Jackson Five Friday: Baby Truth

Hey Friends,

Does spring give you great hope for renewal? It does me. Growing up in Michigan instills a special fondness for ushering winter out the door, but I’m glad to reside in a place where post-Easter snows are not a thing. In fact, in Tennessee the first signs of spring come in February and I get to watch the Bradford Pear trees blossom in the valley at least a whole week before the ones on the mountain. How great that God staggered the peaks of His creation! And all the better to live on a mountain, where a daily drive up and down emphasizes the gradual progression.

We can all appreciate that children can sometimes be painfully honest, but last Sunday I witnessed a baby’s honesty about masks. I was sitting in church and watched a baby smile with utter delight if a stranger lowered his mask. The joy of this little one was unmistakable. He loves faces. We may not wiggle with excitement and grin from ear to ear to see faces — I mean we may not outwardly act like this baby — but I think on the inside this is exactly how we feel. We all love faces.

Does it strike you as odd that there’s no analysis of the cost of wearing masks? Mental illness is rampant, people feel isolated, exhausted and hopeless. I am amazed how often I hear something along the lines of “he’s never struggled with depression before.” And it’s across all demographics. Yet some people just can’t hear that masking and lockdowns have any cost. I’ve been unfriended for simply stating that there are always tradeoffs and that we should certainly analyze them. It’s like the little girl on the playground who runs aways with her hands over her ears, “I can’t hear you! I can’t hear you!” When will the childish nonsense end?

So, what’s my point? The point is masks are costly. Telling the truth means not omitting facts. In this upside-down world, it’s more important than ever to find the truth tellers. If people aren’t willing to talk candidly about tradeoffs, they aren’t truth tellers. It can be incredibly frustrating to try to find the truth on anything — so many agendas, so many profit motives. I read about one “expert” whose analysis may have been motivated by an interest in a vaccine now in development. You’ve got to be kidding me! You mean he has economic motivations?!? Like everyone ever.

Of course one Person is free of profit motives and agendas. He never omits any important details. He never hides the ball or twists His message to get you to comply. And guess what? He knit you together in your mother’s womb and loves you like no one else ever could. He watches over you while you sleep and crowns you with love and compassion. He redeems your life from the pit, no matter how often you stumble in there.

He says, “I am the way, and the TRUTH, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 ESV).

I’m praying today that you know Him. He is the Truth.

With Love,

Kristie

P.S. On a lighter note, I have a parenting tip for you. I stole this tip from a friend. When you play cards (is there cheaper, more bonding entertainment than cards?) keep a notebook. My friend has two boys and they mostly play Hearts. They take that spiral notebook with them wherever they vacation. They record the date, the place, who plays and the score. We started doing a notebook this year. And I’m excited to add some new entries this coming week. So my friends, play some cards with your family, preferably euchre, and trust Jesus. It’s all going to work out!

Jackson Five Friday: The Secret to Happiness

Hey Friends,

I hope you’ve had a great week. It’s baseball season in my house. The season opened on Tuesday night and now Big Blue is already 2-0, with game three this afternoon. It is a gift to be outside even when it’s cold, to hear our National Anthem, to cheer on live action with other fans (parents and students). Nate has been playing baseball with some of these guys since sixth grade, and it’s fun to see that they are now skilled men playing a game that is full of defeat with such grace.

Al Spalding said: “Baseball is a man maker.” And it’s true. Baseball is a man maker because even the very best batters fail more than they succeed — nobody bats .500. Tiny errors often cost the whole game, and pitchers endure tremendous pressure to “pound the zone.” You don’t get to quit after striking out, or giving up a a grand slam, or throwing the ball over the first baseman’s head. You keep playing. You get back in there. You move on.

What a life lesson! Whether you fail, or you are mistreated, or you regret your own choices, get back in there. Churchill said, “Never give in — never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” I think we Americans need a stiff cocktail of baseball resolve and Churchill toughness.

Plus, the Bible warns against bitter roots, and yet bitter roots are ubiquitous. Everyone is bitter about something. By God’s grace, generally that is not my disposition. But sometimes I find myself feeling bitter about people being bitter. How self-defeating is that? The book of Hebrews talks about being anointed with the oil of gladness. My destiny and purpose are in Christ. My identity is in Christ. Christ is my joy — He anoints me with gladness. But bitter roots choke out joy. The secret to happiness is rooting out the bitter roots.

Hebrews 12:15: “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

America 2021 is a vivid display of the trouble caused by bitter roots. How can we be ministers of God’s grace in helping to uproot bitterness in our hearts and in those around us? The command is clear: we are to SEE to it.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: The Ageless Wisdom of NOT Navel Gazing

Hey Friends,

I mentioned last week that I recently taught at a women’s Bible study on Psalm 121. I sign up for such things because deadlines motivate me. Without the pressure of preparing a talk, I would not study in the same way, and yet I am jazzed by the process of preparing. I love going to my church library and pouring over commentary, of unearthing ideas I’ve never heard before. I especially love finding centuries-old quotes that capture a nuance in a way we just wouldn’t see today. Language evolves and the manner of speaking evolves, but the truth does not.

My favorite quote from my Psalm 121 research is from Thomas Fuller: “In thy agony of troubled conscience always look upwards unto a gracious God to keep thy soul steady; for looking downward on thyself thou shalt find nothing but what will increase thy fear, infinite sins, good deeds few, and imperfect: it is not thy faith, but God’s faithfulness thou must rely upon.” Fuller lived in the early 1600’s, more than a century before the founding of the United States. It amazes me that Fuller was counseling against self-absorbtion in the most perfectly succinct way four hundred years ago.

You want to live a steady life? Always look up to a gracious God. What’s navel gazing going to do for you? Increase your fear, remind you of your infinite sins and your pitifully few good deeds, which are imperfect. You can’t rely on your faith. You must rely on God’s faithfulness. My paraphrase just doesn’t compare, but who doesn’t want to keep their soul steady?

The COVID restrictions of the last year have been particularly unsteadying. Many, in all demographics, have been harmed emotionally. The light appears to be at the end of the tunnel, normalcy is returning. But the impact will be felt for a long, long time. Even a definitive “all clear” won’t heal many of our wounds. Perhaps, more than ever, we can commit to helping each other by not letting those we love isolate and navel gaze. Can you have lunch with someone, or go for a walk, and encourage them to “always look upward unto a gracious God”?

May we spur one another on this week by reminding each other where to fix our gaze.

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
    From where does my help come?
 My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.

Psalm 121:1-2 (ESV)

With Love,

Kristie

P.S. I had a sweet interaction this week with someone I used to see pretty often, but haven’t seen in a while. She told me about how her cat has gotten super fat. Her words were hilarious, her expressions adorable. When is the last time you’ve had a few good laughs with your favorite five-year-old? Let’s not fail to recognize the cost of isolation. Life is richer for the organic social interactions that happen when we do not treat each other like vectors of death.

Jackson Five Friday: English Muffin Addiction

Hey Friends,

I hope you’ve had a wonderful week. March is one of my favorite months of the year. It is a time of being almost there, and this year more than ever. I actually spoke at my church last night about Psalm 121 which scholars believe Jewish pilgrims sang the night before reaching Jerusalem. It’s an unabashedly hopeful song sung by a tired crowd who is almost there. In short, it’s perfect for where we all are right now.

The problem — well one of the problems — was I felt a bit of brain fog last night. When I finished I felt unsure if I had delivered the whole talk. Did I skip whole pages of my prepared remarks? Did it flow at all? Although it was recorded I’m not planning to listen to it, like ever. I have no interest in confirming my worst fears.

Then this morning when I went upstairs to make sure Nate was awake, my knees felt like I’d run ten miles yesterday, despite doing nothing strenuous whatsoever. As I hobbled my way back downstairs I had an epiphany. The brain fog and the knee pain have an explanation. The explanation is I have an English muffin addiction. My favorite coffee shop/bakery (Niedlov’s) in Chattanooga sells English muffins that are the tastiest morsels of toasted goodness on the planet. My so-called friend, Susan, introduced me to this glutenous crack about six months ago. I had been happily spending time at Niedlov’s for five years before I tried the English muffin. But my three-muffin indulgence yesterday (no I’m not exaggerating, although I ate almost nothing else) was like a controlled experiment proving once and for all that gluten is not kind to my brain nor to my joints. So if you see me trying to purchase a six-pack of muffins please, for the love of God, intervene.

Paul wrote so beautifully about self-discipline: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.  No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

I want to run in such a way, spiritually and physically, to get the prize. Gluten is a hurdle I keep throwing in my own path. Do you have ways that you self-sabotage your spiritual and physical goals? Because Spring is a great time for a reset.

On a different note, I walked to my car last night with a woman who is old enough to be my mother, a woman who I was blessed to meet when I first moved to Tennessee. I could not have spent a full five minutes with her, but we talked about a wide variety of topics in our brief interaction. She made me laugh so hard, and then she made a super timely and profound statement about a situation in my life. This kind of social snippet has been discarded by leaders and decision-makers as inconsequential. The truth is it’s priceless. Praise the Lord she didn’t “stay home” last night.

So, my friend, we are almost there. May we not sabotage our own races and always cherish our people. Have a fabulous weekend!

With Love,

Kristie