Jackson Five Friday: Praising Him in the Storm

Hey Friends,

I’m wondering if I should order a stash of earplugs for our house guests. Yes, I live with some crazed sports fans who regularly hoot and holler over televised events, but I’m actually referring to our bird issue. Each morning when I wake up it sounds like my bed has been transported to some kind of arboretum. It’s not a bird or two, it’s a vast chorus of songs. It sounds like an avian competition for the earliest, loudest song in history. I’ve kind of gotten used to it, but I do feel bad for our guests.

This week we had a brief but lovely visit from NoVA friends. The birds were at it early, chirping and singing loud and proud. Then a storm blew in. Even with lightning and booming thunder, they kept at it.

“Mmhh,” I thought to myself, “I’ll praise you in this storm.” A few beats of the Casting Crowns song played in my head, then, hoping my guests weren’t awakened, I rolled over and went back to sleep. But it’s interesting how song lyrics are so deeply imbedded in our minds. It’s a good reminder to me to listen to more Christian music.

Because the song in its entirety is great, but the best part is the refrain that quotes Psalm 121:1-2:

I lift my eyes unto the hills — where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord. The maker of heaven and earth.

I do not know what storms you are facing right now but my prayer is that you’ll lift your eyes up to the hills and know deep in your soul where your help comes from.

With Love,

Kristie

P.S. On Friday, I looked up to my favorite “hill” and saw the moon setting over it. You see it?

Jackson Five Friday: Stay Humble, or Stumble

Hey Friends,

Do you sometimes feel like the same message just pops up everywhere you go? Lately, the message for me has been about humility. Two Sundays ago we were out of town and visited a church, where the pastor preached from Philippians 2. He used the following quote: “Be humble, or you will stumble.” This morning I tried to get my boys to reason through whether that applied in anyway to the NBA Finals. I asked if maybe the Warriors were particularly proud. What little I know about KD and Curry I like, but I was curious what my boys would say. They were quite emphatic that no team in the NBA is humble.

Yet stumbling — being injured and facing hardship — reliably humbles us. We can’t guarantee another healthy step, or even another breath. Sometimes when life is sailing along, we grow complacent.

Last week we were back home, and our pastor preached on the same exact text. I also just read Philippians in my daily reading. And yet, no matter how many times this bombards me, it never comes easy.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Philippians 2:3

Counting others as more significant is not only counter-cultural, it goes against our nature. Our nature is to look out for our own interests.

Interestingly, the two pastors at these two vastly different churches applied the passage in a similar way.

One said, “You should look at the person next to you, and consider that their interests should come before yours.”

The other said, “How often do you consider yourself the least important person in the room?”

Perhaps the embarrassed humility I feel every time I consider these thoughts, will be a good first step.

Help me Lord Jesus to have even one pure thought or motive. Help me to count those I encounter as more significant than me. Lord, you know my heart. Please let Your love change it.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: “It’s Going Down!”

Hey Friends,

Last week, right here on the blog, I resolved not to run around like a chicken this summer. My silly optimism can be so pitiful sometimes. On Thursday night we had a rainy swim meet in Chattanooga, when it finally ended, Dub and I drove to Atlanta for a long-course meet at Georgia Tech. We rolled in about 11pm, but I couldn’t get to sleep because I drank coffee to be alert on the drive.

Then yesterday morning I watched a few of his events, trying to walk the campus a bit in between his races. Then I drove back to our hotel near Suntrust Park to shower, and then to the other end of Atlanta at Georgia State for a basketball tournament Nate was playing in. When Nate finished, he and I sped back to hotel to meet up with the rest of the Jacksons. Then Will, Dub and I went back to to the meet, while Nate and Sam created a basketball game in the hotel pool, inventively using a medicine ball and a hamper. By the time Dub raced in three finals it was much later than I’d hoped. We ended up arriving to the yummy restaurant recommendation from a friend at 8:45p. Not only had I run around like a mad chicken, I’d run around like a mad chicken in Atlanta, which is really taking it up a notch. Oh and it was raining cats and dogs for portions of the day.

I had a headache and may have been just a touch hangry. I’m not sure I fully appreciated the delicious food and lovely conversation. Sadly, I am just too old to run around that much. Near the end of our meal, a grandmother was being guided out of the restaurant by a couple of attentive granddaughters. They had her by the elbow, but the elder was concerned about walking down the ramp adjacent to our booth.

“It’s going down!” she said, in a loud voice. “It’s going DOWN!”

All three of us could not help but pay attention.

After she was out of earshot, my funny husband said, “Was she talking about life? Or just the ramp?”

Because in many respects life is going down. Getting old is not fun. I don’t like looking in the mirror and seeing the stark evidence. I don’t like having inexplicable aches and pains on an almost daily basis. Yet I think it’s lamentable when people live in denial of truth. The ardent search for a fountain of youth is foolish. You are going to die. I’m going to die. Unless, you die early you are going to look and feel old. I strongly prefer the look of a wrinkled old woman than a stretched and puffed one. The latter strikes me as a thousand times sadder. Sure, super-stretched is an absurd look, but it also evidences a disconnect with reality. It’s like they’re wearing propaganda on their face: “It’s not going down!” Sorry, despite the Botox and the fillers and the stretching, it is indeed going down.

Still, there’s something deep in us that wants to reject degeneration and decay. Where did that longing come from? It came from God. He planted the idea of eternity in our hearts. He promises to meet our every need, even the longing to make all things new. But it’s not in this life. In this life we are called to trust God’s plan, “resting on the pillow of God’s sovereignty” (an expression recently used by one of my pastor’s that’s quickly become my new favorite metaphor), and to keep pressing on toward the prize.

Trust. Rest. And press on.

May I do all three of these things much much better in the days to come.

And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9:10 ESV

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30 ESV

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14 ESV.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Keeping it Simple

Hey Friends,

Hope you’ve had a wonderful week. My sons finished up the school year, and we’ve been in celebration mode for a few days. Monday is back to sports and routine, but our schedule for the summer, at least from this vantage point, appears to be a little simpler than in years past. I don’t anticipate running around like a chicken, doing a million things. I’m really trying to give up hurrying, and find myself saying aloud, “What’s our hurry?” The leaner calendar has required saying “no” to some things, even things that we love and do every year, but I am optimistic about the relative simplicity of the next couple months.

And simplicity is good. I need more of it in all areas of my life, but especially with regard to faith.

A.W. Tozer said, “The simplicity which is in Christ is rarely found among us. In its stead are programs, methods, organizations and a world of nervous activities which occupy time and attention but can never satisfy the longing of the heart.”

Let’s rid ourselves of the “world of nervous activity” both in life and in faith. May we keep it simple and pursue knowing God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. In John 6, Jesus explains that the work of God is for us to believe in him whom he has sent. (John 6:29).

Our work is to believe God, but we cannot hope to believe Him without knowing Him.

When was the last time you made a new friend? How did it happen? You probably listened to this person, and talked with this person, and just spent time with them. We get to know God the same way. He is a Person. We can talk to him by praying, and listen to Him by reading His Word and sitting quietly before Him. It’s pretty simple.

Yet even though it’s simple, sometimes my time-management choices would indicate I don’t give a hoot about knowing God. Praying today that this summer my pursuit of God will be both simple and devout, that at the end of each day I can point to ways I pursued knowing and believing God more.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Chopping Broccoli

Hey Friends,

Hope you’ve had a lovely week, and weren’t unjustly accused of serving broccoli every night. Because although the bulk bag from Costco, coupled with the fact that Sam thinks broccoli is yummy, may have caused me to over-serve it, I assure you it wasn’t every night.

But the accusation somehow made me think about the tree-like vegetable in a new way. I’ve had Dana Carvey’s Chopping Broccoli song running through my mind, and Lookout Mountain suddenly looks to me like a huge mound of broccoli.

Truly. Doesn’t it?

The other day I was walking this path, envisioning a human enlarged a hundred times over breaking off the tree tops and munching upon them, the mere mortals running around screaming, perhaps fleeing in terror like the microorganisms living on actual broccoli. You may be thinking, “Girl, you need a job. You’ve got way too much time on your hands if you are delving this deep about broccoli.” Seriously, it’s a little pathetic.

But anyway, isn’t it kind of amazing how scientists have developed stronger and better microscopes, but the findings are far from exhausted. It’s never, “Yep, this is as small as it goes.” Instead, we plunge the oceans and send people to the moon, while your fingernail holds infinite mysteries.

The complexity of the infinitesimal has to shake the faith of the atheist. It so clearly points to a Creator. Why would one choose to live without meaning and without reasonable explanations? I cannot relate. I get it that submission is hard. I get that people want to live the way they want to live. But I feel like the battle would be so tiresome, having to wake up every morning and have to fight off the best explanation for life all over again, having to tell yourself that as good as it sounds–that the Creator of the universe lovingly made you for a specific purpose –that it’s all random and meaningless. Day after day. Honestly, it sounds like hell. I’d much rather cling to the best explanation there is, even though it’s incomplete, even though this side of heaven some of my questions will never be answered. This side of heaven I will always need faith. Sometimes I will choose to believe. And I’ll never stop praying, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” Mark 9:24.

So I don’t know how much broccoli you eat, but I hope it reminds you of God’s infinite creativity. And I hope when you spend time outside this weekend, that you see trees upon trees, all declaring the glory of God.

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭19:1-4‬ ‭ESV‬‬

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Difficult People

Hey Friends,

It is a gorgeous time of year here in Tennessee.  Last night Will, Sam and I took the golf cart to Sunset Rock and watched the sun slip below us.  Isn’t it stunning how fast it goes?  Once it starts to sink into the horizon it appears to jump into hyper speed.  If the sun really is moving that fast all day, no wonder life flies by.  Then we came home and laid on our lounge chairs, and the moon was so bright that it was almost like daylight.  I hope you too have had time this spring to behold creation and sit in stunned reverence.

Because mini-retreats may be more important than ever.  No other generation has been bombarded 24/7 with the tumult of the world.  Blissful ignorance was more conducive to feelings of peace and harmony, and I don’t think for a minute we were created to carry the burdens of our world.  Two thousand years ago when Jesus told his followers to give Him all their cares and burdens, He wasn’t talking about their burdens regarding world peace or conflicts across the globe.  People didn’t even carry burdens from across town, because mostly they didn’t know about them.  Forgive the hypocrisy of writing this on a blog — the irony is not lost on me — but I think we need to focus more, not exclusively but more, on where God has placed us.  Do what you can do in your circle.  Make an impact with the people you brush shoulders with every day.  Weighing in on every conflict, even just being informed about every conflict, is exhausting and ineffectual.  Social media has fed this fruitless fire in such a harmful way.  Let’s quit thumbs upping accomplishments and hug someone instead.  Let’s quit venting about injustice and go do something tangible.

The thing is when you stop trying to love humanity, which is easy, and instead start trying to love actual people, you learn something: people can be difficult.  But I came across the best quote this week. I think it’s going to help you.  I know it helps me.

Before I tell you what it is, I’ll tell you the circuitous way I came across it. One of the sweet ways I bonded with my mom was through music. Only God knows how many songs I played for her over the years. As a teen, I remember playing The Cure’s Pictures of You. I knew she’d like it. When I first heard the Gettys, I immediately ordered a CD for my mom. Her devotion to their music rivaled my own. One year she and I got to see An Irish Christmas together.

But the best musical gift I ever gave her was when I took her to the Gaither Homecoming concert in 2004. The Gaithers wrote many of my moms very favorite songs, and we talked about that evening for years. When I went through my mom’s belongings, I came across the book Because He Lives: The Stories and Inspiration Behind the Songs of Bill and Gloria Gaither. I read it a while back but was flipping back through it this week.

And that’s where I found this quote:

Think of the hardest person to love you know, the most difficult person in your life. You can just count on it: That is a person who doesn’t feel loved. That is the person who most needs to be loved.

You only have to reflect for two seconds to be convinced Gloria Gaither is spot on. You can just count on it! And that really helps me to understand others and to understand myself when I’m the difficult one. I hope it blesses you as well.

Paul’s words that close out his second letter to the church at Corinth summarize our responsibility:

Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love will be with you. 2 Corinthians 13:11.

May we rejoice, restore, comfort and agree together this weekend and always.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Taken for Granted?

Hey Friends,

Hope you’re doing well, and have sweet Mother’s Day weekend plans. I kicked off the festivities by attending a Mother’s Day brunch with Sam at his school. Part of the morning included receiving a list of sweet thoughts from Sam, the prompts for which were provided by an adult skilled at getting answers that are funny, heartfelt and unexpected. But one prompt was left blank. It was the one that said, “A song I remember you singing is…”

I was perplexed. And then his explanation made it even worse. “Oh, yeah. I left that one blank,” he said, “because I don’t remember you ever singing to me.”

What????

I sang to him all the time. I have plenty of videos of him singing the songs back to me. I prided myself on singing to all three of my boys. I memorized new verses of songs I knew with the sole intention of singing them as lullabies.

Yet at twelve years old the little cherub, who was once so comforted by my voice, has zero recollection of it ever occurring. Thankfully, before I had a full-on pity party over being taken for granted, I reminded myself why I sang in the first place. Was it to be recognized or remembered? Of course not. I sang to Sam out of love.

And really we do lots of things as parents that will never be appreciated. I hauled our older two boys around Europe when Will was stationed in Germany for two months. They don’t remember a minute of it. Here’s Nate and me in Amsterdam.

When I was pregnant with Sam, we took Dub and Nate on the Disney cruise. We are not cruise people. We are park-it-at-the-beach-and-read people. But we thought it would be fun for them, and it was easy to do since we lived twenty minutes from Port Canaveral.

Here’s Nate with Goofy Santa on board the ship.

Dub was just five years old but every fiber of his being disagreed with the very existence of Goofy Santa and he refused to even look at him, much less pose with him. But even Dub’s disdain for the absurdity of it all was soon forgotten. Memories galore have been made and quickly forgotten.

Our culture prizes recognition and accolades, but as good as they feel, they cannot be our motive. Instead, love should be the driving force in all we do.

Jesus said, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 6:1 ESV.

And Paul said, “Let all that you do be done in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:14 ESV.

Lord Jesus, help me not to crave recognition or be wounded when things go unnoticed or forgotten. Help me, Lord, to do all things in love and never for the sake of being seen. Give me a pure heart, Lord, and help me to love my people well, because You have loved me well.

With Love,

Kristie