Jackson Five Friday: Sweet Aromas

Hey Friends,

Do you have some favorite aromas? Maybe the smell of something yummy on the grill, or the scent of gardenias? One of my all-time favorites was the smell of my Gramma Cummins. The subtle but consistent smell included a mix of her perfume and I don’t know what. But it wasn’t just the perfume, because I’ve tried spraying it around my house. When I picked up my wedding dress I stored it in my Gramma’s closet until the big day, hoping it would absorb her. What I’d give to have a candle or spray that replicated her aroma. On a simpler, less nostalgic note, I also love the way a Frosted Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop-Tart leaves a lingering sweetness in the air. It’s probably why I occasionally buy them for the boys. Who cares that they love them. It’s about that pop-tart aroma.

Have you ever thought about the fact that Jesus has an aroma? Because Paul talks about it in 2 Corinthians 2:14-16:

“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.

Periodically we should stop and ask ourselves about how well we are spreading the fragrance of Jesus. It’s a lovely image but what does it look like — or smell like — in day-to-day life? Maybe it would help to think about a person you know who does this well. I imagine you will immediately think about how grace-filled that person is, how they exude the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.

I’ve been thinking about another aspect of spreading Christ’s aroma, in part because of a podcast I listened to this week. It was an interview with David Brooks about his new book, which I have not yet read. But in the interview Brooks talks about how a community of people in Washington, DC helped him grow relationally. He describes a Thursday night dinner group where the default greeting is hugging instead of a handshake. Even in the brief interview, you get the sense that this group has a sweet aroma, drawing in outsiders with grace and kindness.

Does that describe the Christian community you are living in? Communal aromas are vital too, and I think Paul’s words leave room for the individual and the corporate application.

In another part of the interview, Brooks talks about how oftentimes he doesn’t relate well to people of faith. If I was friends with Brooks, I’d love to plumb the depths of why. If I had to guess, I’d say one of two things. Some of the communities he’s been exposed to are more legalistic than loving, and/or Brooks is reluctant to appreciate child-like faith. I think that’s an unfortunate struggle for some intellectuals. There’s a propensity for making things more complicated than they are. Simplicity can be its own stumbling block, even when the aroma is sweet.

The call then is both to spread the fragrance of Christ and to appreciate it in others, even when they are not the fulfillment of our own ideal. May we all, by God’s grace, do better in loving each person as immortals made in the image of God.

And may we avoid the pitfall that Dostoyevsky articulated: “The more I love humanity in general, the less I love man in particular.” Instead may we trust that God will help us love each person we encounter. Just like C.S. Lewis said, do not worry whether you love your neighbor, just act as if you did.

Help me, Lord Jesus, to spread your fragrance by loving others well.

With Love,


Jackson Five Friday: “What have I Done?!?”

Hey Friends,

The blog has been on a bit of an unintentional hiatus.  I just fell out of the routine, but as I’ve mentioned a number of times, it is one of my favorite things to do.  It is a gift to carve out time to sit down at the computer and preach to myself.  I need reminding of the most basic truths, and if a sweet family tidbit is preserved in the process then it’s a double blessing.

The family tidbit I’m about to tell you is from days gone past.  But I hope your family is like mine — skilled at keeping some of life’s simple treasures on a semi-continual loop.  This one is referenced in our house with fair frequency and it always brings a smile to my face.

Years ago when our older two sons both played three sports at a high level, the youngest was dragged on an almost-daily basis to some sporting event.  When he was very small he packed a little backpack of cars and trains and books, but as he got older he fell in love with shooting hoops.  If you know him, and he has requested that I not use his name in this post, you know that the obsession with shooting hoops has never waned.  In fact, his fourth grade teacher expressed grave concern over how he chose to shoot hoops at recess over playing with friends.  And my neighbor told me that, when we first moved in, the constant bouncing of the basketball practically prompted him to move.  Fortunately his beautiful bride told me they quickly got used to it, and now when the ball isn’t bounced for long periods of time it feels like something is missing.  Isn’t that the sweetest?

Anyway, one time we were kind of rushing out the door for a basketball game, and as we pulled out of our neighborhood, my youngest, at the time maybe five years old, realized he’d failed to properly prepare.

“What have I done?” he asked in a voice so mournful and sincere, you’d think he may have just killed a puppy.

What had he done?  What was so, so terrible? He’d left his basketball at home.  There’d be no shooting hoops during timeouts, at half-time or in an adjacent gym.  He knew there was no time to turn around, and he was utterly distraught.  What have I done?

It’s not hard to work in a distressed “What have I done?” for a laugh in our house.  It’s a pretty user-friendly quotable, and yet I never tire of it.

But it’s not just hilarious, it’s wisdom.  Isn’t it surprising that he didn’t blame me?  Or his brothers?  I can easily picture him saying, “Did you put my basketball in the car?”  Instead,  he took ownership of it and was sorry about it.  What if this were common?  What if I stopped blaming others for my own mistakes?  What if I was just sorry about them?

Forgetting a basketball is not sin, but what if we applied this same repentant ownership to the sin in our lives?  What if we didn’t make excuses?  What if we didn’t try to blame people or circumstances?  What if we just plain took responsibility?  What if we accepted the help of the Holy Spirit to guide us away from sin?

A sermon I heard recently pointed out how the apostle Paul exhibited an increasing disdain for his own sin. In 1 Corinthians he calls himself “the least of the apostles.” (15:9). Then in Ephesians he calls himself “the very least of all the saints.” (3:8).  Later still, Paul claims to be the “foremost” of sinners. (1 Timothy 1:15).

I like people who admit they’re sinners.  So many try to project an image that is righteous.  So many like to look down at the sins of others.  But honestly, one type of person I have a hard time liking is the kind that says, “I’m a good person.”  Self-aware sinners are my favorite.  I want to be around people who say, “What have I done?”  And I want to be that person.  I want to be like Paul.  The older I get the more grieved I want to be about the sin in my life because the corollaries are vital: (1) a posture of perpetual gratitude for the truth that Jesus paid for all my sins; and (2) the joy of knowing that Jesus loves me no matter what.

I hope you too admit you need a Savior.  May we all embrace His offer of grace, and stop the inane and futile effort to prove ourselves worthy.

I love these lines from the old hymn:

All to Jesus, I surrender, Lord, I give myself to thee; Fill me with Thy love and power, Let Thy blessing fall on me.

Have a wonderful weekend.



P.S.  I know a few of my readers interact with my sons on an almost daily basis.  Can I ask that you not try to chat with them about anything on the blog? Not that I think any of you would, but as a member in a family of introverts my license to share stories is pretty tenuous, so I appreciate it.

Holy Extremism

Hey Friends,

I hope you are well. I’ve been taking a little break from social media. I’m wondering if maybe Facebook and Instagram should never make their way back onto my phone. It really does make a difference to stand in line and look around, instead of mindlessly scrolling.

But anyway last year I ordered the A. W. Tozer book above to read during Lent. I thought it was fabulous then. This year I’m enjoying it even more. I snapped this pic last week as I read it at a swim meet between events. There are daily readings and each day is profound, but one I found particularly convicting was on contentment versus being extreme.

Tozer wrote, “We fear extremes and shy away from too much ardor in religion as if it were possible to have too much love or too much faith or too much holiness.”

What greater insult is there than being accused of being “holier than thou”? But I think maybe we’ve conflated things. Being judgmental is not at all the same as being holy. Tozer was right. It’s absurd to think we can be too holy.

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.””

‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭1:14-16‬ ‭ESV‬‬

May we not be bamboozled into believing we can ever be too full of love or faith or holiness. Instead may we press on toward the prize that is ours in Christ Jesus.

With Love,


Jackson Five Friday: A Fabulous Paradox

Hey Friends,

I hope you’ve had a good week. We saw the sun quite a bit here in Tennessee. Praise God. But it’s raining again today and I’m thinking about other mood-lifting sources. You know what’s typically not one? Social media. Once in a great while I’ll get a good laugh, or delight over someone’s baby. I love when people post pics of interesting places, and I greatly appreciate knowing how to be praying for those facing heartache. Still, the vast majority of scrolling is joy-robbing, it showcases the unraveling of society, There is a growing lack of logic, morality and humor. Honestly I feel like my feed is dominated by anger, and I’m increasingly down on anger. No one who is angry exudes the peace of Christ, and that’s the aim, isn’t it?

So, it’s about time for me to take a break. The problem is that social media is how most readers connect to this blog. Can you do me a favor? Can you subscribe to the blog instead? I am pretty consistent about posting on Fridays but subscribers get an email whenever I post.

Right now I’m sitting in my very favorite coffee shop. This is my second morning here this week. On days I take Nate and/or Sam to school, the magnetic draw of it is intense. I often hang out here and read before heading back up the mountain. It’s such a peaceful little spot.

Usually it is. On Tuesday it was not. At the table next to me was an angry man yelling at his friends about God. He was referencing some Old Testament passage he found objectionable and getting louder and louder and more and more animated. I was having a hard time not laughing as I sat there literally reading Genesis.

“C’mon,” he ranted. “If that’s God then that’s f-ing stupid!”

I oddly found this first all out f-bomb at this peaceful little coffee shop hilarious. But I know I should have more compassion.

I’m certain the anger of this man is not amusing to those in his life. And sadly there are many people just like this guy. Someone in the church has hurt them or hurt someone they care about. Or maybe they feel abandoned by God.

But however this man arrived at this posture of hostility, of defensive anger, the solution is always the same. And it’s both the easiest and hardest thing to do. The solution, paradoxically, is to surrender. The truth is no matter how many f-bombs you direct at God, no matter how angry and hardened your heart, Jesus stands at the door and knocks. He loves you. No matter what. Freedom is found in surrendering to Him, His way and His Word. My prayer for this man is that he’ll surrender to the Person who knows him the best and loves him the most.

It’s a prayer for the world.

In the meantime, may the peace of Christ rule in our hearts and may we cast any and every burden at His feet.

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”

‭‭Colossians‬ ‭3:15‬ ‭

We are called to peace and called to be thankful. Amen!

With Love,


Jackson Five Friday: Seasons of Waiting

Hey Friends,

Do you want to know what I’m waiting on this week? I’m waiting to see a single ray of sunshine! I truly have grown in my appreciation of the beauty of fog, but I have my limits. Endless fog and rain this week, and I’m so ready for blue skies. If you know me, you’re probably thinking, “Here she goes. She says this every spring.” I think I do. I cannot seem to overcome being overly influenced by weather. I’ve passed this along to at least one son too.

But waiting for fairer weather is one thing, sometimes waiting is much heavier. Do you have some unresolved issue that weighs on you? I do. Well, sort of. There is an area of my life that is aptly described as unresolved. It’s been a true season of waiting. But paradoxically the longer it goes on, the more peace I have. God’s plan is good. I don’t know what it is. But I trust it’s exactly the right thing, and that the timing, despite what feels like a long wait, will also be utterly perfect.

Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait for the Lord. Be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” If you are in a season of waiting I hope those words will comfort you. God has a plan for you and I’m praying you’ll trust Him.

Have a fabulous weekend. Sunshine is forecast for Sunday!



Jackson Five Friday: Solve the Riddle

Hey Friends,

Hope you’ve had a wonderful week. Honestly, I’m still recovering from last weekend when my oldest son’s swim team won the state title. It was such a great story of guys overcoming adversity, and swimming out of their minds. The 4 x 100 relay was the last event of the night. So long as they logged a decent time and didn’t DQ, they knew they’d win the state title. Video reveals just how long they waited on relay take-offs just to be extra, extra sure. Still, amazingly, their time was the fastest in the country recorded so far this year by a high school relay team. I screamed so much that I’ve been dragging all week.

I did manage to browse through a book I ordered: Frederick Buechner’s The Magnificent Defeat. It contains the riddle. He writes “It is so hard and it is so easy. And everything depends on it.”

Any guesses? Do you know what Buechner is referring to when he says it’s both so easy and so hard, and that everything depends on it? He is referring to prayer. And I could not agree more.

In some ways, praying is so very easy. Someone or some need can cross our minds, and we can so easily shoot up a prayer. But focused and consistent prayer is super challenging, even when we firmly believe nothing could be more important.

Ephesians 6:18 says, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

Yes! May we all always keep on praying.

With Love,

Jackson Five Friday: My People

Hey Friends,

I’ve had an epiphany: my kind of people are more likely to be cashiers in gas stations than zookeepers. Let me paint for you the difference.

I saw that a zoo in El Paso has a vindictive little program coming up this week for Valentine’s Day. You can have a cockroach named after your ex and then they’ll feed it to the meerkats. Seriously. Our culture loves to find ways to fuel rage. I wonder how many cockroaches will be named Donald Trump. I’m also curious how many of those who submit Trump’s name also have a “Hate Has No Home Here” sign in their front yard. Meanwhile, the Bible requires that we love and pray for our enemies. Zookeepers may not be “my people” but I’m committed to loving them and praying for those like them, are you?

Then this morning I had the most delightful three minutes in a gas station. It was a Pilot/Dunkin’ Donuts Express. It was early and I was grabbing some muffins while Will poured our coffees. I walked a few aisles over to grab something for Sam, when a woman yelled out in an extremely loud voice, “Oh my Gosh!”

Will, still back at the coffee station, somehow thinking I was the yeller, answered back very loudly and perplexed, “What???”

I’m easily amused, but the whole thing cracked me up. Then we headed over to the checkout counter, where a man and a woman, both Caucasian, were manning the desk.

The woman said to the man, “Will you call Tommy for his shower.”

“Sure thing,” he said, cheerfully and then boomed into the speaker, “Tommy your shower is ready!”

The woman rang us up. The man took the next customer, an elderly black gentleman.

The black man asked the cheerful white man, “How are you today?

“Better than I deserve, better than I deserve,” he answered with a smile.

“Me too, brother,” the black man said. “If only we could convince more people it’s true, the world would be a better place.”

I don’t think these two are feeding their exes to meerkats, do you? They exude joy and gratitude. They are my people — at least I pray that I am even a tiny bit like them.

One thing is certain: I am a sinner and every minute of every day I get better than I deserve. In eternity the discrepancy will be infinitely wider. Jesus paid it all. I’ll never get what I deserve.

“But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who long for your saving help always say, “The Lord is great!””

‭‭Psalm‬ ‭40:16‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Yes, may every person — from gas station attendant to zoo keeper, and all those in between — rejoice, be glad and say “The Lord is great!”

With Love,