Jackson Five Friday: My Inner Legalist

Hey Friends,

I hope your Friday kicked off as spectacularly as mine. I’m so glad I was up to see the sunrise today, because as much as I love to stay in bed as long as possible, it would’ve been sad to miss the beauty above.

I’ve been thinking about how I’m legalistic about certain things. I think it’s because I have zero self-discipline. If I decide I’m going to run a mile everyday on the treadmill, skipping a single day blows my entire plan. If I decide to limit carbs and eat one morsel of a piece of toast, all hell breaks loose, and it’s a day of carb-binging. Some people, like my husband, have inherent self-discipline and don’t need an inner legalist. But I recognize that my inner legalist is a God-given blessing.

On Sunday, January 5th, we drove home from vacation. It’s ten brutal hours in the car with five giant Jacksons crammed into a mid-size SUV. I drove a minivan for sixteen long years, and am thrilled to have that era behind me, except for road trips where nothing on earth compares to its spacious comfort. Anyway, I want to never drive home on a Sunday again. I detest missing church. My fragile little legalist ego feels totally defeated by it. If you cannot relate, it’s probably because you have self-discipline, while I am ever on the verge of being derailed.

C.S. Lewis said:

“…once [you] have accepted Christianity, then some of its main doctrines shall be deliberately held before your mind for some time every day. That is why daily praying and religious readings and churchgoing are necessary parts of the Christian life. We have to be continually reminded of what we believe…It must be fed…if you examined a hundred people who had lost their faith in Christianity, I wonder how many of them would turn out to have been reasoned out of it by honest argument? Do not most people simply drift away?”

Drifting away is a terrifying thought because I know myself. I know I could. I don’t forget to eat food. I am in no danger of accidentally starving to death. But I recognize my inclination to drift away from the God I love. I will never outgrow the need for daily reminders to consume His Word, to seek a community of believers, to gather with the body of Christ to worship. I need all of it more than physical food, but am perpetually inclined to try nourishing my soul with God’s creations instead of God Himself. It’s like the definition of spiritual insanity, but somehow I know I am not the only kook.

Blessed is the one…whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers. Psalms‬ ‭1:1-3‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Yes, whether you have an inner legalist or not, delighting over and meditating on the law of the Lord is the answer. How are you doing on this? Are you delighting and meditating? Where is your life planted? Are you yielding fruit or withering?

Lord Jesus, help me to do better. I want to be that sturdy, strong and fruitful tree. I know how to, but apart from your grace I cannot follow through. Help me, Lord, every day to seek first your kingdom. Amen.

With Love,


Jackson Five Friday: It’s Mental

Hey Friends,

Hope you are well. My guys started back to school on Tuesday, and I’ve already been to two basketball games, one of which was in Knoxville, and I leave for a swim meet in just a few minutes. It makes the eight days we spent away — just the five of us –all the sweeter. The daily agenda was simple: eat good food, hit the beach and play cards. I snapped the picture above on our last night of vacation and I think we look almost as chilled out as we felt. But we’re back to reality, where the daily agenda tends to be a little more complicated!

One of the things my husband often tells our swimmer is that this or that race is mental. He was not a competitive swimmer but ran track and cross country, and therefore is much more qualified than I am to encourage on the “it’s mental” aspect of racing. But I do believe it. In fact, mindset is vital in all of life.

“There is nothing that so paralyzes effort as discouragement, and nothing that more continually and successfully invites defeat,” wrote Hannah Whitall Smith, who died in 1911.

Don’t you just love that sentence? I feel like it would not be written today. We might say, “Discouragement paralyzes effort. In fact, nothing in the world continually and successfully invites defeat like discouragement.” The ideas are the same, but there’s less punch and pizazz.

Either way, the truth is compelling. Where do you feel like discouragement is hampering your effort? Where is discouragement inviting defeat in your life?

The world is full of pain and uncertainty, and in one sense it’s natural for us to be discouraged. But in another sense, if we are living lives surrendered to Jesus and if we, as His followers, believe what we say we believe, it is unnatural for us to be discouraged. Ponder these words of Jesus:

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John‬ ‭16:33‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Do you find yourself taking heart more or being discouraged more? It’s mental, isn’t it? The next time I feel discouraged, and I bet it’ll be mere hours from now, I’m going to remind myself, that Jesus told me to take heart. He didn’t say, you might just want to take heart, or you could take heart. It’s actually stated as a command. We could even think of it as a commandment: You shall take heart.

So, whatever you are discouraged about right now, take heart and remember that Jesus has overcome the world.

With Love,


Jackson Five Friday: 20 Questions for 2020

Hey Friends,

I hope your brand new year is off to a wonderful start. I’ve been thinking about how important it is to ask good questions, and to listen to the answers. Information has become more accessible in the last decade and yet the net effect is more ignorance. Raising deep thinkers is one of my primary goals as a parent, and yet I also recognize my own propensity for sometimes retreating to the shallows. I have patterns in my life that are not only joy-robbing but impede contemplation. So, here are 20 questions I aim to pose to myself and others in 2020?

    What explanation is there for the complexity of life on earth?
    Why is forgiveness such a powerful force to behold? Why are stories of forgiveness big news every single year?
    Why are those big stories of forgiveness invariably tied to Christians?
    Why do secular statistics consistently show that living a godly life is the path to a fulfilled life?
    Why did Jesus tell us to “consider the lilies” as a remedy for worry? And why don’t I do this more often?
    What does it mean to surrender your life to God? If guidance in the Bible is clear, then how can a person be surrendered apart from obeying?
    What does it mean to live into the truth that apart from Christ I can do nothing?
    How do the heavens declare the glory of God?
    What is it in the human heart that leads to striving?
    Can you name a single person whose striving has led to fulfillment? What does it mean when Tom Brady, whose striving has reaped such obvious dividends, still says there’s got to be more?
    Do you believe money can buy happiness?
    How do you explain suffering?
    Why do so many have a Charlie-Brown-kicking-the-football-expectation that government is the solution?
    Why do people hold on to grievances when they know it is self-sabotage?
    Where did you come from and where are you going when you die?
    Where did our concept of infinity come from?
    . What is the best feeling in the world? What is the worst?
    What does it mean to be a person of character?
    What is the purpose of your life?
    In 2030 what will you wish you did more of?

Praying today that we won’t be a society that evaluates what’s truly important at a Twitter level. Praying too that you know the truth of this verse, which reminds us that the answer to all our deepest questions is the same.

“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,


Jackson Five Friday: Emotional Support Humans


Hope you had a lovely Christmas. Our church service Christmas Eve was one of my all-time favorites. The tradition is for high school seniors to do all the scripture reading on Christmas Eve which is really sweet, especially when you have a senior. Plus, I just loved the message.

And now we are just days away from a whole new decade. The last decade has ushered in all kinds of changes, one being the prevalence of dogs in airports. Have you noticed this? Recently I witnessed something I wish I had a delete button for. The owner was pulling her reluctant stiff-legged dog by the leash, sliding the dog down the terminal hallway. But the dog had decided “now is the time, this is the place.” I averted my eyes but I’m just going to assume that the attractive, well-heeled twenty-something came prepared with a baggie and some means of detoxing. But dogs are everywhere in airports — on leashes, in cages, in strollers, in laps — only a few of which are service animals. Once in a while you see the emotional support animal vest. Of course, the emotional support animal prevalence deserves its own mention. Suddenly, they are ubiquitous.

I can envision having my own emotional support doggy if I ever grow old and am alone. Except my 90-year-old knees and eyes don’t exactly bode well for reaching old age, and when is the last time you saw a six-foot old woman? But here’s the thing: every time I see an emotional support animal I feel like that little vest begs a question. The question is: Where are your emotional support humans? It feels like the need for emotional support animals highlights our failure to love one another well. Can’t we do better? Do we need to start donning little vests that signify, “Emotional Support Human.” The fine print could say, “I will stop and listen to you. I will do my best to help you. I will point you to your Creator and the Lover of your soul.”

Last month I was in Florida. I have moved around a lot in life, but have vacationed on the same little stretch of beach with fair frequency since I was ten. Will and I got engaged there, and many of life’s happiest memories have been made on that sand. Anyway, I was walking along the beach one morning and noticed a crowd gathered. It looked like some kind of a ceremony so I asked a gentleman standing nearby what was going on.

“A turtle is being released,” he said.

I was pumped. All these years of coming to this beach I’d never seen a turtle released. I’ve been to the turtle hospital many, many times. I’ve watched turtles come out of the ocean at night and lay their eggs, but I have not seen a turtle from the hospital released back into the ocean. I walked over and joined the throng. It was 9:45 a.m. and the crowd was already quite large. I stood there for a while, but then I learned that the ceremony didn’t start until 11:00 a.m. I had things to do and couldn’t justify standing there that long.

As I walked away I thought about how you never see a throng like that for a person coming out of rehab. I mean, that’s essentially what it is. The turtle has been rehabbed, and is being released back into the world. If we were emotional support humans maybe we’d line up to celebrate rehab releases. We’d madly cheer and be filled with hope that they would succeed back in the big blue sea of life.

I am praying today that this next decade, the 2020’s, will be filled with clarity of vision to recognize the needs of others, to care about them, and to live aware — as C.S. Lewis said — that we never do meet mere mortals.

Praying too that when humans fail me and you that we will turn to the One who never fails and who always understands.

Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever. ‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭7:26-28‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Jesus offered himself and is our High Priest. He truly meets our needs and is perfect forever. Amen.

Happy New Year! Happy New Decade too! May it be ten years of loving each other well, emulating the perfect love of Jesus.

With Love,


Jackson Five Friday: The Right Priority

Hey Friends,

Hope you’ve had a wonderful week. Mine started out with church, teaching our second grade Sunday school class, and a lovely Christmas concert. I was filled up and rested for Monday, but it’s been another hectic week and our Advent calendar has been wholly neglected. The magnetic manger figures hiding behind the dates represent my own lack of quiet contemplation and reflection — gifts available but sadly unopened. I’m not ready for Christmas by any measure, inwardly or outwardly, and now it’s apparent I am just not getting it together like I’d hoped.

Not all is lost. In the last two weeks I’ve spent six days and nights out of town for sporting events. Mid-December seems an odd time to do that, but what a gift that my sons get to make such fun memories, and that I get to be a small part of it. Between trips I tried to strike a balance between the accountability mom and the nurturing mom: “This is the final push of the semester, FOCUS!!” and then a little later, “I baked you cookies.” I am far from the ideal mother or wife. I am a worse friend and sibling. But I know for sure that people are the right priority. Always.

I wish my house was spotless. I wish our gifts were thoughtfully wrapped with ribbons and bows. I wish those cookies that I made were not break and bake. I wish I had read more and prayed more this season. I wish I had watched more Christmas movies. I wish my decorations had a little more oomph to them. I wish I had played more Christmas music and had more well-planned meals. I wish I had Christmas cards ready to mail.

But I’m trying to be grateful that I have at least made lasting memories with my people, and plan to do more of it before we ring in 2020.

I hope you have had a peaceful Advent season thus far, that it has felt slow and contemplative. But I also hope that you have had time to just love on your people.

God has the capacity to love the whole world, but we do not. Instead, we are called to love one another. After all, Jesus says that’s how we’ll be known.

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

With Love,


Jackson Five Friday: It Isn’t Worth It

Hey Friends,

On Wednesday I woke up and did not know where I was. Has that ever happened to you? I didn’t have a drop of alcohol on Tuesday night, and had not run into any pillars lately, but it took me a few seconds to know where I was. Finally, I remembered — a Courtyard Marriott in Atlanta, but that was the third place in three days. On Sunday night Will and I were in Nashville for a concert, on Monday I was at home, and on Tuesday night I was in Atlanta for a swim meet. I hope it’s not an early sign of dementia, but maybe it is.

It’s been a busy couple of weeks, as it always is after Thanksgiving. Will bought us tickets to Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb of God at The Ryman months ago, but as the date approached I considered giving them away. I’m so glad we made the effort to go. Even just one night away with my man is invariably a gift, and we’ve seen Peterson three times now, but he’s so talented, and the show features other incredible musicians as well.

I actually bought three CDs at the concert. Not that I listen to CDs super often, seems almost antiquated, but I figure it’s a good way to support the artists. And as I drove back from the swim meet today I listened to Jess Ray’s Parallels + Meridians. It’s lovely, but one song in particular, one she played on Sunday night, is really worth your time: Humble Heart. Here is a link to the full lyrics, but the line “Because pride, it isn’t worth it” is my favorite.

After my dad died my mom would tell me that in retrospect no argument was worth it. My parents had a wonderful marriage, but the memory of even the infrequent spat made her sad. It made her sad because Jess Ray is right: “Because pride, it isn’t worth it.” It’s not worth it in marriage. It’s not worth it in any relationship. Where can you apply this wisdom from Jess Ray in your life? Where are you letting pride get in the way?

Paul writes so beautifully on the topic:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:4-7‬ ‭NIV‬‬

May we not keep any record of wrongs. May we be patient and loving in our relationships, and as the Humble Heart song later states, may we cling to the eternal truth that “it’ll all be alright over bread and wine.”

Have a wonderful weekend loving your people!



Jackson Five Friday: Dappled with Dark

Hey Friends,

A number of years ago I was introduced to the poem, Night’s Lodging, by Luci Shaw. It is a unique and tender take on the birth of Jesus, and I highly recommend it. To describe the night sky, Shaw uses the phrase, “dappled with dark.” I’m not sure if the poet intends for the reader to get caught up on that phrase or not, but I do. It strikes me that more than just the night sky is dappled with dark.

Beautiful and artful Christmas cards have started to arrive, and there is joyful music everywhere you go. But all the lights and the tinsel cannot fully mask that every life is still dappled with dark. In a sense that’s what Christmas is about. No life is free of darkness. No one has mastered sin. We can try with all the focus and good intentions we can muster, but in the end we still need a Savior. We may not have expected Him to be born in a stable to a virgin teen. We may not have envisioned His first visitor to be a shepherd. The story is just not how we would’ve written it. But we are not God, and His ways are above our ways. Thankfully, the story is better than any we could ever dream up and offers hope for the hurting world.

Praying today that we’ll have eyes to see those around us who are suffering, those whose warm smile is an act of the will. I’ve been reminded this week how we cannot know what others are facing. I want to be a listening ear and an attentive friend, but I find myself often making assumptions about people that denies they too are dappled with dark. Why I am so prone to this mistake I do not know, but this season I want to do better. Praying that I’ll enjoy all of the lights but have better perception about the darkness that still pervades our fallen world.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” Isaiah‬ ‭9:2‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for being the great light and for coming to earth as that tiny helpless baby to save me. Amen

With Love,