want that person to have everything their heart desires? A carefree, healthy and happy life? In a sense I guess it does, but even more than that I believe if you really really love someone, you want what’s best for them. This is how God loves us. Most modern-day Christians are familiar with the refrain “God doesn’t want you happy as much as He wants you holy.” Are you able to love those closest to you like that? I’m not suggesting we can discern what’s best for others all of the time, but sometimes we are granted the wisdom to know at least what isn’t best. Are you willing to speak truth into the lives around you when you can see a situation or path is not edifying? Can you prayerfully muster the resolve to lovingly tell someone they’d benefit from guardrails? These are hard things to do and obviously only effective within loving relationships, but I believe it is unloving to fail to speak.

The interesting thing is that God’s ways are not our ways. Isaiah 55:8 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.” And it may seem counterintuitive or even paradoxical, but the holy life is the happiest life. If you’ve lived long enough you’ve seen this play out over and over again. The happiest people are not the richest, the happiest people are not the smartest, the happiest people are certainly not the most famous or the most powerful, the happiest people are the ones who are the holiest. Just last week I posted about the 21st Century church ladies who go around telling others how to live. Their holier-than-thou vibe whether based on purported concern for the health of others, the environment or whatever their pet project may be, is of course not the kind of holiness that is fulfilling. Instead, the holiness that leads to joy is trust in and obedience to Jesus. So the question for 2021 is how will you trust and obey more this year? Every ounce of good in us is because of God’s grace, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is our only means of trusting and obeying, but we can still aim to build holy habits, to put our sinful little selves in the endless fountain of his mercy and grace. How do you thrust yourself — even when your flesh resists — into the fountain? What are your holy habits?

I have not started the year with a lot of discipline. My boys are not back in school yet and so I’ve been in an extended vacation mode. In fact, when the national news broke this week, Nate, Sam and I were making memories without phones and so we didn’t even know what had happened till later in the day. But I plan to re-read Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline before the end of January, and I have also started a new Bible reading plan. I’m doing The Bible Recap. The reading takes less than twenty minutes a day and has an accompanying podcast that is less than ten minutes. The brief discussion of the reading is a game changer. So, I highly recommend both Foster’s book and The Bible Recap reading plan and podcast. And I’d truly love to know what you plan to do this year.

Finally, speaking of loving enough to value holiness over happiness, how do you think that applies to nations? Do you think the United States is a holy nation? Do you think we can be blessed as a nation without a return to God and His Word? You probably know what I think. In fact, the Stuart Townsend’s lyrics have played over and over again in my mind this week: “In Christ alone my hope is found…” Praying for revival and that no American would put their hope in any person or institution, but in Christ alone.

Love to you,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: The 21st Century Church Lady

Happy New Year, friends! Hope you had a sweet time with those closest to you ringing in 2021. I’ve been thinking about the old SNL skit with Dana Carvey. Do you remember the Church Lady? She was appalled by the behavior of many and had many opinions about how others should live. Her righteous indignation stemmed from her 20th Century religion, implicitly Christian but certainly not representative whatsoever of the gospel of Jesus.

Oddly, and only somewhat amusingly, the 21st Century has ushered in a new religion with devout fanatics. Uptight Dana Carvey-like church people are everywhere. Most of these people are not aware that they are religious zealots. They fail to overtly acknowledge the tenets to which they subscribe. But there are two primary ways to identify them: (1) they tell other people how to live; and (2) they derive meaning and self-satisfaction in showcasing their own superior choices.

Thomas Sowell wrote about this in his 1995 book The Vision of the Anointed. Sowell observed that the “anointed” of society believe they have the answers and must impose them on the uninformed masses.

Great social or biological dangers can be averted only by the imposition of the vision of the anointed on the less enlightened people by the government…Perhaps even more important than the specific tenets of this vision is that these prepositions are not treated as hypotheses to be tested but as self-evident axioms. Evidence is seldom asked or given — any evidence to the contrary is often ignored or answered only by a sneer.

p. 242

The sneer of “church people” may have been a thing 26 years ago, but social media combined with untrustworthy media and an intense season of fear-mongering have combined to produce a concentration of benighted condescension never before seen. In 1995, there was some effort to obscure the desire to control. But not anymore, there is no hiding of intent. Instead the aim to control is unabashedly front and center. The we-know-better-for-you-than-you-do mentality doesn’t even meet with much resistance. If you know me at all, you know I find it all utterly revolting. People I would think would resist have succumbed to joyless judgmentalism. Not one of these people — not the Dana Carvey character — nor any of the modern day equivalents have one minute of true happiness, not one. Do you really think this is what Jesus meant when he said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly”? Of course not! May the abundant life of John 10:10 be a consistent aim of 2021.

How are you glorifying God for His many gifts to you and living abundantly? Are you praying for those who are in bondage (whether the bonds be fear, addiction, or something else)? I am resolving to do these things better in 2021.

With Love,

Kristie