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,


Jackson Five Friday: Prayers and Prophets

Hey Friends,

I skipped last week because I was getting ready to go on the women’s retreat for my church.  I snapped the above pictures while I was there.  Any guesses where that is?  It’s actually at a state park in Guntersville, Alabama.  It’s the second time I’ve been there and both times I’ve thought that Alabama is kind of the Rodney Dangerfield of states.  It gets no respect.  I mean it gets a lot of respect for its college football teams, but people don’t much go around talking about how beautiful it is. Anyway it was a lovely time!

Today my mom would be seventy-eight years old.  I was thinking about her not just because it’s her birthday but because I read these words this morning: “a prophet speaks words of comfort and encouragement as prompted by the Holy Spirit.”  Using words of comfort and encouragement was one of my mom’s many gifts.  Sometimes I’d tell her about some situation in my life, or even some decision Will was facing at work.  Hours, or sometimes days later she’d call back: “You know I’ve been thinking about it,” she’d say.  Then she’d offer thoughtful and wise words of encouragement and comfort.

The devotional I was reading this morning also said that insight is the byproduct of intercessory prayer; “the more we pray, the more prophetic we will become.” (Mark Batterson)

Do you believe that?  I do.  In fact, for me 2019 has been a year of answered prayer.  I am humbled and awed by the ways my prayers have been answered this year, but I am also convicted.  When my prayers for others have been answered so definitively, so incredibly specifically, how can I not devote more time to praying?  What exactly would be a better use of my time?

I hope you too know the joy of answered prayer.

Come and hear, all you who fear God;
    let me tell you what he has done for me.
I cried out to him with my mouth;
    his praise was on my tongue.
If I had cherished sin in my heart,
    the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened
    and has heard my prayer.
Praise be to God,
    who has not rejected my prayer
    or withheld his love from me!  Psalm 66:16-20

Even with modern technology, the best way to capture life’s best moments is to write them down, and this certainly applies to answered prayers.  If you haven’t done so recently, why not sit down and journal about how God has answered your prayers in 2019.  I did that this past week and it was time well-spent.

With Love,



Jackson Five Friday: Less is More

Hey Friends,

I snapped this shot as I was walking in late to Bible study on Wednesday. The contrast between the flowers and the courtyard full of fog just stopped me in my tracks. And the church steeple is right there, but you can’t see it — surely a metaphor for the Holy Spirit Himself. I think it’s wise, living on a mountain, to try to appreciate a foggy day, but some days it’s easier than others. Thankfully, on occasions like this, fog’s claim on beauty is pretty convincing.

And honestly I’m glad I stopped to behold this scene, because like I said I was already running late. Hurry exacerbates our propensity to scurry past blessings but somehow I knew I should stop anyway. I’m trying hard to not pack in too much and to listen to the gentle guidance of the still small Voice. Still though, planning and effort do not always yield the intended result.

This morning I ended up taking Nate and Sam to school because Nate’s car was dead. Round trip is about forty minutes, and I had planned to park myself on the couch with my coffee and my new prayer journal. I had actually been looking forward to a blissfully free Friday morning, starting a new month with gratitude and quiet. Instead I threw on clothes and jumped in the car, but I hope I was cheerful and grace-filled about it. My stay-in-jammies morning was thwarted, but really, so what? Life is full of interruptions, and I’m slowly learning to be less wedded to my own agenda.

Have you ever noticed that there’s pretty much no tidbit of wisdom that you’ll ever hear that can’t be found in the Bible. Think about the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given, and then go try to find it in Proverbs. Boom, it’s there. Or maybe it’s in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount or somewhere else. But you can’t find “eliminate hurry” in a verse, as timeless as that advice is. In fact, Jesus tells Zacchaeus, “hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” Still, hurry isn’t a major theme, right? Pshaw!

“Do not hurry” is not a verse in the Bible because it was part of Creation itself. God rested on the seventh day. His nature and first earthly act — breathing the created order into existence — incorporated savoring and not hurrying. And observing the Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments. So, in a sense, not hurrying is one of the most fundamental tenets of biblical Christianity. How are you doing? Are you savoring and resting and giving thanks, or are you spinning your wheels to the point of exhaustion?

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning — the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. Genesis 1:31-2:3

The Sabbath itself is the very epitome of “less is more.” May we live it out, this weekend and always.



Jackson Five Friday: Divine Appointments and Obedience

Hey Friends,

Do you believe in divine appointments? I do. In fact, if we have eyes to see and ears to hear, divine appointments and messages are all around us.

Last month I went on a hike with a friend. It was one of those “we finally did it” kind of things. I first met this friend before I moved to Tennessee at the end of 2015. She made a huge impression on me from the first meeting, and one time probably more than three years ago she said, “we should go for a hike sometime.” We share a mutual love for a nearby park with lots of trails, but when we finally followed through on our hike, she took me to a new place that she frequents. We took two of her sweet dogs along, one lead the way for her and the other followed right behind her. The dog that followed hardly knew what to do with me. It looked up at me like, “Okay this is awkward. Are you right on her heels or am I?”

I had some big things happening in my life that week and I felt like I talked her ear right off. I hate that regrettable over-sharing feeling. But anyway, we had a lovely time and thankfully I didn’t do all of the talking.

Because she ended up telling me about how powerfully God had answered her prayers when she read and prayed through the book, Draw the Circle, with her husband. Right then I told her, “Oh I’m going to order that book.” I just knew it was a divine message for me. But, did I order the book? No, I didn’t.

Days slipped by, then weeks. I didn’t order the book. But God sometimes sends reminders. Last week the author of the book, Mark Batterson, was interviewed on That Sounds Fun, which is the podcast of Annie F. Downs. I promptly ordered the book. In fact, I’ve ordered it for a couple of friends as well.

Here’s a quote I’ve already come across, “We can’t plan God-ordained opportunities. All we can do is seize them.” So true, and I can testify that you feel a lot more content when you seize them.

Do you have something you know you are supposed to do because the still small voice of God told you to? Maybe it’s as easy as ordering a book, or maybe it’s something a lot heavier.

“So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” James‬ ‭4:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬

May we make obedience to doing the next right thing a priority this weekend and always!

With Love,


Jackson Five Friday: “I See You”

Hey Friends,

I’ve been thinking about the many pitfalls of social media. It can fuel envy and comparison. It can lead to an identity rooted in the approval of others. It can falsely reduce the complexity of life, and make it appear like some people have it all together. They don’t. Social media can also flat out lie to you.

A lie I’ve seen a lot recently is “I see you.” The thrust of the statement is that the forgotten or lonely or oppressed or struggling are recognized by some influencer. It’s one thing to say, “Newborn Mamas, I feel you. Getting up to feed and change baby every two hours is exhausting. Trust me it’s going to get better!” No matter the severity of the struggle, sincere sentiments like “I’ve been there” and “I get it” and “You are not alone” are comforting. But “I see you” is different. I realize it’s an expression, but the fact is the person doesn’t “see” you at all. They are on a device somewhere and your personal crisis is wholly unknown to them. I don’t think we were designed to offer theoretical comfort, to be burdened for others in such a detached, impersonal way. Nor do I think we can be satisfied with such comfort.

The more loving thing to say, is the truth: “God sees you.” He knows all about it. He loves you no matter what and He cares about your situation and your feelings. He not only literally sees you, He will never leave you nor forsake you.

The “I see you” bloggers could also offer the wisdom that is actually needed: “I wish I could help, but you need a face-to-face encourager. Get involved in a local church. Don’t just anonymously attend a Sunday service. Join a small group or a Bible study. Go to Sunday School. Go to Wednesday night dinners. No matter how hard it is at first, continue to seek real biblical community where you can be seen, loved, and understood. It is not always easy, but it’s always worth it. Find a church that is serious about loving its people and plant yourself there.”

The corollary is that if we truly desire to “see” hurting people, we’ll stop posting about it and go see them. Be the shoulder to cry on, the attentive listener, the speaker of truth that the hurting actually need. Being there for someone in their hour of need, or more likely in their intermittently needy life, is not always easy but it’s always worth it. Find a church that is serious about loving people and serve there.

Technology can be used for good. I’ve been writing this blog for more than eleven years and through it I hope I’ve spurred others on. I’ve certainly been spurred on by readers and commenters, and my posts are mostly reminders directed at me. But relationships based in technology cannot be primary. We need in-the-flesh relationships. We grow closer to Jesus in the midst of the body, the physical body, of believers.

“For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.”” ‭‭2 Chronicles‬ ‭16:9a‬ ‭

His loving eyes go to and fro, He stands at the door of your heart and knocks. But I hope you also have Christian friends who will see you and love you this weekend and always.


Jackson Five Friday: Weigh-In Culture

Hey Friends,

Have you had a good week? My Monday started with a green smoothie spill in the passenger seat, which is really not how you want to kick things off, but things trended more positively after that. But I will admit many aspects of our culture bring me down more than cleaning up a smoothie.

For example, I find the incessant weighing in on everything exhausting. And I don’t mean weighing in like at Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers. I mean how many people compulsively weigh in on daily events. I imagine it stems in part from social media, and all the liking and hearting. But what does it say about us that endorsing or condemning is now the norm on every little thing?

In a viral obsessed society, if a public figure says something worthwhile, there’s a rush to re-post. Oh yes I am for that. Yessiree, I am for that.

Granted this is undoubtedly preferable to the converse: someone somewhere says something objectionable and it’s like hungry horses racing for the barn. Everybody and their brother needs to weigh in. I am anti that. Oh my gosh, so offensive, so misguided, so uneducated. I condemn that, believe you me!

Forgive the irony, as I sit here using words to weigh in on the rabid weighing in, but I think our lives should speak for themselves. Unless I’m talking to you face-to-face about some issue in the public domain, I hope I am unlikely to condemn or condone much of anything. I condone Jesus and anything that points to Him. But I hope and pray my life reflects that without using a single syllable, verbal or written.

Please Lord let my life –my calendar, my prayer journal, my bank accounts, my choices, my values–reflect You. Help my life to speak so clearly and loudly that I don’t need to use words. Well, except here on my weekly blog. But even then Lord let my words be authentic, let them to somehow reflect You, even though I am the worst of sinners.

May all of us use words to bless others in real life relationships and not to rely on the impersonal means available to us through modern technology. This weekend pat someone on the back or hug them tight instead of liking a post or pic. Let your investment of time, money and talent illustrate your views, knowing that actions not only speak louder than words, actions accomplish a heck of a lot more.

“When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” Proverbs‬ ‭10:19‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” ‭‭1 John‬ ‭3:18‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Let’s cherish deeds over words, and truth and love always,