Jackson Five Friday: Rudderless Living, Platinum Edition

Hey Friends,

I hope you’ve had an excellent week. Mine has been full of blessings, one of which is that I had one of the best laughs of my life. Do you have some experiences that just bring a smile to your face every time you think of it? I hope so. Praise God for the life-giving balm of a good laugh.

Since the unraveling world seems to top itself day after day, I think we need to treasure light-hearted joys all the more. Do you wake up each day stunned by the new heights of absurdity reached overnight? Are we living in some weird Truman Show where the producers are betting when we will all cry uncle?

It’s an odd time to be alive. Do you think every generation feels this way? Maybe to some degree, but ours does appear to be a uniquely rudderless era. Moral convictions for many are based on popular opinion. Leaders put a finger to the wind to decide what they think. Focus groups and polls determine policy. Congruence and logic are painfully absent.

I recently read that some now argue — and I’m not making this up —that the Golden Rule should be replaced by the Platinum Rule. Can you guess what it means? I’ll give you a hint: much of Covid hysteria was based on it. That’s right, instead of treating others as you would want to be treated, the platinum rule would require you treat others how they would want to be treated.

It’s pretty amusing to consider the possible conclusions of this flawed logic. If someone wants to be beaten senseless and called names, do I need to comply?

But as insane as our world sometimes feels, at its root, it is the same old story. It’s just the Serpent planting his predictable seeds of doubt: “Did God really say?” His efforts to subtly twist truth are relentless. We should remind ourselves often that we know his tactics. Where in your life do you see truths being twisted?

May we not live rudderless, but confident that our God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. May we live knowing that Jesus’ words can guide us each day, and that He spoke with abundant clarity and simplicity about how we are to treat others.

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:12‬ ‭ESV‬‬

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: “It’s Forbidden”

Hey Friends,

Do you remember the Beauty and the Beast scene where Belle is told by The Beast not to enter the West Wing? “It’s forbidden!” he says, fiercely. Well, I had houseguests a few week ago, guests I’ve been begging to visit me for more than five years now. But somehow, even with lots of notice and a burning to desire to make everything inviting, I somehow had not gotten around to cleaning my room. I spoke as viciously as I could: “It’s forbidden.” I had piled papers and laundry in my bedroom to create the illusion in other places of organized simplicity. Well, kind of. I also had to forbid the laundry room. And I had to explain away the absurdly overbooked shelves. But most of the house was quite presentable.

Since these guests of mine are dearly loved and I knew my disaster area would not actually impact our relationship, I did let them see my room before they left, embarrassing as that was for me. After all, healthy relationships do require being our real selves. My real self is not a great housekeeper, and we’ve never had success with cleaning services. My husband is OCD about his stuff, not because he appears to be impeccably organized, but because in reality he has a precise routine and knows exactly where everything is at all times. I’ve never been able to convince any cleaning service how much I truly mean, “Do not touch this area.” I also equate a good cleaning with perfect floors. Every single time I find stuff on the floor that is missed. So, we’ve tried many times, but having our house cleaned is just not something that works for us. You might think after twenty-five years this means I’ve become an expert cleaner. Nope. Instead I go with “It’s forbidden.”

Of course if you don’t love someone warts and all, then that’s not really love. True love requires acknowledgement of truth and the truth is everyone is heavily warted. Hiding faults only exacerbates the imposter syndrome we all have to one degree or another. Where in your life are you fearful of being exposed as a fraud? Even if you start with a thing as shallow as revealing your domestic disorganization, I encourage you to be real with your friends. Don’t you want to be loved for who you are and not who you aim to project?

On Tuesday I listened to this excellent sermon on friendship. It’s based on Mark 2:1-12, which is the familiar story of the paralyzed man being lowered through the roof by his friends to Jesus. It’s such a beautiful picture of friendship.

One time a girlfriend and I taught that passage to three-year-olds. We built a cardboard house with a flat roof and used playmobil toy people to act out the man being lowered down. It cemented in my mind the loving effort of these good friends, but this sermon drives home the point even better.

The pinnacle of friendship is bringing your friends to Jesus. It almost certainly will not look like a hole in a flat roof, but in what ways are you bringing your friends to Him? How can you acknowledge and thank your friends who have done so for you?

2 Corinthians 2:15a says, “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved…”

May our aromas be sweet and pure like gardenias, ever drawing others to Christ.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Patriot Series, Part IV

Hey Friends,

I hope you’ve had a wonderful week, and have some fun Independence Day plans. We have decided to stay home this year, but that means we can easily watch fireworks blasted off the side of the mountain, which is pretty great.

Did you know that it was actually today, July 2, 1776, that the Continental Congress declared its freedom from Great Britain? Richard Henry Lee wrote the resolution: “That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and Independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown…” The full Declaration of Independence was approved two days later, but the initial freedom vote was today. So let your festivities begin!

Sadly, in 2021 our culture undervalues freedom and consistently fails to consider the alternatives. This chronic willful ignorance of alternatives can be seen everywhere. There are also Americans—many of them—who expect the government to provide for them. When the government provides, the government controls. That is not freedom.

Other Americans are obsessed with wealth. Keeping up with the Joneses is joy-robbing bondage. People who make amassing wealth their goal are not free. People who focus on gaining power over others are not free.

The Founding Fathers had many faults, but it is a mark of silly naïveté to suggest that slavery and racial disparity were or are uniquely American. When we declared our freedom from the Crown, William Wilberforce, the British abolitionist, hadn’t yet become a Christian. In 1785, he gave his life to Christ, and began working with anti-slave-trade activists in 1787. It was 20 years of work, before the Slave Trade Act of 1807 was passed. The gradual abolition of slavery around the world is documented here. But unfortunately racial bias continues to thrive around the world, and there remains pockets of slavery. The fight for universal recognition that every single person is made in the image of God and is worthy of dignity and respect will continue until Jesus returns.

But back to our Founding Fathers, many of whom were Christians. It is heartbreaking and mind boggling that they could fail to see that enslaving fellow human beings was a disgusting and unbiblical practice. Still, I believe every person, while an image-bearer of God, is also steeped in sin at birth and capable of atrocity. I honestly have a hard time relating to people who say, “I could never …”

There’s a dark corner of my heart. There’s a dark corner in yours too. Can we really be sure if we were in a different era and culture that we’d have the same clarity about evil practices we have today? Because it strikes me as a bit pompous and hubristic.

What I know for sure though is that God created us to be free. And as counterintuitive as it may be, the greatest freedom we can taste in this life is to be fully surrendered to Him.

This weekend we’ll fly our American flag on our porch and in our hearts we’ll wave a white flag to the Creator and Lover of our souls. He doesn’t have a dark corner. He doesn’t lie or cheat. He is perfect justice. He never disappoints. I hope you know Him.

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”
‭‭Galatians‬ ‭5:13‬ ‭NIV‬‬

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Patriot Series, Part III

Hey Friends,

Hope you’ve had a wonderful official start to summer! I’ve had an especially meaningful week in some respects, and a hard couple days in others. Isn’t that the way? Life is full of profound, complex sorrows and indescribable joys. Sometimes the proximity of these would-be bookends is striking.

Still, I want to continue with my Patriot series. One thing that was conspicuously absent at Olympic Trials was relays. For me, swimming relays are the pinnacle of sport. To see teammates cheering each other on to overcome rivals is the absolute best. I know why too. It’s because the individual glory is gone. There’s no hint of envy. It’s all about the effort as a team.

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” Romans‬ ‭12:3-5‬ ‭NIV‬‬

You have God-given gifts. So do I. Guess what? They are not the same. We need to recognize how God has shaped us for His purposes. If your foot longed to be a hand instead, it wouldn’t make a useful hand. And it wouldn’t be a good foot either. As Socrates put it, so succinctly, “Envy is the ulcer of the soul.”

Who or what do you envy? How can you remind yourself that you are on a relay? Your leg of the race is vital and unique. God made you specifically for your part and your time.

I hope you run your race this weekend and always, knowing God has a specific role just for you.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Patriot Series, Part II

Hey Friends,

I hope you’ve had a lovely week. It was a gorgeous one here in Tennessee, with lots of blue skies.

It’s been fun to watch some Olympic Trials too. The athletes that make the team headed for Tokyo immediately sign their name on a Japanese drum. What an honor! And in swimming, since it’s 100% objective, no one signs that drum without years and years of hard work and dedication.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the hardworking Kayla Han makes the team in three years. It’s rather confusing how it works this year, so I’ve explained it in the P.S. below. But at Wave I of Olympic Trials, I screamed my head off for Kayla. Like my son, she had qualified for the Trials just a couple weeks before. In the morning, she swam fast enough to make the B final in the 400 Individual Medley, which is just a brutal race. The swimmers dive in and swim two 50 meter laps of butterfly, then backstroke, then breaststroke. They finish with freestyle. Kayla was trailing until the last 50 meters. At the last minute, she turned on the jets, caught the leaders and then touched the wall first. I was going ballistic! I went back and watched her televised race a few nights ago and was a little surprised that my incessant screaming could not be heard. I imagine someone somewhere has video of the tall woman losing her mind, and her voice.

Before that morning I’d never heard of Kayla, but you might have joined me in madly cheering for her if you knew two things. First, every swimmer at Trials wears a pricey, high tech racing suit – every swimmer except Kayla.

The other tidbit that might make you love Kayla? She is only thirteen years old, and the youngest swimmer at Trials. In fact, when she got her Olympic Trials cut she was still twelve. She’d only been thirteen for a few days. The bright lights. The pressure. The pomp and circumstance. The universal use of top-of-the-line racing suits. None of this could intimidate her. She rocked it. I hope she goes to Paris in 2024 because she’s already one of my favorites.

America breeds dreamers with perseverance. Most Americans are reluctant to tell someone “You can’t do that!” There are notable exceptions of course, but the majority of us like to encourage audacious goals. We might caution, “That would require a lot of work.” But the American spirit is one that fights, one that sacrifices, one that sees the obstacles and still turns on the jets. And Americans, like all of humanity, absolutely love an underdog.

Why do we? Have you taken a few minutes to think about why we love underdogs? I know why. It’s because the story that most defines us and most liberates us is the ultimate underdog story. Our Savior was born in a stable. He wasn’t privileged. His family fled murderous persecution. He wasn’t remarkably handsome. Most of His life was quiet. He didn’t travel hardly at all. He worked construction. But He won the biggest victory of all. He beat death. He beat it for you. He beat it for me. He beat death for the whole world.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John‬ ‭3:16‬ ‭

I hope you believe in the ultimate underdog. He is the way, the truth and the life, today and forever.

Love,

Kristie

P.S. To make the U.S. Olympic Team for swimming you must race in and win at the Trials. You can also make the team by placing second. For relays they take as many as six swimmers. But the maximum number of swimmers is 26 men and 26 women, and theoretically you could have less if our fastest swimmers didn’t achieve an Olympic cut. This never happens in the U.S. because we have the world’s fastest swimmers.

This year the trials-qualifying swimmers were broken up into two groups, or “waves.” Wave II which is going on now, is where the winner of the final for each event makes the team and signs the drum. Kayla and Will swam at Wave I and could’ve only moved on to Wave II by getting first or second in the A final. Will got 5th. Kayla won the B Final. But I’m liking their chances in 2024.

Jackson Five Friday: Patriot Series, Part I

Hey Friends,

I hope you are well. I’ve kicked off summer 2021 in a most patriotic way. Last week Sam and I visited Mount Rushmore and then met up with Will to attend Wave I of the U.S. Olympic Trials. Our son, Will, was swimming at the meet — which is the ultimate dream of many young swimmers. It was such an incredible week, and I have so many thoughts about it, that I can’t possibly put them in a single post of reasonable length. Hence, my series.

When I was a little girl my dad accused me of being unAmerican. What was my offense? I hated both hamburgers and corn-on-the-cob. Sadly I have never overcome my distaste for burgers. But I think, overall, my dad would agree — I’m pretty patriotic.

Are you? Would you consider yourself a patriotic person? I think something has been lost in recent days. I am not patriotic because I think any person is worthy of worship. Only Jesus is. I am not patriotic because I endorse every action or statement of our Founding Fathers. Clearly they were all sinners and so deeply flawed that it’s hard to relate to the travesty of slavery. But at the same time our government was laid out with a system of checks and balances —a level of wisdom that has withstood tremendous pressures and trials. How can any lover of freedom fail to acknowledge that the bones of our government are elegant, enduring, inspiring, and wise? We don’t tear down homes with great bones, and houses are insignificant when compared to systems of government. I cannot relate to the masses aimed at destruction. I wish they could all visit Rushmore and read the words of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt. I wish they could all attend an event where athletes aim to make the U.S. Olympic team.

Yet it feels as though the dominant voices are voices of victimhood, voices that fail to look at alternatives, voices that rarely, if ever, model biblical wisdom: it is to YOUR glory to overlook an offense.

Really the heart of the matter is gratitude.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
‭‭James‬ ‭1:17‬ ‭

I believe being born an American is a good gift from my Heavenly Father. And I never want to take it for granted.

I hope you won’t either. I hope you’ll always try to recognize and acknowledge all the gifts you’ve been given, and then use them for His glory.

With Love,

Kristie

P.S. I listened to this sermon from Tim Keller twice this week and highly recommend it. In it Keller has an almost C.S. Lewis type of vibe, where he explains complicated concepts in such simple and compelling terms that you almost want to laugh and exclaim, “Ahh, of course! How did I not see that before?” The two that tie into the above post are: (1) try as you may, you cannot live under your own authority; and (2) as Aristotle argued, doing leads to knowing, not vice versa. It’s a corollary of Bonhoeffer’s statement that obedience and love are self-reinforcing. In short, sometimes it’s vital to just obey. It gets the ball rolling in unexpected ways.

Jackson Five Friday: Trusting the Experts

Hey Friends,

I hope you are kicking off the best months of the year in a big way. I recently visited a summer hot spot where the hustle of the season demands extra workers. Sam and I had an hour to kill before leaving. As we were wrapping up lunch, I asked our server what she would do with a spare hour.

“Oh,” she smiled, clearly amused. “I’m just here for the summer, so I’ll have to ask a local.”

“Where are you from?” I asked.

“I’m from Jamaica,” she said.

She had no trace of any accent so this surprised me. As I talked with her further, she told me she’s worked on her American accent because she does customer service calls when she’s in Jamaica for Humana.

She came back with my credit card a few minutes later and said she’d asked every co-worker in the restaurant. Then she introduced me to another Jamaican. He told me he’d probably take a somewhat unknown scenic drive and explained how to get there.

“Mmhh,” I said, not thrilled about more driving. “What about that park over there. Is that nice?”

“It’s great,” he said, his native land a whole lot more evident than hers. “They have a piece of the Berlin Wall in that park.”

We saw the Wall! Do you know where we were getting expert local advice from a friendly and wise Jamaican? Yep, South Dakota. Is that not the best?

I think we need to ask more questions. Lots more questions. In all areas of life. There are people who know things that will benefit you immensely. The most useful tidbits may come from unlikely sources. Misleading, even harmful, advice may come from the highly credentialed. Pray for wisdom and ask lots and lots of questions. And may we never cease applying the words of the Apostle Paul from Romans 12:16.

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.

Lord Jesus, forgive me for being wise in my own sight. Help me be humble and ask questions. Thank you for your abundant goodness. Thank you that unlike those behind that terrible wall, I’m free. May I use my freedom for Your glory.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Adventure Time

Hey Friends,

In 2013 the five of us spent one night at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond. There were a number of things that made that short little trip memorable. I had forgotten my wallet, Nate got sick at a restaurant, and then we happened on one of those cartoons that is not intended for children. It was called Adventure Time. It’s probably a pretty inappropriate show, but the one and only episode we watched was hilarious. Eight years later we still regularly reference one scene from it which involved a character named “Party Pat.”

I hope you have random family experiences that are often remembered. I hope even more that you are taking new adventures.

I witnessed two brave adventurers in the last week.

I was walking on the Riverwalk path and in the distance saw a man running with a woman. From far away it looked like he had her on a leash. I thought, “No, that can’t be right. He can’t have her on a leash.” But he did. You know why? Maybe you are smarter than me and realized immediately why. She was blind. She was probably about sixty years old. She was out running on a hot day. What an adventurer!

Then we were in Nashville for baseball. Accessing the diamond from the parking lot was a little tricky. There were steps and a grassy hill to navigate. We ended up talking to an elderly gentleman escorted by his wife and daughter. He had just had back surgery and shoulder surgery. But he was determined to see his grandson play baseball. He clearly had an adventurous spirit. Do you?

I think the last year has normalized what should not be normal. It should not be normal to try to control how other people live. It should not be normal to consult “experts” about what you should and should not do. It should not be normal to binge on Netflix day after day. It should not be normal to stay home, or to learn via zoom. It should not be normal for people to ask about or even volunteer private health information. It should never be normal to live in fear.

We are all going to die. That fact should make us live more courageously, knowing our time is limited. Yet our toxic culture has attempted to persuade us that we can cheat death by cowering in our homes. Avoid death by not living? The irony!

The truth is every day is an adventure if we have the right mindset. The right mindset is to know that our life is in Christ.

Jesus said, “A thief comes to steal and kill and destroy; But I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10.

The blind runner and the determined fan were living abundantly. It’s inspiring to see what others can overcome. On the other hand, it’s kind of depressing to see what holds some people back. I want to be in the first group, and I have no excuse not to be.

I was reading through some commentary on the abundant life. There are too many facets to unpack here, but this is a good summation.

Life is a matter of degrees. Some have life, but it flickers like a dying candle, and is indistinct as the fire in the smoking flax; others are full of life, and are bright and vehement, like the fire upon the blacksmith’s forge when the bellows are in full blast. Christ has come that his people may have life in all its fullness.

Charles Spurgeon

May we all embrace life in all its fullness and not flicker like dying candles. Have a fabulously abundant weekend!

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Normalcy

Hey Friends,

I hope you’ve had an excellent week. I’m overjoyed by signs of normalcy. Two experiences in particular have made me smile with deep satisfaction these last few days.

Our church is now offering a fully masked service and a mask-optional service. Will and I attended the masked service so that we could teach Sunday school during the mask-optional hour. I’m the kind who rips the mask off the very second I can. I do not take two steps outside with it on.

However, my husband was unintentionally still wearing his mask fifteen full strides from the church door. We passed by a woman on the sidewalk who is in her eighties. We’ve met her, but do not know her well.

“Good morning,” Will said, cheerfully.

The woman’s eyes danced with amusement, and maybe even a hint of disdain. “Look at this guy,” she said, meeting my gaze. She was low key ripping him for wearing a mask. Her lack of fear made my day.

But Wednesday night was even better. We went to a small outdoor concert and nary a trace of fear was in the air. No one mentioned the vaccine or masks or acted nervous in any sense. It was all smiles and pure joy to soak up live music with strangers. Nothing about it felt different than a spring concert in 2019.

The last sixteen months have made me realize I’m pro many things, and anti many things. On some other issues, I just don’t have strong feelings one way or the other. But one aspect has become crystal clear: I’m vehemently anti-fear!

Maybe it’s because the Bible tells me to be. In fact, “fear not” is one of the central teachings of Scripture. A simple online search will yield a plethora of encouraging verses like this one:

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
‭‭Joshua‬ ‭1:9‬ ‭NIV‬‬

But the Bible has a pro side of fear too. It tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. We sometimes trip up on this concept. Yet a lack of reverence and awe for the Person who spoke creation into existence would be idiocy. How could you hope to have wisdom if you couldn’t even get over that tiny hurdle? We fear Him because He is in control and all-powerful. But wisdom convinces us that He loves, that He wants to give us good things, including peace. And we know that perfect love casts out fear. When you take a few minutes to reason through it, you recognize that it’s all a process that begins with fear of the Lord.

How can you apply God’s Word to be strong and courageous in your own life? How can you help those around you to overcome fear?

As Sinclair Ferguson summarized it so beautifully: “There is a fear that can deliver us from all other fears.”

Praying today that you know that fear. Have a fabulous weekend!

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: 10 Months, Trials

Hey Friends,

I hope you were either showered with love and appreciation for Mother’s Day, or did the showering. I had a wonderful weekend, other than missing our firstborn. But we got to have lunch with him yesterday and snag this scenic pic.

I’ve been pondering this season of motherhood when he is away at college. It struck me that it is a lot like the first season of mothering. The growth is so rapid. We brought Baby Dub home — my mother gave him that nickname in the hospital because she so despised my plan of calling him Wills — and right away there were a few bumps. That perfect looking baby with the mop of blonde hair literally started twitching on the ride home. It was disconcerting to say the least, and he continued to do it for months. Even with neurological tests they never figured out why. He also turned highlighter yellow from being so jaundiced. I stupidly thought he might just have my yellow-toned skin. Nope, that wasn’t it.

Yet ten months later he was walking, saying a word or two, and feeding himself cheerios. The rate of growth is mind boggling.

In a not dissimilar way, the last ten-ish months have also been a season of tremendous growth. On August 11th, as he and I rode together to Knoxville, we deleted him from Life360. He wouldn’t have access to my credit card. I wouldn’t have access to his driving speed or whereabouts. And there were bumps. He was quarantined four separate times. The first quarantine was imposed within 24 hours of arrival. He’d worked hard to be in shape for the start of his college swimming career and instead he spent his first ten days of college in his dorm room.

This spring he happened to rub his eyes one time when we were FaceTiming.

“Have you been taking your allergy medicine?” I asked, innocently.

“MOTHER!” he said. I understood. He had this. He grocery shopped and cleaned and studied and missed two weeks of class to travel with the swim team during championship season. In ten short months he learned to juggle it all, and keep his academic scholarship.

Then this morning he swam such a fast 200 freestyle at an Atlanta meet that he qualified to go to the Olympic Trials next month in Omaha.

If I let myself, I could sob just as hard as I did when we dropped him off in August — but these would happy, proud tears, instead of devastated ones grieving the end of a beloved era.

A person’s steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand their own way?

Proverbs 20:24 NIV

We can try to control our lives or the lives of other people, but the truth is our steps are directed by the Lord. The key is to trust His good, pleasing and perfect plan when you encounter trials like a twitching newborn and when that baby grows up and goes to Olympic Trials.

With Love,

Kristie