I hope wherever you are that things are springing up and blooming and bringing you encouragement. Isn’t it awesome that after even the darkest, foggiest, gloomiest winter days, spring always comes every single year, without fail? This cherry blossom with the sun rising in the background this morning lifted my spirits immensely.
And yesterday I got a sweet text from a friend and in it she said the simplest thing, but such an important truism, especially for the COVID era: “Grace for the moment — one day at a time.” Are you living one day at a time? Are you focusing on the grace of moment? It’s perfect advice. Find the most fantastic time of the day to capture a fabulous scene in your own yard. Savor the sound of your offspring laughing. Enjoy the simplest of pleasures like eating and walking with a purposeful spirit. Read the Psalms and contemplate God’s love and faithfulness. Grace for the moment —one day at a time. As A.W. Tozer said, faith is the gaze of the heart at God. Isn’t this exactly what we should be doing?
Now, if faith is the gaze of the heart at God, and if this gaze is but the raising of the inward eyes to meet the all-seeing eyes of God, then it follows that it is one of the easiest things possible to do. It would be like God to make the most vital thing easy.
It is easy, and yet we often prefer to fret than to raise our inward eyes. No matter how spiritually mature we are, or aren’t, raising our eyes is never our default mode. We must choose to lift our eyes, just like the Psalmist.
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
Praying you are keeping the faith and raising your eyes up to the hills. And may you know that your hope comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.
Well, we certainly can’t say time flies anymore can we? Time drags is our new reality. But it is Friday again, and so that feels like a victory. My guys are blessed to have a very interactive, robust virtual school day, but staring at a screen for hours is still a challenge. Sam and I have been going for bike rides during lunch and this sweet time is certainly a treasure.
I have lots of time to just pray, read and reflect. I spend most of my time doing the latter, honestly. And during this time of reflection it has occurred to me that life is never safe. It never has been and it never will be. We may live in denial, pretending that we are in control, but we never are. A few years ago I heard about a freak accident that happened at home. A sober, perfectly healthy dad and husband somehow fell down the stairs in his own home. His head injury was fatal. We are never safe, and we might as well start by acknowledging that is never our standard.
I should look back and see what percentage of blogs over these twelve years have mentioned a Pixar movie. So many lessons can be pulled from those delightful films. Do you remember when Marlin tells Dory that he promised nothing would ever happen to Nemo? Do you remember what Dory said?
You can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him.
Dory in Finding Nemo
I’m a little worried that the panic is creating a nation of Marlins. Because let’s be clear we are not eliminating viruses. We are always going to have people dying of them. Illnesses like Zika, Ebola, H1N1 pop up every now and then. Is this response now the standard? I honestly just don’t understand. Life isn’t safe. We say, “better safe than sorry” but we actually apply the spirit of this, not the law. We use common sense, not a legalistic mandate that is really just a platitude. I mean think about it, we could always be MORE safe than sorry. We risk being sorry all the time. We risk being sorry when we take ski vacations or swim in the ocean. We risk being sorry literally every time we leave the house, and even when we stay home, whether we acknowledge it or not, our risk is never zero.
Most of the analysis I come across is fatally flawed due to two false assumptions: (1) we can prevent death; and (2) we can make life safe. Honestly, I’d really like to hear this from some talking head:
Obviously, we are all going to die, and sadly the aged are statistically closer to dying. We also need to be ever-mindful that we can never make life safe for anyone, only God can do that. Given these realities, let’s look at our best projections…
Would that be refreshing or what?
In essence it is a spiritual problem: a stubborn defiance trying to control what only God can control.
Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.
Proverbs 19:21 NIV
I need to daily surrender my life. That’s actually not any more true now than it was in 2019, or at any other time. I am not in control and when I try to wrap my little fist around my life I only make myself miserable. I miss the peace that God wants for me. I have lived long enough to know that there is no security in hanging on tight. There is only peace in letting go, trusting Him that He has good things in store for me.
Praying that we will all live with eyes wide open to truth. We are going to die. We can never ensure our safety. And most importantly our loving God and Father is always on the Throne of Grace.
Do you long for intimate communion with the Father? Are you eager to experience God’s grace in all its glorious aspects? Do you desire to truly walk by the Spirit, not giving in to the pull of the world and the flesh? Do you yearn for God’s balm to heal the wounds of the past ? Would you like to face each day with quiet confidence and bold faith, fully prepared to cope with whatever it brings? All this and more — all the abundance of life promised by Christ —comes with surrender, my friend.
Kay Arthur, Lord, I Give You This Day
It’s true, my friends, all the abundance of life comes with surrender. Praying you know that.
I’ve been thinking about my go-to emotion. If some stranger were to yell at me, you know purely hypothetically, I would not cry or act hurt. I am much more likely to turn as mean as a snake and tear their head off verbally. Anger is my go-to emotion. About a week ago something happened that I don’t think has ever happened in my life. I woke up from what seemed a peaceful slumber as mad a hornet.
I’m not mad about the fact that we could all die. That was already a certainty. I’m mad about society’s reaction to it all. I feel disappointed that there are not many brave voices. The best piece I’ve read this week is this letter written by the president of Wake Forest. It is a wonderful letter and worth your time, but in it he says, “Every precaution needs to be taken.” And of course that’s just not true. I am desperate for some societal influencer to call a spade a spade. We never take every precaution. If we did, we’d always show up at the airport in hazmat suits, but I don’t know how we’d get there because if we took every precaution we’d ban automobiles. If we took every precaution we’d never have playdates or preschool, because as many as 600 children die of the flu every year.
The public shaming and condemnation of people willing to speak truth has wreaked havoc on our ability to thoughtfully engage about important topics. I have not heard one person point out that a century ago ventilators, even the “iron lung” model, did not yet exist. But in 2020 we have even the wisest among us say things like we need to take every precaution. With that logic, we need to have the capacity to intubate every American, and we need to irrevocably trash our economy to ensure we die of something other than COVID-19. And this is the course we are taking without meaningful debate. In fact, we simply cannot have meaningful debate because people are too afraid of being accused of being heartless. Once you pretend that we take every precaution, then there is nothing we will not do to save a single life.
The best antidote to my anger for almost thirty years is Will Jackson. He is steady as a rock, so intellectually thoughtful, and hilariously funny. He tempers all my frustrations with reasoned analysis and every single day he prays for me and makes me laugh. He’s been at the hospital every single day, working tireless hours, preparing for the worst, and he still exudes peace. We have almost three decades worth of inside jokes, and we are skilled at applying them to any situation that arises. Laughing with him is medicine for my soul. God was so so so good to give him to me. Prayers for his protection are greatly appreciated. I wish the world had a lot more like him. His courage, sacrifice and sense of duty are awe-inspiring. I so love that man.
This morning Will texted me a quote from My Utmost for His Highest:
The life of faith is not a life of mounting up with wings, but a life of walking and not fainting…[Abraham’s was the kind of faith] that has been tried and proved and has stood the test…a tried faith built on a real God. Abraham believed God.
Do you have a tried faith built on a real God? Are you, by God’s grace, walking and not fainting? I am praying this morning that the Christ-followers across the world will believe God. I’ve thought that my tombstone, should I have one, would say, “To live is Christ, to die is gain.” But maybe what would be better is: “Kristie believed God.”
Lord Jesus, please help this to be true. Help me to believe You. Help me to be strong and courageous. Help me to love others and know that you are the only Person who never disappoints. Help me not to feel angry about how disappointing people are. Help me to be ever-mindful instead of how disappointing I am. Thank you for loving me even in my very worst moments. Forgive my unbelief, and may I be salt and light in our fearful world. Amen.
“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.”
Psalm 91: 14-15 NIV
May we BELIEVE GOD today and every day, knowing He is with us in times of trouble, and always, even to the end of the age.
P.S. Another antidote for anger (or fear if that’s your go-to emotion) is singing hymns. I do this quite a bit using the website hymnal.net. A favorite of mine is Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross. Highly recommend.
I don’t usually post on a Wednesday but I have some thoughts to share amidst the hysteria. But first I want to talk about some old people I love.
Lord willing my Uncle Jack will turn 90 in October. He’s a stud. Just like my dad he was both an engineer and a fighter pilot. He’s been a faithful church member, caring for others, his whole life. My Uncle Jack and Aunt Ruth were our first family members to visit us at our new home in Tennessee four years ago. He cracked up that I was worried about him driving up the mountain. He also told me how he was repairing something under his lake house. I don’t know if you have an 80-something uncle who crawls under structures to make repairs, but I find it both stunning and inspiring. But can I be honest? Uncle Jack is going to die, and probably that won’t be too far in the future. I love him. I am in awe of him. But he’s going to die. Just like everyone else on this earth. We do not know the day or the hour, but we are all one day closer to death than we were yesterday. Make sure you know Jesus, and proceed with life. That is always, always, always THE answer.
Where I vacation I have a next door neighbor in her 80’s. She’s the cutest most delightful person I know. I don’t mean cute and delightful for an 80-year-old. I mean she is literally THE cutest, MOST delightful person I know. Would I hug her right now? Of course not. Would I ride in the elevator with her? Nope. I could drop supplies off at her door, but I will not get close to her because I will not risk getting her sick. We all know by now that a lot of transmissions of coronavirus are from people who have no symptoms.
So here’s the deal people: Be ready to die, and proceed with life. Use common sense and be respectful of those most vulnerable.
All that said, the shutdown of life strikes me as irrational and short-sighted. Old smokers from Italy are dropping like flies and somehow this translates into shutting down schools across America. Wait, what? How do you figure?
Let’s use some perspective. We all die. There is no way to avoid death. People literally die every day. I realize that’s a ridiculous statement but we are living in world that denies reality. We need to be reminded of the most basic of truths. No measures taken by society, however draconian, will prevent death. Think about all the ways people die. There are over 38,000 automobile fatalities a year. That’s 104 per day. Almost 4000 Americans were murdered in 2019. Heart disease kills 647,000 Americans per year, or more than 1,700 per day. There were over 70,000 fatalities from drug overdoses in 2017 in the U.S., and we all know how that’s trending. Obesity related deaths total 300,000 per year. In the last ten months there have been more than 60 vaping deaths. In 2009, an estimated 18,000 Americans died of H1N1. That pandemic didn’t tank the markets or life as we know it, and it wasn’t because people weren’t dying. How and when did this nonsense that we can avoid death take root? How can we witness deaths from so many causes, and yet be utterly obsessed with this one cause?
Mr. Rogers said his mother would encourage him in the midst of something scary to look for the helpers. And that’s great advice. There are always helpers. Unfortunately there are also always cowards and drama addicts. Look for them too and avoid them like the actual plague. Do not let their voices speak into your life. Pray for them. Have compassion on them — not easy for me, at all. Honestly I feel a lot of disdain for the cowards and the drama addicts, but I am trying.
I’ve been thinking about what someone like C.S. Lewis would say. We’ve probably all seen his sage advice about living in the age of the atomic bomb. I’m not sure what he’d say now, but I know he wouldn’t fall in line like a lemming. He’d have a few insights that we’d all be like, “Wow, now that you’ve said that, it seems so obvious.” And it wouldn’t be anything that’s been said before.
I wonder too what my dad would say. Roy Huber was the most solution-minded person I’ve ever known. He wouldn’t panic or complain. He’d be ready to die and he’d spend his quarantine time brainstorming about what might help. I had an idea that I think is kinda Roy-like. That’s the most boastful thing I’ve ever said in my life, but hear me out. You know how there’s a Do Not Call National Registry? I think we should start a different kind of registry. It would require that Americans 75 and over register for a Do Everything List. If you do not register for the Do Everything List, then we will assume you are DNI (Do Not Intubate). I think that immediately solves the care rationing problem, faster than ordering more respirators. If it doesn’t, then we lower the age. I think a lot of older Americans — who are educated about what being intubated would be like — will thoughtfully and selflessly choose not to be on the Do Everything List. If it gets bad enough, I am happy to be DNI so that some youngster can live.
I’m 48 years old. I’ve lived more than half my life. It has been a life of blessing upon blessing, grace upon grace, and enough sorrow to help me not take it for granted. If the most pessimistic among us are the ones who get this right, by all means please save the youngster. I’d like to finish raising my sons and maybe see Israel or something, but truly, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If you know the Creator of the world, who is the One who loves you more than anyone on this earth ever could, then what do you have to fear?
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
Philippians 1:21 NIV
DISCLAIMER: THE OPINIONS EXPRESSED IN THIS POST ARE MY OWN AND IN NO WAY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF ANY HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL I MAY KNOW, INTIMATELY OR OTHERWISE.
P.S. Read and meditate on the Psalms, especially 46 and 91.
P.S.S. Praise God for the brilliance of scientists working on the vaccine and pray that they complete their work in record time. The H1N1 vaccine was available just a few months after it reared its ugly head — which is so encouraging!
Well, the bottom fell out of regular life this week. Last Saturday night, Will and I saw Jim Breuer in concert and laughed till our faces hurt. Sunday we went to church, taught Sunday school, and went to Nate’s basketball banquet. Monday we went to Nate’s first baseball game. Tuesday we went to Sam’s band concert — he plays the trumpet. Wednesday we went to Dub’s last high school swim banquet, and then I led my high school girls’ small group. Guess what? Not one of those things can occur in our new reality. Not one. No school. No sports. No small groups. No concerts. Life will be different than it’s ever been in our lifetimes. Of course none of this means that even now I can run out of things for which to give thanks, and I bet you can’t either.
Besides always giving thanks for our innumerable blessings, we know that God is still in control. And the best thing we can do is unchanged: stand strong in the Lord and earnestly seek Him.
The great need of the hour among persons spiritually hungry is twofold: first, to know the Scriptures, apart from which no saving truth will be vouchsafed by our Lord; the second, to be enlightened by the Spirit, apart from whom the Scriptures will not be understood.
May the result of extra time be knowing Scripture better and being more enlightened by the Spirit. I am praying that many, including me, will emerge from this time closer to the steadfast, unchangeable Lover of our souls.
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.
It’s a glorious sunny day on my mountain and I’m ecstatic that it is almost time to resume my daily aim to spend as much time outside as possible. Today is not that day though because the wind is a little much, but soon I’ll park myself on this little bench to read most mornings.
I’ve been thinking a lot about fear lately. Are you a fearful person? It’s not a huge struggle of mine. I don’t like being far away from my sons — a trip to California without them for three days was about my limit. But mostly I’m not the kind of person who is consumed by fear. I have watched the world react to the Coronavirus, and I honestly have a hard time relating. For one thing, I truly believe that to live is Christ, but to die is gain. I am not at all looking forward to the process of dying, but I am looking forward to heaven and know for sure I’ve lived well more than half my life. Plus, we had the swine flu in 2009 and COVID-19 is much less deadly than that. I’m astonished by the disproportionate level of utterly freaking out.
Honestly though, I just think it’s weird to not be ready to die. All the hype about pandemics flies around Monday night, and then hours later a tornado barrels into Tennessee and kills two dozen people. I mean, we are going to die somehow, some way. It’s illogical to me that people know they can’t guarantee another breath, but avoid thinking about what happens when they die. See, that would make me fearful. Terrified actually.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” is such a familiar verse, but Ferguson’s well-put corollary had never occurred to me. I loved it so much that I had to find it. I found it in Ferguson’s sermon based on Psalm 91. Every word of the sermon is worthwhile, it contains many profound and timely truths. But even though this post is a little longer than usual, I really want to share three more specific quotes.
By God’s grace, God’s Word [draws the] spiritually-inexperienced individual from gazing at himself and his fears to gazing upon the Lord and His strength.
God’s Word is living and active, when we soak ourselves in it we are re-centered, replacing self-absorption with reverent awe. We can rest in God’s good and perfect will without mandating any particular outcome. Just like the song I sang over my babies: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in his wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.”
You are not sufficient in yourself and you need to learn the art of strategic retreat into the Lord to deliver you from your fears.
Ferguson credits a mentor of his for coining the term “the art of strategic retreat,” and it is a wonderful phrase. When the stresses of life push down on you, do you know the art of strategically retreating into the Lord? I am learning more and more to run to His loving and faithful arms when challenges come. Sometimes that looks like just sitting still and asking Him to be near me.
But, you see, if you are crippled by fear you don’t even enjoy your food, or your friends, or your family, or your life. But when there is this sweet filial fear of the Lord, then He gives us everything to enjoy.
Is this not our 2020 world? What a victory for Satan to get people to be so fearful that they stop enjoying the gifts God has given us. To quote Heather Land, the comedian who does that crazy filter, “I Ain’t Doin It!” I’m not going to live in fear and stop enjoying my family, my friends, my food or my life. I’m not going to stop enjoying His creation either. That’s not to say I won’t get this virus, or that I won’t die from it, but until I do I’m enjoying the many many gifts God has given me. Shouldn’t we all?
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
May we choose to dwell in the shelter of the Most High this weekend and always.
Do you ever feel like you are just on a streak of sucking? That’s been my story this week. I have said things and done things and thought things that make me so so grateful for grace. I cannot fathom the terror of living in a world where karma was the only force. We’d all be so screwed. Instead, I am sitting on my couch watching snow pour down. It’s a lovely symbol of how God’s love washes away our sins, even the most crimson of stains.
One of my crimson stains this week involved inflicting harm on a stranger, Brad. Will and I were leaving a valet-only establishment, and poor unsuspecting Brad pulled Will’s car around. When I opened the passenger side door, I was overcome by the smell of cigarette smoke — a smell I detest and have a sensitivity for.
My first mistake, and it was a stupid one, was to audibly say, “Woah!”
Will, still near the rear of the car and Brad standing by the open driver door, both heard me.
Will said, “Woah what? What’s up?”
I tried to brush him off and just not answer, especially with Brad there, but Will asked again. “What’s the deal?”
Since I had not ridden there with him, I decided to try to play it off as a joke about Will.
“Just wondering if you took up smoking?” I laughed.
Poor Brad then said: “Oh, I didn’t smoke in the car. I smoked earlier, but not in the car.”
Will, trying to cover for me, God bless him, said, “No worries, my friend.”
Then Brad stabbed me in the heart by saying, “Smoking is one of the biggest regrets of my life.”
Can you please pray Brad is able to give up smoking? Can you please pray that Brad, although I’m unlikely to ever see him again, will forgive me? Sixty seconds of an unpleasant aroma did not in any way require me to react like some kind of a shrew.
We chatted with Brad for a few more minutes and Will gave him a ten spot, but how exactly do you make such an exchange right?
I’m not sure you do. The damage was done. The Bible tells us that the tongue is like the rudder of a ship. It’s tiny relative to the whole, but so powerful.
How would you rate your rudder control this week? Have you used words to encourage and lift up? Or have you instead been loose lipped with resultant undeniable damage like me?
“All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” James 3:7-10 NIV
May we be ever mindful of the power of our tongue, and use it to continually praise our Lord and Father.
P.S. Except for posting this on Facebook today, I’m going to stay off social media for Lent. So if that’s the way you usually link to my blog, you’ll have to just check the website on Fridays: http://www.kristieejackson.com or hit the subscribe button and it’ll be emailed to you.
P.S.S. I’d love to know your favorite Lenten readings/devotionals. My favorite is the one pictured above, From the Grave by A.W. Tozer. If you are willing to share yours please put it in a comment here on blog, not Facebook.