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,


Jackson Five Friday: Tell the Stories

Hey Friends,

I hope you had a lovely day yesterday giving thanks with those you love. We ran a Turkey Trot and two things happened for the first time. Sam beat me, and Nate beat Will. Dub, of course, beat us all. His disposition, while very sweet in some ways, requires victory in any and every competition. I knew he was an uncommonly fierce competitor at a very young age when his eyes turned stern and laser focused during a game of musical chairs.

The guy hates losing and is willing to work his butt off to win. He’s kicked off his last high school swim season with some best times, which if you follow swimming you know is pretty unusual. The training cycle and taper period aim to achieve best times in championship meets, not early or mid-season.

Anyway we had a lovely day chilling out and eating way too much. We talked about specific things for which we are thankful and we told stories we’ve all heard before. Old stories are a treasure.

Sam gave me permission, inexplicably, to share the following. He’s usually adamantly opposed to such sharing, but perhaps as he matures his appreciation for his own hilarity grows.

Sam now shows aptitude for music. In fact he plays the trumpet and his music teacher is his favorite, but his promise as a musician was not evident in his early elementary years.

One day, back in Virginia, Sam was being so uncooperative in music class his teacher (and my dear friend) gave him an ultimatum.

“Sam, would you like to start paying attention?” my friend, the music teacher asked. “Or would you like to be sent to the office?”

Little Sam, thinking it was an actual choice, thought for second then exhaled in defeat: “‘I’ll go to the office,” he said.

As you might imagine this trip to the office has provided years of laughs. I doubt it’ll be any less funny to me in 2020 or 2030 or on my death bed.

Stories that are certain to bring laughs are always worth repeating but the best re-tellings are of God’s faithfulness. Years ago, my pastor, Lon Solomon, suggested keeping a journal of answered prayer.

As Joshua used stones as memorials of how God provided we should be careful to remember how God has delivered us, how He has loved us and cared for us in specific ways.

“And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.”” Joshua ‬ ‭4:5-7‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I have a leather-bound journal that I write in only once in while. I keep it not to record every day events but as a memorial of God’s miraculous work in my life. I spent time writing in it recently about all that has happened in 2019, and was so blessed and encouraged by previous entries.

I hope some of the stories you and yours tell this weekend point to the faithfulness of Our All-Loving God. The story God is writing in your life is always worth sharing.

With Gratitude,


Jackson Five Friday: The End of the Matter

Hey Friends,

The chill rhythm of fall in the Jackson household has come to an abrupt end.  I tried to savor having dinner at home, as a family, most nights Monday through Thursday.  I tried to appreciate that it was the last such season with all three boys at home, but I’m still feeling like I’ve been whacked in the head by our new schedule, or I guess it could be an actual concussion.  Either way, basketball games and swim meets are in full swing again.

On Tuesday Sam had a game at 4:30, and Nate had two games, the first of which started at 6:30.  Will was traveling for work, but my plan was to attend all three games.  The problem was that at half-time in the first game I crossed the hall to watch Dub swim for a few minutes.  The windows are a floor above the pool and it is a lovely angle to watch my now-adult son glide through the water.  I smiled to myself with pride, Sam’s team was beating their crosstown rival, Dub was working hard, and Nate was getting ready to warm up with the varsity team.

Sadly, I forgot that I was standing next to a cement pillar about two feet in diameter, and decided to use the bathroom before going back to Sam’s game.  I must have some serious pedestrian get up and go, because when I turned and began walking I smashed into the cement pillar with astounding force. The impact was brutal.  I know there’s surveillance video that would be utterly hilarious and award-winning.  I was not looking at my phone or doing anything distracting, but somehow I never saw the pillar.  I rammed it so hard that I thought someone had hit me across the face with a 2×4, someone big and strong and homicidal.  I was certain my nose was broken, that blood would begin gushing.  It did not.  Even though there were lots of people in the building for various events, no one seemed to notice.

I marched my sorry butt to the bathroom to inspect the damage.  Honestly it shook my head so hard that I had the sensation that my teeth might be loose.  Miraculously there was no visible damage.  How was that possible?  I still have a headache from it, so maybe it’s a mild concussion, but I’m honestly just grateful that my teeth haven’t fallen out and that I don’t have two black eyes.

Beginning Sunday the slew of basketball games and swim meets takes a 6 day hiatus for Thanksgiving.  I am ecstatic for some downtime with my four favorite guys.  Although it may not at first seem related, I read the whole book of Ecclesiastes the other day.  It’s not long, but I’m not sure I’ve read it in one sitting before.  You probably know how it begins.  It opens with “vanity of vanities” and with the familiar “there is nothing new under the sun.”  Then there is the part about a time for everything that is also frequently quoted.  Less well-known is a verse near the end.

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.  Ecclesiastes 12:13

You may have had a blissfully calm week, or you may have run around like a chicken and smashed into a cement pillar, like me.  You may have had nothing but good news, or one discouraging event after another.   As the writer of Ecclesiastes says, it’s all been heard.  The end of the matter is the same: Fear God and keep His commandments, this is my whole duty and yours too.  I hope this Thanksgiving week is a week of keeping it simple and giving thanks.

With Love,