Jackson Five Friday: Moving the Jetta

Hey Friends,

We were scheduled to go to our minor league baseball team’s last home game on Sunday afternoon. We’d invited friends and ordered food, but the rains were torrential. Sadly, no Lookouts for us in 2021. Instead, I headed for the airport. I had booked the last flight of the night to Florida, but with the Lookouts cancellation I went standby in hopes of getting in before midnight. The first leg of the flight was uneventful, but then the connecting flights were full and I got to spend the bulk of the afternoon and evening in the Atlanta airport. It still felt like winning the lottery when my name got called at the gate for a flight arriving at 10:50p instead of 12:10a.

You know how you see all the videos of unruly passengers and irate people these days? Yeah, not my experience. At all. I met the most lovely people on Sunday. I think it was God’s gift because I was actually dealing by phone with some pretty high-stress stuff. Somehow I met one nice person after another. I so resent how masks destroy human connection, but I guess my dad’s tired eyes (that’s all that shows above the mask) are pretty friendly. My new friends Heather, Darlene and Ian evidently thought so.

Why was I traveling this time? Oddly, to move our Jetta. I’ve mentioned before that we have a little two-bedroom condo in Florida. Nate’s first car was a 2012 Volkswagen Jetta, which he bashed about seven months into driving. When he turned seventeen we got him a new-to-him car, kind of fixed the Jetta and took it to Florida. I am the shortest person in my family by two-plus inches. It looks like a circus for us to use this car, which pitifully doesn’t even have its emblem in front, but I somehow love it. I hope it gives others joy to witness the Jacksons exiting our clown car. Since the parking lot of our condo building was being resurfaced, I needed to be there to move the Jetta. I mean, yes, I could’ve had someone move it. We have lots of friends and family that could’ve helped, but I don’t make it a habit of turning down opportunities to visit Florida.

Plus, I not only met lovely people en route, I got to hold my cousin’s gorgeous five-day-old baby, and renew my mind by listening to waves crash against the shore. I walked along the beach and swam laps. I finished two books. I saw the sunrise. I had lots of time to be quiet and to reflect. I don’t know how long it would take for me to get sick of just me and Jesus, but evidently more than two days. Are you refreshed by social engagements or solitude? I enjoy both, but the older I get the more I realize how introverted I actually am. My morning coffee with the above view feeds my soul. I find it easier to pray for those who wish me harm in a setting like that. I find it easier to be optimistic about our world.

Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Are you conforming to the pattern of this world? How can you ensure you are renewing your mind? God not only transforms us, but enables to know His good, pleasing and PERFECT will.

Hope some mind renewal is on your agenda this weekend.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Rumors of Death

Hey Friends,

I hope you’ve had a great week, and have some fun things planned for the weekend. Since I do not watch a single show, I am usually pretty removed from celebrity gossip. But this week I somehow just kept bumping into news from Hollywood with names I actually know. Some of it was kind of disturbing, some of it funny, and some heartbreaking. In the wake of Norm MacDonald’s death, I saw numerous recommendations for his book, Based on a True Story. I can barely resist anything described as it is — both hilarious and profound. I downloaded the audiobook last night. I was a little afraid to listen to it in bed, because nothing leads you more decidedly in the opposite direction from imminent slumber as a hearty laugh. But I didn’t laugh. I listened and then I slept.

I didn’t get very far, but the beginning is a lot more profound than amusing. This doesn’t necessarily surprise me. Funny people are observant. Observant people aren’t always the most joyful. After all, if you really stop to examine the world around you, you are going to find lots of disappointing, discouraging and painful realities. Yet people who stay on the surface are never really funny. There’s a tension in it.

MacDonald admits he’s misquoting Mark Twain to say, “It turns out the rumor of my death is only slightly exaggerated.” It’s a great line, because it illustrates the tension which is often an integral part of humor. In a sense, the rumor of anyone’s death is only slightly exaggerated. It’s sobering, but I hope it makes you want to live whatever is left to the fullest — loving, forgiving, cherishing, and laughing. Our absurd world acts like there is only one way to die, but even if Covid-19 was never a thing, you’d still be one day closer to death today. And tomorrow. And the day after that.

It’s a further tragedy that we have so many humorless and shallow would-be influencers. The finger-pointing, uptight schoolmarm has become a caricature, but has also proliferated. These grating voices, which don’t even bother to ask even the most obvious questions, are ubiquitous. Carl Jung said, “Thinking is difficult, therefore let the herd pronounce judgment.” Does that not describe our culture? But I am trying to resolve to pray for these people. I would be just as joyless as they are if I let bitterness take hold in my heart, so I pray that they would have wisdom about their own self-righteous, pharisaical religiosity, and that their utter lack of charm would become apparent when they look in the mirror. I pray that God would give them some big laugh to melt their cold, hard hearts. Most of all I pray that they’d meet Jesus, and that Jesus would set them free.

How different would the world be if we took Jesus at His Word:  “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10b)

Perhaps Norm MacDonald himself understood this in part when he said: “At times, the joy that life attacks me with is unbearable and leads to gasping hysterical laughter. I find myself completely out of control and wonder how could life surprise me again and again and again, so completely. How could a man be a cynic? It is a sin.”

I hope you have a gasping, hysterical laugh this weekend that leads you to the same wonder. I hope you live your life and live it to the full.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Hokies, Bread and Circuses

Hey Friends,

I sometimes oscillate between a desperate sense of “Come Lord Jesus” and a sunny optimism that we must be on the brink of revival. One thing is clear: the old Roman adage “Give them bread and circuses and they will never revolt” seems to be the guiding principle of our national leaders. In fact, the clown show just will not end. Instead they up the ante every dang day. It’s embarrassing, but it’s also deadly. Plus, it’s not clear how we reject the bread and circuses when so many of us have amused ourselves to death (as was predicted by Neil Postman). The depth of thought, the ability to examine unintended consequences, to reason through any analysis, to weigh risks and benefits are all severely diminished. The level of innumeracy is stunning. The arguments people make with statistics are often patently absurd and yet go completely unchallenged. There’s little recognition that every health stat needs to be defined over a period of time. Ignoring the time period leads to such foolish conclusions.

Come. Lord. Jesus.

Ahh, but then you get a shot in the arm in the most unexpected place: Blacksburg, Virginia. I hope you have enjoyed watching Enter Sandman as much as I have. If not, here is the link. But those Hokies do know how to bring the hype. I made my family watch the clip the other day and asked them if it made them think of anything else.

Does it make you think of something else?

C.S. Lewis wrote about how the joys of earth are foretastes of heaven. Enter Sandman is unified joy. It’s the tiniest taste of what it will be like to worship our Savior. We will be utterly united and full of unimaginable joy to praise Him. When we see something that gives us chills, that makes us almost inexplicably happy, maybe we should always ask, how does this point to eternal joy?

When Jesus does not come, He’s waiting for more to come to Him, for more to answer His persistent knocking. So, selfishly I want heaven’s version of Enter Sandman. I want it today. But God’s heart is for us to be here as His ambassadors inviting more and more to the never ending joy of His eternal kingdom.

I am guilty of being terribly frustrated by the world. But God loves the whole world. The parable of the lost sheep from Matthew 18 concludes with “And if he finds [the lost sheep], truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”

May our will be like His, that not one should perish.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Beware the Frozen Cheese

Hey Friends,

Late on Christmas Eve 2020, which was a Thursday, I went to the ER. Since Will could not go in with me (we spent Christmas vacation in Florida), I edited a blog post I’d written that week and hit publish while I waited to see the doctor. The post was about neck pain from writing out Christmas cards, but I knew then the real cause of the pain.

A few days before that Will and I were out Christmas shopping. I had weird sensitivity on my left arm and shoulder. I told Will about it and that when I went for a long walk the day before I felt awful afterwards, like sick even. “You don’t think I could have shingles, do you?”

“No,” he answered confidently.

“Maybe it’s just from writing out Christmas cards,” I said.

“Definitely,” he said. “I’ll massage it later. You’ll be fine.”

Will worked on my neck, and I thought maybe it was better. Since the ice maker was broken and there was a block of cheese in the freezer, I also “iced” it with the cheese.

Have you ever gotten a rash on your neck from icing with a frozen block of cheese? No? Just me? Yeah, well, not even me really, but that’s what we thought. A Christmas Card injury compounded by frozen cheese. We have a lot of degrees between us — Will is a board certified MD — but somehow, in the moment, this made sense. It’s pretty funny now.

Anyway, we went to church on Christmas Eve and I was miserable. My neck was killing me. The pains in my head felt almost like electric shocks. I always watch It’s a Wonderful Life with my boys on Christmas Eve (Will is not enough of a night owl to stay up and watch). But I told them I couldn’t do it. All three of them came and told me goodnight in bed, and if felt disproportionately devastating. I mean it’s just a little tradition, but I was so dang sad about it.

I tried to sleep but eventually I grabbed my phone and did a few google searches. You know what can cause shooting pains in your head? That’s right: shingles.

I woke Will up and told him, “This has got to be shingles.”

He took me in the bathroom and turned the light on. He looked at my “cheese rash” and saw that it was going down my arm.

“You have shingles,” he said.

Hence the ER trip where I got antiviral and heavy pain meds which allowed me to sleep and wake up Christmas morning much improved.

Sometimes we are reluctant to see what is right in front of us. Our ability to manufacture alternative explanations and rationalize can be amusing, but it can also be eternity-altering. Romans 1:20 says God’s “invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

Every day of our lives we wake up to the heavens declaring the glory of God, and the sky proclaiming His handiwork. (Psalm 19:1). But we can harden our hearts, and provide alternative explanations. We can rationalize away every species and the glorious diversity we encounter everyday, but if we do that we just get dumber and dumber. If you doubt this to be true, maybe do a quick check of the headlines.

Where in your life are you choosing to believe it’s just a harmless little frozen cheese rash? The first step in getting better is to admit, “Yeah, that is not a cheese rash.” Or yeah, this universe did not just happen. Or holding onto bitterness is rotting my soul or I do need to pray for those who wish me harm. Or that website is turning me into an animal. Or my envy is eating the joy from my life. Or my desire to please others is debilitating. Or my greed is causing me to rationalize being dishonest. I don’t what it is. But I bet we all have something that should be plain as day. May we ask the Lord to give us eyes to see and the Spirit-led will to act.

With Love,

Kristie

P.S. The random picture above of half roof, half utter glory I just snapped from our “bonus room.” It’s where the boys have foosball and video games. This week I’ve been painting up there and envisioning what it could be. I’ve also been decluttering. I’m not the best house painter, nor declutter-er. But these are satisfying endeavors, lots of time to contemplate things and tangible, gratifying results.