Jackson Five Friday: Identity Politics

Hey Friends,

First of all, let me begin by saying I do not have a firm grasp of the meaning nor the breadth of the term “identity politics.” I just know that being part of group can be fun.  It can give us a sense of belonging.  It can lead us to like-minded people with similar outlooks and experiences.  But the healthiest people I know are the people whose identity source is the most myopic: their identity is found in Jesus.  They may be part of many different groups, but the core of their identity is being a child of God.

This week in history is a particularly good week to re-evaluate how we derive our identity.  Since my life is divinely orchestrated, it just so happens that my Bible study addressed this precise issue in Wednesday’s lesson. The study is by Julie Sparkman and in it she talks about how we sometimes act like orphans.  I have never thought about it like that before, but it’s true.  When we forget that we are a child of the One True King — the King who has never once left the throne and never will — we act like orphans.  We behave as though it is all up to us, that we need to orchestrate everything in life.  Acting like an orphan is an exhausting and futile endeavor.  Where in your life have you been guilty of acting like an orphan?

Like many moms, the achilles that trips me up the most is my family.  I strive for a level of control that is simply not possible.  I love my boys so much and want the best for them so desperately that I habitually forget that I cannot produce any result.  We can lead our children to good streams (our church, their school, our sports community, our home library are all wonderful resources for them), but we cannot make them drink.

I wish motherhood was my only orphan-minded example, but it’s not.  It makes no sense but there are lots of areas where I act like I am in charge of making things happen.  In sharp contrast are the words of Jesus in John 15:4-5.

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

The mere mention of the word “abide” always reminds me of one of my all-time favorite hymns.  The best version of it I’ve ever heard was Alison Kruass at The National Prayer Breakfast years ago, but sadly I can’t find any recording of it.  But these lyrics are so centering for me, such a comfort when “darkness deepens.”  If you don’t know it, you can teach it to yourself on hymnal.net.

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see—
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour;
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies;
Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

I hope you find your identity not in politics, not in being part of any group, but instead claiming the redemptive work Jesus did for you on the cross and resting in the truth that He loves you so much He died for you.  May we choose to turn to Him each and every day, asking Him to “Shine through the gloom and point [us] to the skies.”

With Love,

Kristie

p.s. The gloomy picture above is from a few minutes ago, but I know God is with me through cloud and sunshine! Of course I’m still praying for the sun to burst forth as quickly as possible!

Jackson Five Friday: Trench Lessons

Hey Friends,

Pixar movies aren’t a weekly part of our existence anymore, and part of me is sad about that. I loved hanging on the couch with a huge bowl of popcorn and watching movies with guaranteed laughs. Finding Nemo is one that we still regularly quote.

Then last Sunday I heard a sermon, that while not making any reference to Nemo, nonetheless got me thinking about a particular scene. Do you remember when the John Ratzenberger character warns the Ellen Degeneres character, Dory: “When you come to the trench, be sure to go through it, not over it.” Despite the fact that Dory makes assurances she won’t forget this explicit instruction, when they approach the trench she’s oblivious and yells out, “Nice trench!”

Dory ends up telling her travel companion, Marlin, she has a feeling they should go through the trench, but Marlin is not persuaded. They proceed over it, which they soon find is infested with jellyfish.

You may be wondering how this relates to the sermon. Well, the sermon was on sustaining grace, in other words, the truth that sometimes God gives us the grace to endure instead of the grace to escape. My pastor didn’t use the word “trench,” but he could have. Don’t you have examples from your own life where God’s grace has been THROUGH THE TRENCH, NOT OVER IT!?

If I had heard the same sermon — delivered powerfully and eloquently the way I did last Sunday — when I was a teenager or an early twenty-something, I doubt it would have impacted me at all. The concept of enduring grace was foreign to me, downright gibberish.

But once you’ve faced a trial or two, and the longer you the live the more you’ll face, you begin to understand the language.

But grasping the language is only part of the hurdle. You may theoretically understand that God sometimes sustains you in difficult situations instead of delivers you. You can acknowledge it with a heart of stone.

But when you can embrace enduring grace instead of insisting on “get me outta here” grace, then you are living a yielded life where no bitter root can take hold. You can be a sponge that soaks up the lessons God has for you even in the midst of pain and uncertainty.

That is my prayer today because I’m standing at the entry of a trench and my strong inclination is to try to maneuver my way over it, instead of through it.

And I know you too have circumstances where you are praying for some kind of change and yet God is instead offering You enduring grace.

I’ll leave you with two thoughts. First, never give up praying about whatever it is. And second, never give up trusting that His grace –whether sustaining or delivering — is enough.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Beyond Superficiality

Hey Friends,

It’s actually Saturday –Friday kinda got away from me. Anyway this morning is unbelievably gorgeous. It’s 71 degrees under clear skies, with a lovely and uncommon little breeze. Maybe the breeze is somehow connected to Florence, I don’t know. How odd to be sitting on my front porch beholding such glory when just one state away there is such devastating destruction. Praying for all those affected.

I wish I could post about my sons. They say the most hilarious things. And I’d love to quote them and then pull out some spiritual lesson. It’s been one of my favorite things to do now for over ten years here on the blog. But sadly they’ve reached the age that they do not want to be quoted on my blog. And I get that. I really do. Still, it’s a little sad to have such an abundance of material and yet refrain.

I will say though that I am generally very proud of their depth of thought. Richard Foster said, and this was decades before Twitter, that “Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.”

Are you blessed to have some deep thinkers in your life? Are you helping those around you to move beyond the superficial? One of my sons is less naturally contemplative than the others. Sometimes his analysis of an idea feels a millimeter deep. Who is better equipped to help him engage more meaningfully than me? It’s certainly part of every parents’ job to help their children move beyond superficial thought. We cannot get inside their minds but we can point the way. The question is how.

The answer, like so many answers, isn’t just found in the Bible. Of course the Bible has the answer and in various locations! What’s amazing is how many answers to living the Christian life are found in a single chapter. Romans 12 is a beautiful summation of living a Christ-like life. I think every Christian should know it inside out.

Romans 12:2a says “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Can I take a stab at an amplified paraphrase?

Stop letting the superficial, talking-point, buzz-word rhetoric get in your head. Just stop. Instead spend time alone with God and in His Word and in His Creation. Your life is transformed when your mind is renewed. Guess what never once renewed a mind? Social media, movies, friends, or even good books. Faithful friends and good books are important. But they do not renew your mind. The renewing of your mind is a work of the Spirit. Stop mindlessly conforming and let Him transform you.

Praying for a weekend at least sprinkled with quiet moments before the Lord.

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: What’s for Dinner?

Hey Friends,

Hope the back-to-school season is going swimmingly.  So far it is for us.  Since all three sons are now at one school, and we have a fully licensed driver and another with a permit, things feel a little less complicated.  Sports are part of the school day.  Sam goes directly to swim practice instead of being home for a while and then swimming or doing something else.  This simple shift in schedule has dramatically improved our lives.  Sitting down to dinner flows naturally.  They walk in the door hungry and I’ve been doing a pretty good job of having dinner ready to go.  We can linger at the table because no one has anywhere to be.  Evening obligations — games and meets — will creep back in in a few months, but right now I am loving the get-home-and-stay-home routine.

As Henri Nouwen writes “a really peaceful and joyful meal together belongs to the greatest moments of life,” and I agree.  I honestly don’t think the importance of this time spent together can be overstated.  In our house food makes people happy and chatty.  There is little in life as satisfying as winsome and chatty sons.

How are you and yours doing with indulging in peaceful, joyful meals?  It’s not really about the food.  Although, tasty nourishing meals certainly don’t hurt.  And obviously phones and other distractions need to be put away.  But mostly it’s just about the people.  It’s about undivided attention and continually pointing those we love to the ways of Christ.

The Bible says that we are to teach our children to love the Lord our God, to walk in obedience to Him and to hold fast to Him.  When are we supposed to do this?  At church on Sundays?  Family devotional time?  No.  Deuteronomy 11:19 says, “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”  In other words, all the time.  And think of how few distractions and outside influences people had in the days of Deuteronomy!  People of that time weren’t bombarded 24/7 with the lie that stuff would make them happy, but still God commanded that the truth be shared over and over and over again.  All day.  Every day.

Parenthood is a high calling!  May I be faithful to the task!

Praying for you as well.  May this weekend include some peaceful and joyful meals seasoned with laughter and lots of truth sharing.

With Love,

Kristie

P.S. I took the picture of the schweineschnitzel above because I had made so much of it, and I wanted to see how much would be leftover.  Any guesses?

Jackson Five Friday: Sing!

Hey Friends,

Today would be my dad’s 86th birthday and I love thinking about him. I love thinking about how much he adored Will and how he’d be so enthralled with our sons. I love thinking about how maybe I’m a tiny bit like him. One way I know I’m like him is that as brilliant as he was, song lyrics were not his forte. My mom, on the other hand, was a sponge for lyrics. She knew every verse to obscure hymns, and then marveled that others did not.

“You don’t know that one either?” she’d say. “Mmhh.”

She’d laugh about how my dad could hardly recall the words to even the most familiar hymns. I too am a consistent butcher of lyrics, but I do try harder with hymns. In fact, in the last year or so I’ve discovered a solution for this inherited defect: http://www.hymnal.net.

Just this morning I sat on my front porch and used this website to sing all the right words to “May the Mind of Christ My Savior” and “Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross.” Do you ever get to behold the glory of a new morning and sing God’s praises alongside creation? I can tell you I’ve never once regretted carving out time to do so.

In Luke 19, in the midst of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the Pharisees tell Jesus, in essence, “Silence these people who are praising you.” Do you remember how He answers them? He says, “If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (v. 40).

Do you think that still applies today? I do. Many times throughout Scripture we are commanded to sing our praises to the Lord. Are you obeying this command? Or are you leaving it up to the rocks? I am praying that I never keep quiet.

Obedience is a way in which we demonstrate our love for Jesus, but when we obey we often find an unexpected blessing. We may start to observe the Sabbath out of obedience, or to live according to God’s Word in some specific area, but we quickly find that instead of being a burden it’s spiritually, physically and emotionally beneficial. The same is true for singing God’s praises. You will be feeding truth into your life (See last week’s post, among others, for the importance of constantly and actively telling ourselves the truth).

So give hymnal.net a try. There are classics and newer songs too. I’d love to know a couple of your favorites. Maybe I’ll add them to my rotation, and I won’t even have to struggle like my dad with the lyrics!

With Love,

Kristie

Jackson Five Friday: Don’t Listen Up

Hey Friends,

There’s a lot of terrible advice in the world. But the worst might be to listen to yourself, to go with your heart. What?!? How in the world did that concept even take flight? The heart is an unreliable, even deceitful source. Newspapers are full of people who went with their heart, as are jails. Instead what we need, in this postmodern era more than ever, is truth. Let’s not be silly and pretend that the what springs from our hearts is truth. My own default message is far from it. It says things like “You need to do more. You need to be more. You don’t measure up. You need to be more like him. Why can’t you look like her?”

Recently, while on vacation, I had occasion to hear a pastor that didn’t instantly wow me. I sat there almost irked that his thoughts were scrambled, that he was using a well-known passage and pulling out points any Tom, Dick or Harry could. My inner mean girl sighed in frustration. I am not telling you this because I’m proud of it. I am telling you because it’s the ugly truth.

But it was at that moment that he inserted two quotes that immediately softened my hard, unteachable heart. The first quote was from Paul Tripp who said, “No one talks to you more than you do.” I mean, we know that’s true, but we don’t often stop to think about the implications of this truth. The second quote was from Martyn Lloyd-Jones who said:

Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?

The old SNL skit almost had it right. Do you remember Stuart Smalley? A sweatered Al Franken stares into a mirror and gives himself a self-help pep talk, ending with the phrase, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.”

Obviously the talking to yourself that Lloyd-Jones is recommending is not the empty, buck-up words of Smalley, but the life-giving truth of the gospel.

The truth that you are created in the very image of God, that you are beloved, that nothing could ever change that.

Henri Nouwen summarizes it so beautifully:

Every time you feel hurt, offended, or rejected, you have to dare to say to yourself: ‘These feelings, strong as they may be, are not telling me the truth about myself. The truth, even though I cannot feel it right now, is that I am the chosen child of God, precious in God’s eyes.’

So are you being passive, listening to yourself? Or you being active listening to the still small voice? Are you raising the volume of the voice of Truth by taking every thought captive and fueling your inner dialogue with the eternal truth of Scripture?

I am learning to listen to myself less and less and talk to myself more. One way I do this is to write this blog, so thank you for lending an ear to what I tell myself!

May you have a blessed weekend telling yourself that you are beloved. It is the truth!

With Love,

Kristie

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭10:5‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Jackson Five Friday: Rooted

Hey Friends,

I’ve spent my morning in a coffee shop on Main Street in Chattanooga. It’s more bustling and delicious than Starbucks. There are fresh flowers in a tin pot on my table. The exposed brick walls, dim lighting and soft music create an inviting vibe. Plus, I ordered yummy grit cakes with kale and poached eggs for breakfast. All very lovely, but what’s really filling my cup is a few minutes ALONE to read and think and write a few words. Summer is my favorite season, but by its end I’m ready for this–quiet, contemplative mornings in coffee shops.

Sam is currently at orientation for middle school, Nate turned fifteen last week, and Dub is looking at colleges. Nate is my most talkative child and it feels like just a few minutes ago that I’d pick him up from preschool. He’d be so anxious to tell me all about what he’d learned, sharing fun details about his classmates and his beloved Miss Nancy. I’d kneel so we’d be eye to eye and he’d know he had my full attention. He was such a darling and entertaining child. Now I need to look up, way up, to meet his gaze and it’s legal for him to start driving! What on earth?

But don’t you think the tender and attentive love of a mother for a child is beautiful thing? Have you considered that God’s love is even better? Our Heavenly Father metaphorically kneels to meet us eye-to-eye. He willingly and humbly engages just at our level. His tenderness is perhaps evident most in the incarnation itself. He gave up heaven to come to earth, to show us how to live. Then in His death He paid for all our sins. God’s love is perfect. He never fails.

As I relish this quiet morning, my prayer is that my boys will know that they are loved by God in a tender and attentive way. That this truth will be the anchor of their lives.

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”

‭‭Colossians‬ ‭2:6-7‬ ‭

Being rooted in Christ paints a picture of being firmly attached, being fed and nourished in an organic way. It’s an ideal in sharp contrast to the way of the world. Henri Nouwen writes about being haunted by the question of whether if anyone truly knew him they’d still love him. He wrote, “That agonizing question, rooted in my inner shadow, kept persecuting me and made me run away from the very place where that quiet voice calling me the Beloved could be heard.”

Where are you rooted? And can you hear the quiet voice calling you Beloved?

With Love,

Kristie