Jackson Five Friday: License Plate Theology

Hey Friends,

I am sitting at home this soggy morning, and grateful to have nothing on my calendar today. It’s been sort of a crazy week and I’m quite content to just stare at the monochrome landscape, listen to the birds chirping, and know that spring never fails to come. We do not hope for spring like we hope our team wins a big game, we hope for spring knowing it always always shows up.

On Monday I got my husband’s car registration renewed. He had a license plate with his hospital on it, but Tennessee got rid of that as an option so he was going back to a regular license plate. For the regular plate, there are two options. The girl behind the counter asked, “Do you want it to say, ‘In God We Trust,’ or not?” I wish I would’ve asked how many people reject the “In God We Trust” plate. It sounds so simple, but in truth it’s life altering. Attaching the words “In God We Trust” to the back of your car does not reveal your heart, nor does it hold any special power, yet living a life of trusting God should be a primary goal.

Years ago I had a pastor, Lon Solomon, who said the Bible could be summarized in two words. The overarching theme of both the Old and New Testaments is God saying, “Trust Me.” And honestly, it’s true. Peter Kreeft makes a similar argument:

So when everything seems senseless and your faith is tested and God puts you on Job’s dung heap, there is nothing better than to look at the crucifix (which is much worse than a dung heap!) and say “Jesus, I trust you.”

Before I Go: Letters to Our Children about What Really Matters

Our world seems so utterly senseless, so full of pain and sorrow. The abandonment of truth, the calling what is sin, good, and what is good, bad. It is so messed up. It is not going to be solved by a license plate, that’s for sure. Yet Kreeft rightly observed that the harder it is to say, “Jesus, I trust you,” the more precious those words become.

Can you say them? Can you acknowledge all that is painful in your life, all that you do not understand, and yet still utter these words: Jesus, I trust you. Because here’s the thing, you can fight against the goads but you’ll struggle and struggle and never be free. The paradox of Christianity is that we find freedom when we stop fighting. The freest among us are the most trusting. The freest among us don’t kick against the goads.

Spring is coming — that is our certain hope. But trusting Jesus is just as certain. A.W. Tozer said, “Everything that God does in His ransomed children has as its long-range purpose the final restoration of the divine image in human nature.”

Sometimes I hesitate to quote Romans 8:28, because it’s not always a comfort in the midst of deep pain, and I know so many who are deeply struggling right now. But the truth is we do know “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans‬ ‭8:28‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Praying today that I’ll trust the long-range plan of my Lord and Savior, and that you will too. Kicking against the goads does not lead us to peace, but trusting His always restorative and often mysterious plan does.

Singing this simple chorus is a wonderful way to remind yourself of this important truth.

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er;
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Living Free in the Present

Hey Friends,

I hope you’ve had a great week. I spent a few days in Florida which was capped off by a drive across the state in a cute little rented Jeep. En route I talked to my mom’s best friend from high school, and when I arrived I got to see my best friend from high school. If this past year has taught us anything it’s the value of staying connected and of in-person laughs. That morning, before my little trek across Alligator Alley, I encountered another dead animal on a walk. This time, unlike the iguana, I did not witness the death, but there — facedown on the beach — was a bald eagle. Was this a symbol of the death of freedom? It was such a pitiful sight.

Do I think our government and institutional leaders have behaved irrationally and implemented policies that impede freedom? I do. Do I trust the government to ensure our freedoms moving forward? I don’t. However, I am free in Christ, and nothing any human will ever do can change that. The Bible is clear: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” The bondage of being consumed by what might happen is a choice. Bondage to sin is a choice. Bondage to fear is a choice. We are free in Christ, why would we submit to any yoke?

Relatedly I read two snippets this morning that can help us stay the course. C.S. Lewis wrote in The Screwtape Letters that Satan wants us to be “perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow’s end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now” missing out on every gift offered in the present. Do you cherish the gifts that are offered you in the present? Or are you in pursuit of the rainbow’s end?

Even in moments spent on the most menial of tasks we can be grateful and intentional. I have so much laundry to catch up on. I need to work on our taxes and pay bills. These are not my favorite things to do, but a mindset of doing these things well, knowing they are important, is key. It is counterproductive to instead long for more time at the beach.

And that brings me to the other snippet I read this morning, this one from Oswald Chambers: “If we will arise and shine, drudgery becomes divinely transfigured.”

So my friend, arise and shine, live free in the present. Seek God’s will which is good, pleasing and perfect and do not worry. It is for freedom that you have been set free.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: TB12 and the Cat Lawyer

Hey Friends,

I hope you’ve had a great week. I have. My youngest son is a devoted, even rabid, Bucs fan. The boys and I were quarantining in Florida when Brady signed with the Bucs last spring and big brothers stoked the Super Bowl fire that day and many days since. Sam watched each week, hopeful but also a nervous wreck. I wonder if God let that game be uninteresting just for Sam. His pacing in front of the TV subsided after the first quarter and he just enjoyed the inevitable. And I mean the guy is the GOAT. On Monday I read about how much water he drinks and was inspired to guzzle all day long. I guess maybe he did a different kind of guzzling Wednesday at the boat parade, but I’m really into grace in a world that seems to have forgotten it. It’s not like the GOAT was driving, you know like the Boss.

Another great thing that happened this week is the cat lawyer video. I saw it posted numerous times on Tuesday and thought to myself, “Not into cats, not clicking.” But finally someone said it was as funny the 20th time as the first and I took the bait. Unfortunately I was in bed with my sleeping husband, and my efforts to muffle my big laugh were not successful. I was DYING. It is truly one of the funniest things I have ever seen. My sweet man, who was so rudely disturbed, found it just as funny as I did, fortunately.

Shared experiences — and personally I’d choose big laughs over big NFL wins — are important for relationships to flourish. The ubiquitous calls for unity mostly strike me as empty. The modern use of “unity” is a nebulous concept without real-world application. But you know how you can love your neighbor? Spend time with them, laugh with them, make some kind of unique memory with them. You don’t need to talk about unity. In fact, until you know someone really well why broach politics or faith? Just ask questions about their life and listen to what their joys and struggles are. I don’t get how politics bleeds into everything on a macro scale because it definitely doesn’t on a micro level. Maybe that’s the point. Social media implies life is lived in a sphere it’s not. That’s not life, that’s carefully curated clips that are often edited so profoundly that they bear little resemblance to actual life.

I’m intentionally talking out of both sides of my mouth here. Yes, our shared experiences are bonding, even when they are as far reaching as the Super Bowl and the cat lawyer, but that concept is infinitely more important for your in-the-flesh relationships. We can hold in tension that we need shared experiences as a society to have any commonality, and yet know that passive experiences like watching something cannot be the sole basis for our deeper personal relationships. God can love the whole world, and does. But we don’t have that capacity. We are called to love our neighbors — real, in-the-flesh people. And we are called to love them not with words — even words like unity — but by our actions. My dad instilled in me that “talk is cheap” and I often remind my own sons of this vital truth. Of course, the Bible says it best: “Little children, let us not love in word or talk, but in deed and truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.” (1 John 3:18-20).

As Americans, as neighbors, as Christ-followers, as human beings, may we love those around us in deed and truth.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Slavery to Self-Interest and Fear

Hey Friends,

I hope you have had a great week. I have accomplished almost nothing I set out to this week. I had a list in my head and I’ve checked off almost nothing. Instead I have been blessed to spend time with people. In fact, some the very best moments of my week have happened in the last 24 hours. Yesterday morning I spent some time catching up and praying with a few friends. Last night I went to a women’s event at church that has a time of worship and teaching on the Psalms. Then this morning as I drove Sam to school, we caught up with my grand-nephew Brooks. He sang us a song about rejoicing. These all felt like cup-filling moments of worship, prayer and celebration.

If you have read Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline you might recognize these –worship, prayer and celebration — as three of the twelve Spiritual Disciplines. I resolved to re-read this book by the end of January, but in typical fashion I’m just a few pages in on February 5th. Still, every page is worthy of deep reflection. It’s an incredible book. On page two is this stunning statement: “The purpose of the Disciplines is liberation from the stifling slavery to self-interest and fear.” Foster’s words feel almost prophetic: in our 2021 world the need for liberation from self-interest and fear is dire.

We know from experience that fear is combatted not so much by a determination to be brave, but to practice the Disciplines (Foster consistently capitalizes it so I guess I will even though it feels weird). So how are you doing? Have you been to a worship service? Have you stood with the body of believers and corporately acknowledged that God is good and full of steadfast love? Last night we sang a song I love called Yet Not I, but Through Christ in Me. Reminding ourselves together of God’s truth through song has always been part of the Judeo-Christian tradition. It would be a terrible thing to give up now.

Here is the last stanza of this beautiful song:

With every breath, I long to follow Jesus,

for he has said that he will bring me home.

And day by day, I know he will renew me,

until I stand with joy before the throne.

To this I hold, my hope is only Jesus; all the glory evermore to him.

When the race is complete, still my lips shall repeat,

“Yet not I, but through Christ in me.”

2018 CityAlight Music

How are you using worship and all of the Spiritual Disciplines to remind yourself that hope is found only in Jesus? That no matter how dark the world around you feels, no matter how fear-inducing the headlines, no matter how enslaved you may be to self-interest, Jesus is the source of day by day renewal?

One the best quotes I’ve come across this last year is from Sinclair Ferguson, who said, “But, you see, if you are crippled by fear you don’t even enjoy your food, or your friends, or your family, or your life.”  We can turn that question around and ask are you enjoying your food, your friends, your family and your life?

Fear, worry and fretfulness rob us of much, but they are not merely benign pitfalls. Check out what Psalm 37:8 says: “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.” Do you need to turn from anger or wrath? Do you recognize how fretting leads only to evil?

Matthew Henry makes a wonderful point on this. He says, “Fretfulness and envy are sins that are their own punishments; they are the uneasiness of the spirit and the rottenness of the bones; it is therefore in kindness to ourselves that we are warned against them.” Kindness to know they are their own punishments, and kindness to practice Disciplines to drive them out.

I hope if you haven’t read Foster’s book, that you’ll pick it up. I’ll be reading it sloth-paced for the foreseeable future. Hope you have a blessed weekend and that the promise of life springing out of the cold, hard ground very, very soon gives you as much joy as it does me!

With Love,

Kristie

P.S. Another Spiritual Discipline is solitude. Two weeks ago I spent a few hours on the beach, just me and Jesus. Those were the most spiritually renewing hours I’ve enjoyed in a long, long time. Maybe the disciplines we most neglect are the ones we need the most. I guess that means I need to take up fasting.