Jackson Five Friday: Who Do You Love?

Hey Friends,

If you are a parent, you are going to make mistakes. Certainties in life are death, taxes, and getting things terribly wrong as a parent. But I do take solace in the victories. I’m not getting it all wrong, after all. There is at least one thing I am confident we’ve gotten right.

When my son Nate was two and a half he had his adenoids removed. We decided to have this minor, outpatient surgery because Nate would get a mild cold and then could not get rid of it without antibiotics.

But the morning of the surgery was oddly frightening. He was in a season of daily pretending that he was Robin Hood from the 1973 Disney classic movie. To be like Robin Hood he needed to have a bow at all times. A stick and string could serve as his bow, or just a stick. In a pinch, anything could be a bow, even — as proven on the morning of the surgery — a tongue depressor.

I can picture that darling, precocious boy sitting in my lap with his tongue depressor bow, not at all aware of what was coming. They put him in a little gown and began to give him sleep inducing drugs. The scary part was that for no apparent reason he just kept telling me how much he loved me.

“I love you so much!” He kept saying over and over again. Then, as the drugs started to take effect, the words just got slower, “I…. love…. you….. sooooo…… much.” My heart pounded as they rolled him back, terrified that this was goodbye.

Finally, the surgeon came to the waiting room to tell us everything had gone well. A few minutes later we got to see Nate in post-op. They had just taken the tube out of his throat and he was clearly in pain.

When he saw me, he started yelling “Kiss it! Kiss it!” He opened his mouth as wide as he could, and used his chubby little finger to point to his throat. That sweet baby believed my kisses could fix anything!

The experience cured him of the notion that kisses could heal, but thankfully it did not impact how much he tells me he loves me. And that’s my one foolproof parenting tip: Make sure your home is one where people tell each other “I love you.”

We are called to love another, and although we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves, we certainly cannot love our neighbors if we don’t even love the people we live with.

Here’s a thought-provoking quote in a book I read a long time ago but was just flipping through this morning:

Jesus never once told us to love humanity. If preachers tell you that he did, they are serving up their own recipe instead of Jesus’. The only Jesus we know, the Jesus of the Gospels, told us to love as he did; that is, to touch and to serve the specific individuals we meet. (Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You)

That’s part of the problem with society right now. Too much emphasis on loving humanity, not enough on loving the specific individuals we meet. And whatever your views on social media (I still need to watch The Social Dilemma) loving people we meet needs to mostly, if not exclusively, mean people we meet in the flesh.

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John‬ ‭13:35‬ ‭NIV‬‬.

May we all prove our discipleship this weekend and always!

Love,

Kristie

P.S. The picture above is Nate at 2.

P.S.S. If the title of this post made you sing the George Thorogood song Who Do You Love? that is appropriate because Thorogood was all three Jackson boys’ first concert.

Jackson Five Friday: An Anxious Farewell and Calm Repose

Hey Friends,

I have been writing this devotional blog since the summer of 2008. I named it Spur based on Hebrews 10:24 and aimed for it to always be a message to encourage others (and myself) to greater love and good deeds. I still love the name, and as Paul David Tripp writes in his introduction to New Morning Mercies, “There is no reality, principle, observation, truth, command, encouragement, exhortation, or rebuke in this devotional that I do not desperately need myself.” I agree. Every Friday I am always preaching to myself because I desperately need it.

Another aim of this blog is to capture everyday stories I might otherwise forget. I do not think anyone is in danger of forgetting 2020, but I do want to document some nuances. Plus, it feels like a good time to go back and revisit how it all came down.

Six months ago today was my sons’ first day of virtual school. If you remember, the world fell apart the week before. On Thursday, March 12, we learned that school would move online. The boys went to school like normal on that Friday, but a portion of that day was spent learning how to use zoom. Their school planned and executed better than any I’ve heard of — in fact, a lot better than any I’ve heard of. They left for the weekend knowing to take all their belongings, and were advised to be ready for a normal school day to start Wednesday, March 18th online. In short, they missed only two days of instruction.

My husband had put a cot in his car in the beginning of March. If his hospital system had an outbreak of Covid-19, he planned to just sleep in his office. He also had never formally applied for privileges, because although he is board certified in internal medicine and critical care, his job is 100% administrative. He ended up getting hospital privileges because he’d be better at intubating than most, and we just didn’t know if there’d be a need for all hands on deck.

When we found out about virtual school, Will and I talked about the boys and I going to the beach. We have a small, two-bedroom condo in South Florida. I read a study about how sunlight made a dramatic difference in the recovery of WWI flu patients, and decided we should probably go (as an aside, vitamin D does seem to be important in protecting against the virus). If we weren’t there to bring germs home to, Will would not have to sleep in his office. If things got crazy, he could even have other doctors or providers stay at our house.

The decision to quarantine in Florida instead of at home inexplicably felt like one of the weightiest of my life. I felt like I might never see my husband again. I couldn’t keep myself from picturing him deathly sick and alone. I mean, I would’ve come back, but what if it wasn’t in time? The projections on the death toll were terrifying and he’d be in the hospital every day. I almost can’t describe how conflicted I felt about it all.

We stayed through the weekend, celebrated Sam’s 13th birthday on March 16th, and the four of us drove to Florida the next morning. We sailed through Atlanta like it was uninhabited, but soon my one eyeball was twice it’s normal size and I had to be done with my portion of the driving. Somehow for me, stress centers on my eyes. The gargantuan stye made me look almost as pitiful and stressed as I felt leaving Will that morning.

Of course once we arrived with our car full of school books, computers, a printer, toilet paper, Sam’s trumpet and non-perishable food, I felt better. The ocean breeze and swaying palms are invariably calming. Will worked crazy long hours, but we FaceTimed with him every night. Sam’s birthday balloons were still in the kitchen, and Will would show us how the giant 1 and 3 were drooping and dimpling as the days passed. My funny man said things like, “Sam, hopefully you’ll get to come home before you turn 31.” But that’s about how it felt. Time slowed to a tortoise pace. The great unknowns felt almost crushing and those balloons representing 31 instead of 13 didn’t feel as far-fetched as it should.

One morning I was trying to zoom in to Bible study. I was sitting in the parking lot, while Sam was in the car for band class. I didn’t think my mostly elderly neighbors would much appreciate him playing the trumpet in the condo, and so he hustled down to the car for band class.

The car was turned on so that Sam could have some A/C, and I sat down on one of those yellow parking block things, a few empty spaces away. I logged into zoom, and I could see my girlfriends, but I could not hear them. Perplexed I tried to figure out if they were all muted, or what. I kept gesturing that I could not hear. Finally, I realized that my phone was linked to the car, the audio of my zoom call was in there with Sam. I’d already witnessed the profound, unparalleled embarrassment of revealing you have a mother during zoom school. I had made the grave mistake of walking behind Nate’s chair and he nearly died. Now poor Sam and his entire band class were hearing my Bible study in stereo! It still cracks me up to think about.

But with all the anxiety of telling Will goodbye on March 17th, and all the logistics of doing school at the beach for three weeks, I can look back and remember the sweet memories we made. Sam and I rode bikes during “lunch” every day and I sat on our balcony and watched the sunset every night, sometimes with all three boys. We were only there a few days before the county closed the beach, but the police stopped patrolling at 5pm. Right after 5, I’d watch a group of old people rush out into the water to soak in the healing, salty waves. I read a lot of coronavirus articles, spent too much time on social media and prayed. But mostly I just sat around and thought. There was so much to ponder, and so much time to do it.

This week I was reading through Psalm 13. The structure of it is a little bit like my whole beach quarantine experience. It starts with a frantic feeling and ends with trusting calm. What do you think comes in the middle? Any ideas? Did you guess prayer? Yes, prayer comes in the middle.

Here is the full text of the Psalm:

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me. Psalms‬ ‭13:1-6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Are you in a season of “How long?” Or a season full of anxiety and indecision? Can you force yourself to stop and pray, asking the Lord to look upon you and answer? I don’t think we make our way back to a place of trusting and rejoicing without praying and reminding ourselves of how good the Lord has been in the past. Sometimes the peak on the other side of the valley is even higher having seen with clarity the pit.

Over two hundred years ago a biblical commentator wrote this about Psalm 13:

This song, as it were, casts up constantly lessening waves, until it becomes still as the sea when smooth as a mirror, and the only motion discernible at last is that of the joyous ripple of calm repose. (Frank Delitzsch)
Friends, I hope your weekend is a joyous ripple of calm repose!

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: No Solutions

Hey Friends,

Hope you’ve had a great week. It is a beautiful morning here in Tennessee just like it was in D.C. on 9/11/01. I was eight months pregnant and Will was finishing up being on call at Shock Trauma in Baltimore. I was dragging that morning and planned to go into work —a block from the White House —a little late. But Will called and told me to turn on the TV. Not long after he called again to tell me he was heading to Walter Reed. Since he was active duty he needed to report ASAP. I remember saying, “Can’t you tell them you’ve been up all night?” He was mildly amused that I would think such a fact mattered to the Army. He did not get to come home until late that night so I went alone to our small group to pray for our country. What surreal days those were!

And yet these days too. I continue to be enormously grateful that all my boys are in school and playing sports. I realize that they are insanely blessed in comparison to many other teenagers, but I have an uneasy feeling about how long it will last. Inexplicably, the inane obsession with “cases” does not seem to be waning. How is it possible that keeping track of kids with headaches or no symptoms at all is worthwhile? How can one get panicked over positive tests when the ultra sensitive tests even pick up old virus? The vital data is hospitalizations, which by God’s grace are now increasingly rare. It’s a virus, acting like a virus. The idea that it’s novel and completely unknown is overblown to the nth degree. The vulnerable need to be the focus, not healthy college kids. The lack of logic is one of the most surreal aspects of the whole thing. As is ever the case: Make sure you know Jesus, because you are never promised another breath, and proceed with life.

Truly the whole charade has been a painful, costly and deadly illustration of Thomas Sowell’s important insight:

There are no solutions, there are only trade-offs; and you try to get the best trade-off you can get, that’s all you can hope for.

The lockdown policies had predictable and injurious trade-offs, but were wholly ignored. Instead of trying for the best, we have been far closer to achieving the worst. Policies have killed way more kids than the virus, and I am hopeful that the American people will hold their local lockdown champions accountable.

Leaders everywhere should have Sowell’s words on their desks: “There are NO solutions, there are ONLY trade-offs.” My husband does not have this in his office, but I know when someone comes to him with a problem or complaint he is faithful to ask, “What do you propose?” Complaining is easy. Efforts to solve problems invariably create other problems — and yet this reality is implicitly denied when you let yourself get narrowly focused on any one problem. Wisdom requires we are always mindful of the alternatives.

But you know what the greatest news is? There is one universal problem that has no trade-offs. There is one problem that you can zero in on without any negative consequences. There is one problem that has an ideal Solution. The solution is a Person. The problem is we are not right with God. The solution is Jesus.

Jesus paid the price for all our sins so that we can live eternally with Him, and He sent the Holy Spirit to guide us in this life. The solution is on the table. Have you accepted it? I hope so. I know I couldn’t live a peaceful moment without Him.

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. ‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭1:20‬ ‭NIV‬‬

With Love,

Kristie

P.S. As always, these views are my solely my own and do not reflect those of anyone I may know in healthcare.

Jackson Five Friday: Nigh to Those

Hey Friends,

I have heard some heartbreaking things this week. The kinds of things where you have a hard time thinking of much else, even when it doesn’t involve you or yours. We can get so caught up in politics or our particular concerns, that we almost forget that life can be crushingly painful in ways that will never be on cable news or trend on Twitter. This lack of concern for the broken-hearted is itself heartbreaking.

The Psalms are a great resource for bringing our brokenness to Jesus. If you haven’t found the words for your feelings in the Psalms — the expression for your pain — I would recommend reading through some the next time you feel distressed. In fact, 2020 is pretty much the perfect year for all of us to immerse ourselves in the Psalms.

Thankfully, Psalm 34:18 promises that God is near to the broken-hearted. Or as the King James says, “Nigh unto …”

The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. Psalms‬ ‭34:18‬ ‭KJV‬‬

Who do you know who is hurting right now? Can you stop and pray for this person, that they’ll know that the Lord is nigh?

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Take Your Lumps?

Hey Friends,

Well, my hearing is going. You guys know that because I told you about the time I thought the girl ordering my shoes said they would arrive in 47 business days, instead of 4 to 7. The thing is I probably take too much solace in the fact that I hear way better than my husband. I am almost like his interpreter, I am so often helping him understand what our sons are saying.

But this morning I was listening to my Pray as You Go app, and the Scripture reader is Irish or Scottish, with a very pronounced brogue. I thought he said, “the bridesmaids took their lumps.” And I puzzled over that, tuning out everything else. The bridesmaids took their lumps? Huh? I don’t remember taking one’s lumps being in the Bible, at all. But I finally figured out he was saying lamps, not lumps.

The bridesmaids took their lamps. Oh yes, some with oil and some without. Do you know what the story symbolizes? It’s a parable about being ready when Christ returns, in essence a warning about choosing to accept Christ’s atoning sacrifice before it’s too late. Isn’t it an awful idea to not be ready?

Honestly it makes the lumps of this life feel a lot less burdensome. The fearful masses drive me crazy. The increasing willingness of people to call evil good, and good evil. The self-righteous narcissists who are admired by our culture instead of pitied. The lack of strong and courageous leaders in our educational institutions, where healthy kids at essentially zero risk are paying an absurdly high cost for rampant fear. These are lumps that can feel joy-robbing to me, but I just need to make sure there’s oil in my lamp. It is not my job to de-lump the world, or even my little corner of it. It is my job to keep my lamp lit.

I don’t know what your lumps are today. But God does. God knows what is troubling your heart and He never says, “Oh get over it! Look how bad they have it.” No, He cares about what you care about. He longs to show you love and compassion. But there is a deadline in this life. You cannot put off answering His gentle knock at the door of your heart forever.

When the unprepared bridesmaids came back from getting oil for their lamps, they knocked at the door, saying,

“Lord, lord, open up for us.” But he answered, “Truly I say to you, I do not know you.” Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour. Matthew‬ ‭25:11-13‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Praying that you and I keep our lamps lit and our lumps at the feet of Jesus.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Nate the Great and the Case of the Exploding Brakes

Hey Friends,

A funny thing happened yesterday. Do you ever have something that gives you a laugh every time you think of it? I love it when that happens.

First you need a little bit of background about my son, Nate. He turned seventeen earlier this month and is one of the sweetest, smartest, best-looking guys on the planet. But he does have a flaw that has recurred quite a bit. Despite being counseled about how to call Mom with bad or even semi-bad news, he just doesn’t seem to get it. He doesn’t start with the recommended, “Everything is fine but…”

The worst, but not only, example was from February of this year. His school has a mini-term (it’s nine days long) with non-traditional classes. His class was literally called “Man Up,” which has got to be the best class ever given. Among other things, they learned to change a tire, they rode horses, and two of the nine days they shot guns. Did I sign a ten-page waiver for this class? Nope. No waivers. Just interesting table talk at dinner such as, “So, tomorrow we’re going to the range and shooting hand guns.” I know it sounds like I’m making this up. I promise you, I’m not. Being that Nate is overconfident about pretty much everything, it worried me for him to ride horses and shoot guns without a parent there to say, “Now Nate, please use every cautious fiber you’ve got. This is not the time to be overconfident.” The day he arrived safely home from shooting rifles I was thrilled, believing that was it for firearms. But at dinner I learned the next day was handguns.

I was on the phone when he called me from the shooting range, and when I clicked over I could tell he was very upset.

“Mom, I have some bad news,” he said. I am not exaggerating. That is what he said. So clearly, I immediately pictured fatal gunshot wounds. Had he shot his teacher? Had he shot himself in the leg? I wanted to die.

But he was fine. The gun he was shooting was too small for his hand and it cut him as it cocked back or something. It didn’t even require stitches. When I looked at his “wound” I laughed with utter delight. Embarrassingly, I had already reached out to the best hand surgeon in town.

You’d think that would be the end of the needlessly horrific phone calls. You’d be wrong. Maybe he is actually trying to kill me?

Yesterday, I was on the treadmill when he called, roughly twenty minutes after he left the house.

“Mom,” he said, “I have some terrible news…” But it ended up he didn’t run over some kid like I pictured. No, his new-to-him car was having some issues. Once I told him, yet again, what would qualify as terrible news and that this was not it, we got into the specifics.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I put the car in park, but I still had my foot on the brake, and I don’t know. I think the brakes just exploded! There was smoke everywhere!!”

I drove down to school with an extra set of keys and took Nate’s car over to a nearby mechanic. I could barely talk to him I was laughing so hard about the exploding brakes. The actual problem was some heater hose part snapped and the antifreeze all poured out. I’m sure it looked like a pretty big explosion in the parking lot. Nate said his friends thought it was hilarious, and every time I think about his brakes exploding I can’t help but smile. Given the entertainment value for years to come, I think $138 is a regular bargain!

I hope you aren’t surrounded by nay-saying doomsayers or frantic fear-mongers, because the Bible tell us to rejoice always. Of course there is a time for mourning but there also is a time for laughing. You know what the “time for everything” list is missing? A time for worrying. In fact, Jesus tells us we can gain nothing by worrying.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? … But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:25-27, 33-34‬ ‭NIV‬‬

So, my friends, don’t worry. God has a plan. Rejoice over it, and if you have something like an exploding brake story I’d love to hear it!

With Love,

Kristie

P.S. This outrageously beautiful photograph was taken by my friend who has been doing front porch sessions since early spring. She’s so very talented. The problem was this was the night before we took Dub to college and I look like I had drowned my sorrows in seven margaritas and not slept a wink in weeks. I feel terrible about sabotaging her beautiful work, but oh well, perhaps we’ll not wait seventeen more years for our next professional family photo.

The Shame of CYA

Hey Friends,

As of today my three sons are all in school. Although summer is wonderful, by the end of July, we’re inevitably ready for more structure. When mid-August comes, we’re really ready. Of course there ain’t no ready like 2020 ready!

But happy as I am, as overcome with gratitude as I am, I’m also concerned that things will get derailed.

Let me tell you a story that I think helps illustrate part of my concern. A young mama recently told me she was going to talk to her pediatric pulmonologist about the risks of Covid-19 for her toddler. This child has experienced respiratory distress in response to mild childhood viruses. Now that more is known about Covid-19, it was probably the mama’s hope that the physician guidance might would be softened a bit. Strict, long-term isolation is difficult for anyone, including for this highly social toddler.

But what do you think the physician will say? The physician will be motivated by their own interests. After all, we live in a litigious society, and the physician is not the one experiencing any of the negative implications of the recommendation. The physician is being asked to make a myopic assessment of one hazard. In a sense it is understandable that the physician will counsel the parent to take extreme measures to isolate. It’s a simple application of CYA (cover your ass).

Of course life is too complicated to focus on just one factor, and while CYA may be somewhat understandable for physicians, it has no place in true leadership. Nevertheless, here we are: there ain’t no CYA like 2020 CYA. Policies based on CYA concerns are now ubiquitous, all singularly focused on the coronavirus, which for the majority of people under sixty is benign.

Meanwhile, you probably know that suicide and overdose numbers have skyrocketed. Yet websites with suicide/OD tickers aren’t popping up everywhere — instead we still have the Covid case number trackers, which by themselves are not very informative at all, and appear to be aimed primarily at alarming shallow and unquestioning cable news addicts. I’m so sick of it. I want those in authority and in the media to feel debilitating shame about the manipulation of the narrative and the many lives destroyed by their absurd and illogical policies. I almost wish there could be a class action lawsuit brought against the lockdowners for the lives lost in the name of CYA. It’s not science, and it’s not about saving lives. The lockdowns have been far more deadly than the virus itself for many demographics, and the long-term effects projected around the globe are terrifying. Obviously suicides and mental illness are harder to pin on policy than deaths from a virus, and that’s how they get away with it. But I see the blood on their hands, and I am increasingly optimistic Americans are waking up.

We need leaders who are strong and courageous, leaders who actually care about the flock they are leading. When you hear about a new policy or recommendation, ask yourself what role CYA is playing in it. Ask yourself if the person in charge is being honest about the impact as a whole, or merely myopically and often ineffectually mitigating the risk of Covid.

My back-to-school resolution is to daily walk barefoot on the treadmill while using the app “Pray As You Go.” And I don’t mean to brag or anything, but I’m two for two! Anyway, this morning the reading on the app was from Ezekiel.

As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. Ezekiel‬ ‭34:8-10‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Can I confess how often I read Ezekiel? Pretty much never. But this passage addresses exactly what’s been eating at me: Shepherds who feed themselves at the expense of the flock. It’s CYA for shepherds and God condemns it. How are your local health officials shepherding the flock? How about the school officials? How about your mayor or your governor? Are they strong and courageous, transparently acknowledging unintended consequences and the complexity of risk? Or are they still in the inexcusable myopic phase, acting as if Covid is the only risk that exists? I am praying all of them will be strong and courageous, and I am praying that the cowards who are in positions of authority will resign or be fired. And let’s be honest, if a predictable uptick in covid cases makes you panic then should you really be leading anyone or anything?

Heavenly Father, please remove the shepherds who do not care for the flock. Thank you for sending Jesus to be the one true shepherd, who not only didn’t put himself before the flock, but gave His very life so that I might have eternal life. Forgive me Lord for any cowardice or lack of trust, help me and mine to be strong and courageous. In Jesus Name, Amen.

With Love,

Kristie

P.S. Since the “Pray as You Go” segment ended before I was ready to be done walking, I scrolled through my music and oddly picked a Christmas song. It was exactly what I needed to hear, and I bet it’ll bless you too. May we never forget that Hope is Alive.

P.S.S. As always, these views are my solely my own and do not reflect those of anyone I may know in healthcare.

Jackson Five Friday: “Smiling’s My Favorite” ??

Hey Friends,

Hope you’ve had a lovely week. We dropped my son, Will, off at college. The drive away was awful. I am so sorry that I have failed miserably to be sympathetic to those who have gone before. It’s crushing and I’m sorry for anyone who has, or will ever, do it. And of course it has nothing to do with whether they’re ready or happy. Instead it’s just a deep and unmistakable line in the sand marking the end of a beloved era. I had been told it was hard, but I did not appreciate that the line isn’t drawn in the sand at all, but is drawn by a wickedly sharp and jagged dagger across your heart. Would an actual physical stabbing hurt worse than having my husband drive off with our son standing there and me half-dying in the passenger seat? Pshaw!

Letting go is hard. I struggle with it in a somewhat unusual way: in the car. I am not a timid driver, but if I am the passenger I pretty much act like death is imminent for half the ride. It’s weird because I have not been in a single accident with my husband or either of my driving sons. But there’s been some close calls, and I often hang on to the little handle above the passenger seat for dear life.

Last Friday we went out to lunch as a family. For school-required quarantine reasons, we knew it would be our last outing as the five of us. It was such a fun time, with a gorgeous view of the river and yummy food. When we left, I let Nate drive. A few minutes later we had this conversation.

Nate asked, “Why are you holding on?” At that moment he was in some very benign driving situation, where it was clear I had no cause for alarm whatsoever. I grinned at him from ear to ear.

“Holding on’s my favorite!” I answered and died laughing just like my mother would have, who always appreciated a good Elf reference.

But the truth is that holding on is my favorite. I struggle with not having a ton of compassion for healthy, under-sixty people who live in fear of COVID (the data doesn’t support being terrified), and I feel frustrated by the absurdity that there’s any option or has been any option other than to live with the virus. A man in Rome, Georgia who did not travel and did not attend some super-spreading funeral was diagnosed in the beginning of March with COVID-19, and anyone with a shred of honesty knew then that it was out of the bag, way out. If a random dude in small-town America, who did not travel, had this thing then we needed to understand the likelihood we were all getting it. The reasoned response would be to protect the old and infirm and have the rest of us face reality.

But here I am all chill about a virus (if it’s the Lord’s timing, it’s the Lord’s timing, and to die is gain anyway), but strap me in to that passenger seat and I turn into a weirdo gripped by fear?

There are differences. The risk for my sons is obviously much greater in the car than from COVID, but I don’t think that’s entirely the basis for my behavior. I think sometimes we just don’t make sense. People do things they know they shouldn’t. They even do things they intend not to do.

The Apostle Paul says it best:

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.” Romans‬ ‭7:15, 17-21 NIV‬‬

So much truth! When I want to let go, and trust that God has a plan, evil is right there with me, white knuckling my grip. I want to be reasoned and consistent, but I’m a sinner and I cannot carry it out. I need to pray daily for wisdom and for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

I hope that’s your daily prayer too!

With Love,

Kristie

P.S. As always these views are solely my own and do not reflect on anyone else who may or may not work in healthcare.

P.S.S. If you do not know what your irksome quirks are, are you really self-aware at all? And I always tell my boys when we talk about my many flaws that it is good for them to learn. It doesn’t matter how much you madly love someone, good relationships always require grace, lots of it.

Jackson Five Friday: Road Rash

Hey Friends,

Hope you’ve had a great week. Other than a little road rash incident on Monday — more on that later — I’ve had a fabulous week. I’m growing more and more optimistic about how our world is going. There are two keys to this optimism: (1) never for a single second turn on cable news; you can stay informed without being fed fear-inducing lies; and (2) actually talking to sentient human beings, preferably face-to-face. Praise the Lord they are so very different from the alleged humans on Twitter. I’m not saying that to be demeaning in any way. There are just a LOT of Twitter accounts that are not actual humans. Some are frauds created by pitiful, lonely souls who are trying to paint a certain narrative, and many many others are literal bots. If these are your inputs, you are almost guaranteed “low-grade depression,” or worse. Trash in, trash out.

It’s always unwise to be undiscerning about your mental diet, but you know what else is unwise? Trying to climb a steep grade with your hands tied behind your back. That’s essentially what I did on Monday. I took Nate and Sam to a nearby swimming hole where you can jump off rocks into crystal-clear water. I intended to jump too but didn’t, and so you might have thought I’d be injury-free. Nope. I found a way. From the jumping off point back up to the main hiking path is only 40 or so feet. But the grade is steep and the rocks are many. Nate led the way, I was in the middle and Sam brought up the rear.

Stupidly, I had not brought a drawstring bag, despite the fact we possess many of them. So as I was climbing I had my cell phone in one hand and our trash in the other. When I slipped I clung tightly to my stuff, and slid on the rocks down to an alarmed Sam behind me. So technically it’s not road rash, but rock rash. Either way it was utter idiocy.

But I was thinking about how this kind of inexplicable self-handicapping is pretty common. The Bible is full of wisdom and truth and yet many actively avoid it. Have you ever heard a speech where the speaker did intellectual backbends to share a piece of wisdom without attributing it to Jesus? On the one hand it’s amusing to watch people embrace truisms as fresh and new, when it is precisely what Jesus or Solomon said. But it is also heartbreaking that people have such easy access to Truth, and yet continually run from Him.

And it’s even more inexcusable when someone like me knows the way to peace and wisdom and still doesn’t begin each day in the Word of God.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:17-18 ESV

Does that not sound wonderful? Pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy, impartial and sincere? A million times yes! And you know what’s even better? God promises to answer our prayers for wisdom.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him. James 1:5 ESV

You may not handicap yourself by climbing this uphill life with your hands full, but are you handicapping yourself by failing to ask for wisdom? I’m guilty on both counts. Fortunately, my road rash is a vivid reminder to do better.

So, friends, don’t handicap yourself. Spend time in God’s Word, ask Him for wisdom, and for heaven’s sake at least take a drawstring bag for the steep parts. We live in a fallen world, and the journey is uphill to the very end, why risk adding self-inflicted road rash to the mix? Instead, put yourself under the stream of God’s love and mercy. As Dallas Willard said, “Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning.” Choosing to abide is an act of the will and we can choose it every day.

Cheers to making every effort to abide!

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: “Church? NO!”

Hey Friends,

I hope you’ve had a fabulous week. I certainly did. My oldest son had his high school graduation last Saturday and it was the best high school graduation I’ve ever been to. It wasn’t the commencement speakers, or even the pomp and circumstance, it was just the group celebration of a milestone. With so much isolation, with so few social interactions, a true celebration meant all the more.

But the weekend kind of wiped me out and on Monday I wasn’t feeling 100%. I think I was just tired because by Tuesday I was fine, but we are now aware of every little cough, ache and sneeze, aren’t we? Have you done any panic sniffing? Maybe panic is a little strong but I’ve felt sweet relief to definitively smell various items, from a nearby candle, to a bottle of alcohol or a random grab from the spice cabinet.

But Monday night we did miss going to a sweet graduation event at our church. It was a send-off to the high school seniors where parents share a quick piece of wisdom for their graduate. I knew just what I wanted to say.

When Dub (that’s what we call him at home) was a baby, he had terrible separation anxiety. He’d cry if I left the room. If you happen to be in this stage now, do not worry a bit. I can assure you they grow out of it. A year or two later and he never experienced separation anxiety again. But the poor child did not want to go to church, so as soon as he had learned a few words, he would emphatically communicate his wishes.

At the time we went to church on Saturday nights. Somehow he knew —as a one-year-old —that it was Saturday. As soon as I’d strap him in to his car seat, he’d start saying, “Church? No!” and simultaneously using his chubby little hand to indicate “NO” by shaking his flat palm back and forth. By the time we pulled into the parking lot twenty minutes away, he would have repeated this stance 20, 30 or 40 times. Sometimes we would try the nursery anyway, and other times we’d just keep him with us. But never did we give in and just not go to church.

My grandfather, “Papa,” died before Dub was two-and-a-half, but this quickly became one of his favorite stories. Just like me, he thought it was both sweet and hilarious. My mom told me that even as Papa’s strength was ebbing in his last few days, he would look up at her and smile, “Church? No!” and shake his hand just like Dub.

What I wanted to tell Dub at the send-off dessert was no matter how much you may think, “Church? No!” you cannot give into that. Observing the Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments, and it is also a means by which you are fed truth and community. My friend, don’t ever give up going to church. Yes, it’s a gathering of sinners, and people may rub you the wrong way, but Jesus came for the sick, and you are sick. It matters not if there’s a pandemic or it’s the Roaring 20’s, in this life, you will always be sick. You will always need the church. And the church will always need you.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭4:14-16‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Don’t be an infant tossed about. Seek and speak truth (a point also made by the headmaster at graduation last weekend) and do your part in the body of Christ. When you wake up tired on a Sunday morning, and you think to yourself, “Church? No!” get yourself there anyway. And if I ever slip out of the habit of regular church attendance, please, please remind me of this truth.

With Love,

Kristie