Tuesday, December 20, 2011


As the sole surviving son of a sole surviving son, the importance of my family name and the mortality of it have been ever-present companions that have served as major sources of motivation compelling me to live my life with the greatest degree of honor and righteousness possible. From my earliest days, the name “Jackson” has provided the heartbeat of my identity, the soundtrack of my daily stride and the backbone of resilience I have often needed when facing the toughest circumstances of my life. Of course, my faith in the Jesus Christ and living for the glory of His Name ultimately define me and shape all I am and all I do. Nevertheless, in His sovereignty, He gave me the heritage of the name Jackson and I have done my best to advance and protect it!

Then I became the father of daughters – only daughters. With that great blessing and tremendous responsibility I knew that I would have to live beyond the superficiality of the syllables of my name, because the name in which I took such pride in cultivating, guarding and promoting would die. Instead, I had to focus on the Foundation under the name, the Power behind the name and the Substance that actually made the name a source of beauty, honor and goodness. I had to live a life before my wife, daughters and the world that demonstrated what the Bible calls the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control”. In other words, I had to live for God to bring glory to His Name realizing that there is no glory apart from Him. I had to let “Jackson” go. BUT GOD…

God had a surprise in store for me! What an unimaginable blessing it was to learn that the daughter of my heart, the daughter of the love of my life’s flesh, the little girl Luz and I raised together who is now a godly, honorable, strong woman navigating the course of life God has appointed for her was bearing our first grandchild. What an unexpected honor it was to learn that she and our son through marriage, Mike, had decided to give their son a name that would serve to carry on the legacy of our family name to the next generation!

It is with the utmost joy, and almost uncontainable pride that I share with you the name of our first-born grandchild:


God is truly good regardless of our circumstances! I thank Him for His mercy in giving us such wonderful gifts in our children who have internalized and actualized the values we have shared and who are now blessing us by passing the baton of our heritage to the next generation! Go get ‘em Jackson! You’ve got a great name with which to live and the Greatest Name with whom to walk! Your adventure has now begun! Until Next time…


Monday, December 19, 2011

New Blog Post Faith In Living Color - 22 years of Friendship

On a hot December afternoon at the Balut Base of Youth With a Mission, Philippines, I expressed my love and devotion for Maria-Luz Bautista de Jackson y Roda to the entire world and took her to be my lawfully wedded wife. The emotions of the day are powerfully etched in my mind, though some of the details are blurred together as the enormity of the commitment I was making blended events, sights and sounds into a giant collage that makes details difficult to distinguish years later. Nevertheless, I clearly remember the beauty of my bride, the innocence of my children and my eagerness to live with and love my new family for as long as the Lord allowed me to live.

The 22 years that have followed have been sweet and blessed. Of course, we as a family have experienced the full span of human drama and challenge that life in this world brings. Nevertheless, we have seen the faithfulness of the Lord in every circumstance and trial and count ourselves blessed to have experienced much deliverance and mercy through the hands of our friends. It is in the context of community that our marriage has been able to grow, mature and endure. We are not islands unto ourselves neither as individuals nor as families. We need friends and loved ones to encourage us, to rally us and to lift us up so that we can face life’s challenges with confidence and courage.

It is for that reason as Luz and I celebrate 22 years of marriage, we want to especially celebrate your friendship us. We thank you for standing with us, standing for us, and cheering us on as our family continues to grow and as we press on in the service of the Lord. We give God the glory and praise for 22 years of marriage and we salute you for helping to make such a celebration possible through your love! We prayerfully look forward to more years of walking with you and glorifying God together in all of life’s celebrations and challenges! What would we do without you! Thank you for being our friends! Until next time….


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

7 years of Victory I just can't ignore!

Almost exactly 7 years ago to the very minute I find myself recording this precious memory, our youngest daughter, Victoria, was born prematurely at St. John Hospital in Detroit, Michigan. She weighed in at a tiny 1lb, 13ounces and with the loudest cry she could muster, let out a victorious squeak to announce her arrival to the world. We were comforted by the confidence and skill of an amazing NICU unit and by an ultimate confidence in Our Lord who would see us through this challenge whatever the outcome might be. As we gazed on our newest family member, Luz and I were full of awe at her tiny, yet beautiful frame and looked on with wonder that someone so small could survive such an ordeal. After her first day of life, the reality of the situation was made clear to us. We were warned to not necessarily expect a great outcome. We were briefed on a number of complications that might cling to her for life - if she continued to live. The bleak news was not really news to us as we suffered the loss of another daughter under similar circumstances less than two years before. After having our parade of joy thoroughly soaked with the rain of troubling news and the reality of a painful past what could we do? We did the only thing that was possible and sensible for us to do - we trusted in the Lord. We would cherish this victory for as long as possible and in the midst of great angst, we would somehow enjoin His comfort and presence according to the admonition of Philippians 4:6,7
...do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Jesus had proven Himself faithful to us in every situation we had ever faced - horrible and wonderful - and we were compelled by the knowledge of His faithfulness to trust in Him and walk in His peace regardless of outcomes or circumstances. We hurled ourselves in our weakness on the Everlasting Arms, and experienced the Lord's strength and sustenance over a 3-month period that saw Victoria venture perilously near Death's Door and that saw us exposed in our helplessness, fearfulness and complete powerlessness over our circumstances. God does not help those who help themselves, but rather delights in upholding those who realize they bring nothing to "the table" – His strength perfected in our weakness.

At one point of our struggle, we were running on “emotional empty” and we were the absolute portrait of pitiful. Luz was confined to a wheelchair in her healing process as I bumped her along on crutches having severely sprained my ankle trying to blow off some steam on a short run. As we made our way to the NICU, eyes dropped and the pity people felt towards us was almost tangible. I thought to myself, "I know there are lower lows, but this situation feels absolutely subterranean." Yet somehow, as we watched our brave little soldier fight on for her life, the power of God was manifested in her struggle and we became comforted and encouraged.

The battle would rage for 3 long months. There would be highs and lows, setbacks and gains, and most frightfully a condition that nearly killed our lovely Victoria in a pitched, 72-hour fight for life. In the end, our Savior prevailed and mercifully pulled her through. One surgery and a short period of healing later, the Victory was won! We were beside ourselves with praise and thanksgiving! We had felt an undeniable urge to see God's Victory in this most challenging situation and the Lord had mercifully extended His grace to us and given us the blessing and benefit of bringing our Victoria home!

I have shared this story many times, but feel compelled it share it over and over again. When I'm tempted to feel as if nothing is going my way, I'm forced to remember this monumental God-moment in my life. I can’t help it – He’s so good!

Some of you walked with us during those trying and terrifying days. Many of you have only heard us recount the story of our youngest miracle. In whichever category you are, I thank you for standing with us! Your love and support then and now through new adventures of faith will never be forgotten! Nevertheless, I challenge you to take the time to remember all that God has done for you and to give Him the glory while you still have breath. Furthermore, I urge you to thank those who have walked with you in the tough times and challenge you to make the effort to walk alongside others who need to experience the comfort you yourself have received. As for me, I cannot help but cry out with gratitude: Thank you, Lord, for 7 years of Victoria and for the living testimony she provides of your mercy, faithfulness and love. Thank you for faithful friends who shave stood by us, prayed for us and walked with us through every trial. Thank you, Lord, for your loving presence when all else fails and when even our best friends seem nowhere to be found. Lord, I thank you for everything! To You Lord, be the Glory! Blessings on you my friends! Let’s just praise the Lord! Until next time...


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Letting Go and Trusting God

I had never seen her look more beautiful. My second oldest daughter, Maris was in her bridal suite alone. All the attendants were gone, while her bridesmaids, her mother and sisters were all lined up and ready to begin the wedding procession from the church foyer. I was alone with her enjoying the special privilege the father of a bride has in seeing the woman of honor in all her splendor before she is presented to the world and her groom. We shared a few funny thoughts and a few serious ones as well before we received our cue to begin our regal march down the aisle.

As the familiar strains of the wedding march piped through the organ, Maris and I began our trek towards the altar. As we stylish strode forward, it almost seemed as if all the major scenes of her life as a little girl, adolescent, teenager and young adult flashed through my mind. When we arrived at the end of our short journey, my dear friend Dr. Ken Render opened the ceremony reminding us of the sweet but solemn purpose for which we were assembled and eventually asked the question every father dreads to hear: “Who gives this woman to be married to this man?” The question rattled around in my head for a moment, resting on the eventuality of an answer that was as obvious as it was succinct – “Her mother and I.” I answered. With that answer, I gently took her hand and placed it directly into the hands of Stephen, the man destined to take the lead in standing for her and by her in all of the varied experiences in life. My role had changed. My life was changed. My daughter was now in the hands of another whom I had to trust. Nevertheless, as I looked up at the altar in front of which my friend stood and remembered what it represented, I knew where my ultimate trust was placed.

The Lord in Whose presence they changed vows was the same Lord Who had sustained our Maris in an amazing assortment of tests and storms. He was the same Lord Who had guided her mother and I through periods of seemingly unbearable anguish and upheld us in unbelievable times of challenge and difficulty. This same Jesus had never abandoned us in our most desperate despair and I knew as I initially watched and later myself officiated my daughter’s marriage ceremony that He would prove just as faithful to her and her groom. This “great and terrible” day that I alternately loved and hated was a potent reminder of the eternal being of our God and the imperative that rests upon all people to depend on Him and Him alone.

Just as the nature of my relationship with my daughter Maris has changed, life in general changes and continues to present a never-ending cavalcade of new situations, circumstances and dispositions with which all people must cope. In the midst of such fluidity, I take great comfort in this unshakeable truth: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Malachi 3:6 reaffirms this truth with the Lord God’s words, “For I am the LORD, I do not change.” As we approach the end of another year and face the uncertainty of 12 unseen months ahead, take confidence in the steady, unchanging hand of the Lord. He is faithful. He is trustworthy. He is dependable. He can be counted on! Hard times may await you, and trials may rage against you with the intensity of a pounding surf, but take heart in the knowledge that a good and gracious God will uphold you and supply you abundantly with His grace and comfort if you will only trust Him. Because of this, I can let go of my daughter’s hand, knowing that the Everlasting Arms will ultimately provide all the strength and protection needed for every situation that awaits her. Are you ready to let go? Put your trust in the Lord and let Him lead you to the next step and beyond for His glory and His Kingdom. Until next time…


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ichabod U: Glory, Righteousness and College Athletics

“Upon the fields of friendly strife are sown the seeds that, upon other fields, on other days, will bear the fruits of victory.” Douglas MacArthur’s matchless prose explaining the heart of collegiate athletics at West Point drives home the guiding principle that most college sports programs have long abandoned in pursuit of gold and glory: Collegiate sports must exist at the core for the purpose of bearing fruit that will benefit the rest of society as a whole. Athletic excellence is not an end unto itself, but a pathway to a profound understanding of strength and weakness and victory and defeat leading to the development of character for the benefit of the nation and the world. The processes that produce athletic glory are pointless if they do not at the same time develop consistent moral courage, uncompromising virtue and committed sacrificial leadership.

As the Penn State scandal unfolds, it is undeniable that the purpose of College Athletics at Happy Valley has been hijacked, corrupted and sold to the highest bidder. Nevertheless, as I level those charges, I feel the need to inspect my own soul, and the soul of our nation’s entertainment driven culture. It is far too easy to point fingers lambaste Penn State’s football program as an Evil Empire, when in truth it is a powerful reflection of how our culture as a whole has elevated the achievement of athletic glory as the penultimate indicator of success and accomplishment. When winning athletic contests and heroics on the fields of play serve as the best indicators of manhood, leadership and public service, all other measures of behavior and social contribution will suffer, no matter how many poster-sized checks with large numbers written on them are held up as indicators to the contrary.

Innocent young children were lured in under the pretense of trust and protection for the primary purpose of unspeakable violation and victimization. These crimes occurred under the umbrella of the Hero Status athletic victory affords. Even when the crimes were exposed, the need to win and protect athletic records spoke louder than the need to seek justice, love mercy and to walk humbly before God. This hellacious flip-flop did not occur overnight. It has occurred slowly, subtly and gradually. What began as educators seeing a need to ensure that students weren’t only exercising their brains at College, but learned to develop as whole persons physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually has been obliterated over time as the love of money has choked out any direct connection between education and athletics. If Joe can make touchdowns and draw the crowds, who cares what happens behind close doors? The families that have been devastated by an unhindered sexual predator, that’s who, and anyone who hasn’t bowed down and compromised themselves and their very souls to the idols of athletic entertainment.

In the Bible, a sad historical account is given of the prophet Eli’s failure to address the evil committed by his own two sons, even as he served as Israel’s prophet with the direct responsibility of speaking into the nation’s well-being on all matters, especially those relating to righteousness and justice. His sons were also members of the nation’s spiritual leadership, and possessed full knowledge of the responsibilities and burdens their positions carried. Nevertheless, they chose to live lives of debauchery and self-gratification at the expense of others. The justice God meted out was swift, leading to the deaths of Eli’s sons and his own death as well. When Eli’s daughter-in-law heard of the violent deaths of her husband and father-in-law and of the capture of the Ark of the Covenant she went into labor and gave birth to a son she named Ichabod which means, The Glory Has Departed.

There are parallels too close to ignore between this tragic Biblical account of the abdication of leadership and the parades of failed leadership we see in United States collegiate athletics. Moral failures are being exposed nation wide and people once considered heroes are being more rightly identified as frauds and charlatans. But lest we take satisfaction at these discoveries, we must remember that these people did not elevate themselves to such grandiose and perverted levels of stature – WE DID! It’s time to revisit the purpose and goals of College Sports. Jesus said no one can worship God and money. One will be served, the other neglected. As long as money-making is the chief end of college sports – and it is – the glory will never return. The question is, are we more concerned about the people God has placed in our care to develop into leaders of tomorrow, or are we more concerned about being entertained by them? The right choice will contribute to the richness and vitality of our nation. The wrong choice will engrave ICHABOD on our goalposts for decades to come. Until next time…


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Still Amazed!

I’m always amazed that in spite of having read through the Scriptures numerous times, my re-reading of familiar passages can touch me again and again in fresh and powerful ways. I experienced this “fresh touch” from the Word this morning when reading the very familiar account of David’s adultery with Bathsheba and his continued sin in murdering her husband, Uriah. As I read, it seemed every detail jumped off the page, with the concluding paragraph of the chapter gripping me in its intensity and bluntness. I consumed the page detailing how Uriah’s uncommon and superior commitment to his duty exposed the extent of David’s consuming and unholy passions. I was aghast as I read of David’s effortless launching of the plan that led to Uriah’s demise. I was stunned as I recounted how David wasted no time in capitalizing on the opportunity to take Bathsheba as his own immediately after his treacherous plot of betrayal and murder had been carried out. More than any of this, I was stopped in my tracks as I read the last sentence of the chapter – a chilling phrase that serves as the greatest indictment any human being can experience:

“But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD” (2 Samuel 11:27).

Why was I so shaken by this verse? Simply this: I recognize myself in David and know that like him, there lies within me the ability to displease God without batting an eye merely for the sake of my own convenience. I could easily replace my name with David’s:

“But the thing that [Sam] had done displeased the LORD.”

It was at that moment I found myself at the point of realization that the Apostle Paul expresses in Romans 7:22-25,

“For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

I am so very aware of my frailties and how much I really deserve God’s justice, but I am absolutely overjoyed with gratefulness because of the forgiveness and cleansing that comes through faith in Jesus Christ! Not only am I overjoyed – I’m amazed!

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Free "Bird"!! or Choosing to be at Peace

Earlier today, as Luz and I were traveling down the road casually, basking in the first alone time we’ve enjoyed in quite a while, a driver took us by surprise, zig-zagged in front of us and during the whole escapade, shot us “a bird”, “the finger”, the single-digit salute of the offended and highly displeasured of our society. He continued to flash his displeasure towards us as we continued down the same road until we took a turn towards our destination as he punctuated his silent rant with an elevated thrust of his animosity, laying hard on his horn as he continued through the intersection and in a direction opposite our own. It was almost comical, made even more so by the fact that Luz and I have no idea what set him off. We were driving along with the flow of traffic, which was well over the speed limit and passing many other cars, so I don’t believe it was our speed. Luz wondered if he didn’t like our pro-Army/pro-West Point auto decals. I chimed in that I suppose that could be the case, but I’m not sure that even the Chief of Naval Operations has that much venom towards West Point! Could it have been the “ICHTHUS” or Christian Fish emblem on our tailgate?

We were stumped. We pondered, postulated and considered the situation arriving at no satisfactory answer. I finally said in resignation, “Well, this is America, and you’re free to give someone “The Bird” if you want to! Luz responded, “Isn’t there a song about that?” I almost wrecked the car with my laughter. “Oh, you mean “Freebird” by Lynard Skynard?” I answered. I had never thought about it that way, but I guess one could! As I calmed down from my laughter, I actually considered something more important. Luz and I also had freedom in this situation that, by God’s grace, we exercised in a totally different manner than our highly agitated friend. I considered how many terrible incidents have resulted from someone making a gesture towards someone else, which then escalates into harsh words, which then escalates into a situation that turns ugly and on occasion tragic as the level of anger explodes into a violent confrontation that leaves all parties involved violated, injured and scarred.

The Scriptures command those who aspire to follow Jesus to be “Quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger”. I’m not sure of our level of intentionality, but by merely attempting to understand what was upsetting the friend in the truck and to see if there was something we could do to lessen his displeasure, we were obeying the spirit of this verse. We weren’t focusing on what was being done to us, but rather on how we should conduct ourselves and what options were ours to improve the situation. The result was a mysterious encounter, but not an ugly one that left us at its end, confused, but very happy and totally at peace.

If you find yourself in one of those situations where you’re facing someone who is so at odds with something you’re doing or something they imagine you’re doing that the recipient of your displeasing behavior feels obliged to exercise their freedom of expression, DON’T ENGAGE THEM! Rather, step back, take a moment, sort out the situation, don’t respond with harsh words and don’t allow yourself to be sucked into an angry response. “Quick to hear. Slow to speak. Slow to anger.” And, if you’re a Lynard Skynard fan, dig out your old collection, crank up “Freebird” and have a good laugh. You’ll feel better and there’s a chance you’ll have the opportunity to pass your chosen joy on to others as well. Until next time…


Friday, August 19, 2011


The sight of a pair of U.S Army Airborne Wings never fails to bring a smile to my face and a sense of pride and joy at the rich heritage into which I was born as the son of a career Untied States Army Paratrooper! As I grew up, the line from the “Ballad of the Green Berets” sung by Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler that was especially stirring to me was this one: “Put Silver Wings on my son’s chest. Make him one of America’s best!” Truly, the continuous and sacrificial service of the courageous people who have earned those wings throughout U.S. history symbolize what is great and admirable about America and Americans!

As meaningful as those wings are to me, today my wife and I are bestowing a pair of wings on our number three daughter that cannot be pinned, worn or seen with the natural eye. I have been anticipating this “Wing Ceremony” with a bit of fear and dread, for weeks but now that its time has arrived, I find myself full of joy and expectation. Context can be a wonderful comforter, and helping Joana – our Bu – to prepare practically for her launching into college life has provided some wonderful context for us. We are blessed by the fact that though she will be away, there will be plenty of opportunities for her to come home and visit, and on some occasions visit for a significant period of time! We are blessed with the knowledge that she is attending a great school with a mission we fully support and a philosophy of life that we totally endorse. We are also blessed by her excitement and that extra “pep” in her step that let’s us know that this adventure is hers and the beginning of a new journey of discovery that will help shape the course of her life and the impact she will have on the world. Ultimately, we are comforted by knowing the God we serve doesn’t require our presence to bless her, protect her and guide her. As she takes flight, He is ever-present to guide, empower, comfort and protect just as He always has been for all who have clung to Him throughout human history.

That understanding of God’s ever-present love for her has freed our minds enough to enable us to take comfort in one important realization about our role as parents: Our role is not ending, it is merely changing. A great blessing we are still growing to understand through our two already adult children is the realization that parents are still needed after graduations. Though we will no longer be providing the same amount of “lift” for the flight, it is important for us to maintain contact with our newly launched “pilot”. She has now entered a more advanced phase of training. As she gains more skill and confidence, we need to remain engaged and available for encouragement, advice, counsel and help as her mission becomes clearer and her flight gains altitude. Her “flight plan” will be unique for her, but we must endeavor to do our best to make sure that though she may be flying “solo”, she needs a support team and should never feel abandoned. Our supporting roles of mentorship and coaching are critical and provide just the context we need to excite us in the midst of our fears and comfort us in the depths of our pain that Bu still needs us to be engaged and available as she takes flight into the future. Trials and challenges will come and as long as the Lord allows us to live, we must be part of the team that stands ready to support her as needed and encourage her at every opportunity. Our roles have been adjusted but are not diminished in their importance in the proper context.

All of that is a bit unsettling to consider to be sure. Nevertheless, remembering in Whose hands her future really lies, we happily give our Bu her “Wings” knowing that it is not an end to life as we know it with her, but the birth of a new and wonderful era in all of our lives that will enrich her, our family and all the others with whom she comes in contact. Use those wings well Bu and let the journey begin! Until next time…


Saturday, August 6, 2011

When The Strong Cry

I had never seen my dad cry. It wasn’t a macho thing – my dad was much too secure for that. It was just that as a member of the profession of arms, a paratrooper and a combat veteran, he didn’t cry casually – especially as a “Leader of Men”. But this day was different. During a promotion party we were holding in celebration of his advancement to E-7 (Sergeant First Class) the phone rang. Dad answered and his expression instantly changed from one of great happiness to one of great pain. He answered whatever news was being shared in short sentences, nodded said something I couldn’t hear over the din of the celebration and hung up the phone. My mom made a beeline for him and asked “Sammy, what’s wrong?” He directed her to another room. Before they emerged they both called me to a quieter place in our quarters. Dad delivered the news. “Man. Aunt Mary just passed away. We’re going to Mississippi tonight!” Aunt Mary was Dad’s foster mom. After an extremely violent episode of domestic violence at the hands of his stepfather that almost killed dad as an 8-year old, Aunt Mary and her husband, Uncle Julius, decisively intervened during the twilight of their lives when even their own friends called them fools for getting involved. They fixed their wills like flint to the opportunity to make a difference in Dad’s life, defying age, family and “common sense” to raise Dad, see him to his 30’s and see me become an adolescent. Their role was life changing and life saving. The loss to Dad in Aunt Mary’s passing was monumental.

I wondered how we could possibly respond so quickly and start for Mississippi the same night, forgetting dad’s Commanding Officer was at the party. After our hushing the crowd, Dad shared the news and chatted with his Commander. I didn’t hear all of what was said, but heard the Captain say, “Take off Sergeant Jackson. Take care of your family. We’ll handle what needs to be handled. See you when you get back.”

Within a couple of hours, we were rolling. About 3 hours into an 18 hour trip from Ft. Bragg, North Carolina to Port Gibson, Mississippi, Dad started slowing the car down and pulled over. He whispered, “I need a few minutes.” Mom responded, “It’s Okay Sammy. Take all the time you need Sweetheart.” Dad got out of the car, went to the front, leaned on the hood and began to sob. His shoulders lurched up and down without control. It was apparent he didn’t care that anyone saw him – he could’ve gone to a wooded area if he had chosen to, or behind the car so we couldn’t see him, but he chose the most conspicuous place possible to “let it all out”. He cried for what seemed like 20 minutes. I asked Mom if he would be alright and she answered, “As long as he is able to cry when he needs to, he’ll be Okay.” When Dad finally got back in the car, he turned to me and said in his simple style, “Man, sometimes a man’s got to cry. It’s not good to cry about every little thing, but some things are so big, you just have to. This is one of those times for me. I’m glad you and you Momma are here with me when I need you.” With that, he started up the car and we headed down the road. He stopped a few more times on the way, and I was certain that somehow, he had shown me another part of what it meant to be a “Real Man”.

What on earth brought this story to my mind and why am I sharing it with you? Yesterday, we were entertaining some dear friends from Michigan who had spent part of the week with us. We had decided to go to one of our favorite restaurants – an Asian Buffet – to enjoy some lunch. We all sat down and Luz asked me to pray. For what ever reason, just as I opened my mouth, a flood of information surged in my mind and I realized that my 3rd daughter Joana, had only 2 more weeks to be as accessible to us as she has been for the last 18 years. At the same moment I thought about my oldest becoming a mother and my 2nd oldest getting married. Another Jackson eagle was leaving the nest and my heart rejoiced for the accomplishment, and the realization that our other Eagles were ascending yet higher heights, but my soul was also breaking at the thought of the major changes that were upon us. I couldn’t speak. A wave of emotion hit me that felt almost as powerful as the wave that hit me when I heard the news that my own mother had passed into Eternity. There was the joy of knowing something better was at hand for her, but a terrible ache for the loss I was left to experience. I was on the verge of howling with emotion. In the milliseconds that were passing, somehow I considered my father and the event I recounted earlier. For whatever reason, I gained great comfort from his honest display all those years ago, and the tears were stayed for that moment. I wasn’t ashamed to cry about this season – I already have and I am bound to again – but for whatever reason, I didn’t need to. Nevertheless, in less than 2 weeks, when we drive off and leave our Bu behind, I will be pulling over and taking my own time to feel what I need to feel and let that sorrow wash over me and reaffirm all that manhood is and does.

All this also brings to mind one of my dad’s favorite Bible verses - the shortest in the English Bible. John 11:35 recounts Jesus’ reaction upon arriving at the tomb of his friend Lazarus. Even though Jesus knew He would raise Lazarus from the dead, the verse displays Jesus’ sorrow in these words - “Jesus wept.” My dad said was drawn to this verse because he could never understand why people said it wasn’t manly to cry when there were times you just hurt so bad, you had to. He said when he became aware that Jesus, the perfect man, cried when he faced an event of great sorrow, he understood manhood in a way that he couldn’t quite explain, but could he could really embrace. He learned that real men cry real tears. Many of us serve the nation, community and our families in roles that require great strength and confidence. Because of our responsibilities and the call to inspire others in times of great trial, we feel the compulsion to ignore our pain, withhold our tears and restrain ourselves from “letting it all hang out.” I understand that compulsion and the fact that protocol has its place. I’m sure that is at least a small part of what reeled my tears back in at the restaurant. Nevertheless, let me encourage you to find a place in your pain where you can let your heartache out, find a friend with whom you can share it and a secure a conduit through which you can channel your pain into something that can be a benefit to others when they find themselves in a place in life that they just can’t help but cry. By doing so, you will have achieved one of the greatest expressions of true manhood and real womanhood available to those who aspire to make a difference in this world. So please - if you’re hurting today, and your heart is heavy go ahead and cry! It’ll help you heal and even empower you to help others in their process of healing too!

Until next time…


Saturday, July 30, 2011

Blog Series - Fighting the Good Fight - Gym Session 1: Love is Patient

Living the Christian lifestyle sometimes resembles shadow boxing. In the theoretical arena of the air with no adversary but their own imaginations, boxers display moves and style that appear skillful, impressive and even intimidating, only to have their lack of skill painfully exposed in the presence of a formidable real life opponent! As a Christian, I find myself relating to that scenario when it comes to living out the faith I profess to believe. In the safe environs of church, elder meetings, a personal Bible study or other obvious “Christian settings” it can be relatively easy to display Christ-like conduct – after all, the others in those settings hold the same values and the risks to display righteousness are minimal. But what happens when one ventures out of the “gymnasium” of Christian practice and jumps into the “ring” of “Real Life”? A recent encounter the arena of real life exposed some “ring rust” in my own life and motivated me to begin a Blog series on skillfully fighting the “Good Fight” in faith. I’ll be exploring various Bible passages dealing with good character and Christian conduct and presenting some thoughts on moving the responses to Biblical truth from the head to the heart. My first few offerings will come from 1 Corinthians 13, the great passage on love. I’ll start with the first attribute that the Apostle Paul lists as a critical piece of one’s love arsenal. “Love is patient!”

I needed to rent a car and immediately upon arriving at the rental counter, it seemed I might be in for a unique experience. Though I had called well in advanced, the agents were ready to call it a day, and were not handling the increased traffic in their office particularly well. People were jumping ahead of their turn, and the situation was becoming semi-chaotic. When my turn finally arrived, the encounter began normally enough. “Mr. Jackson, thank you for your patience! We have a car ready for you, but it needs to be prepped. While we’re waiting, I’d like to get a little more info from you. For mileage purposes, where are you headed?” [Miles are unlimited for trips to neighboring states, while states that are not adjacent to one another accrue an extra charge by the mile. I was headed to Iowa, adjacent to Wisconsin to the west, so there wouldn’t be a problem. I didn’t take into account the poor showing of US college graduates on US geography knowledge.] “I’m headed to Iowa.” I responded. “Oh that’s too bad. Looks like we’ll have to charge to by the mile for that one.” My jaw dropped. It had been a long day, and this display of geographic ignorance was the wrong response at the wrong time in my life on that day. “IOWA.” I repeated slowly but emphatically. She responded without missing a beat. “Yes, I know. It’s not really a neighboring state, so we’ll have to charge mileage.” She smiled condescendingly as she answered. At that moment, in my mind, there was verbal ammo being loaded, mental safeties being released and scathing modes being set to full automatic. I wasn’t going to put up with this kind of nonsense. Just as I was about to unleash a verbal tirade reminiscent of a 1970’s Bill Murray comedy, I heard a still small voice speak to my heart. “She thanked you for being patient. Love is patient. You just preached about loving your neighbor. She is your neighbor. You must love her by being patient. You can challenge her conclusions, but you must do it lovingly.” Aw Maaan. “Stand down!” I thought to myself. “Ma’am” I responded gently. “Perhaps you thought I said Idaho. I said Iowa. I'm headed directly west, to the Wisconsin border to IOWA.” At that moment I noticed her coworker looking on, eyes wide, HOPING that her colleague would realize the mistake and also hoping that I wouldn’t enter into the tirade I was considering just a few moments before. As if a light switch was flipped, the agent suddenly snapped into realization and responded “OF COURSE! YES! IOWA! Of course there’ll be no mileage charged!” With that, we continued on with the transaction without incident and I jumped into the vehicle and began my journey to Iowa.

The point? If I had acted on my impulse, according to my own impatience and selfishness, what turned out to be a relatively mundane event could have escalated into something unpleasant if not downright ugly. I needed to be reminded that it isn’t enough to preach that love is patient. I have to live it out if I’m serious about being like Jesus. I need more time in the “Gym” with God’s word, and more devotion to applying my Gym work in the ring of real life. How about you? Are you just shadow boxing and posing as a “good fighter” or are you training hard and preparing to put your skills to work when the challenges are hardest? Love is patient. Prepare yourself for those little everyday challenges so that you can walk like a champ who brings glory to God and not slump like a chump who’s an embarrassment to the faith. Until next time….

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Simple Trust in Changing Seasons

I will never forget June 2011! I’m not sure that I’ve ever experienced as many significant life events at the same time as I did during the first two weeks of that now very special month. The rising tide of events began with a major, but expected rite of passage for our third daughter Joana – her graduation from Case High School. As we celebrated her accomplishment and began to digest some major changes that would come our way as she embarks on her journey towards independence and adulthood, our other daughters had some major developments in their lives to share with us as well. Our oldest, Coco, was beaming as her husband Mike looked on with an impossible-to-hide-joy. I was pretty sure of what was coming, especially as I glanced at Luz and saw a knowing look. Coco didn’t waste any time, and shared with great excitement that she was expecting and we were going to be grandparents! Even though I was certain of the news she was bringing to us, I found my mind racing to digest it. Grandparents, with a 6 year-old! Oh man! Then, like a late night infomercial, our daughter Maris grabbed our attention and encouraged us to wait because “There’s more!” I also had some idea of where her announcement was heading. She had been dating Steve for over a year and it seemed obvious that their friendship had much more to it. My suspicions were again confirmed as Steve and Maris shared the news of their engagement. At this point, our youngest, Victoria, felt it was important for us to take note of the fact that she had completed Kindergarten and was now heading to the first grade! SO many changes occurring so suddenly! How does one digest so much life in one sitting?

At times like these, I go back to the basic, foundational truths that strengthen, support and define the faith to which I have devoted my life – faith in the trustworthiness and faithfulness of the Lord, Jesus Christ and faith in His great love for not only me, but His love for this big and sometimes uncertain world. Because of the faithfulness I have seen in the past in every kind of situation and circumstance, I can face the coming patriarchal decathlon of grandparenthood, parent-of-adulthood, father-in-law-hood and father-of-the-strongest-willed-child-we’ve-had-yet-hood too!

The Apostle Paul was able to display amazing confidence while imprisoned and to pass on his confidence to his understudy Timothy. When recounting the tests and trials he had faced and when considering the situation that had placed him in prison due to his faith in Jesus, Paul was able to encourage a free Timothy by sharing that he was not uncertain of his ultimate well-being or ashamed of his unusual circumstances.

Paul knew where his strength came from and held Timothy to the same standard of trust by saying this: “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day. Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.”

“Keep that good thing!” The Lord cares for us and delights in building our confidence so that we can truly hang on to our faith when the challenges press in hard. Sometimes he lifts us up in the most unexpected ways! On July 4th, 2011 at the urging of our daughters Joana and Victoria and at Luz’s request I conceded that perhaps we needed to experience the Racine North Beach Fireworks. We hadn’t really planned anything special and I was committed to a rather low-key 4th experience until Luz and the girls convinced me that getting out would be a good thing, even though I was rather tired. When we got to the beach, we had our requisite blankets, lotions and sand-castle construction gear, but not much else. I began to think, we have a couple of hours to spend down here, and I didn’t bring any money, food or anything! Not an ideal situation. Just as I was thinking this, a woman approached Luz and me. “Are you staying here for the fireworks?” she asked. “Well, yes.” We answered. She continued, “That’s great! My family and I have another fourth event to attend and we really over planned our stay. We have to leave right now, but want you to have our cooler and everything in it. There’s food, fruit, pop, water chips, everything you need for a meal. We hope you’ll like it!” She opened it up and sure enough, there was a feast fit for royalty. We gave her our deepest thanks and marveled at how much this simple act of kindness had blessed us when we needed a little boost in our spirits! He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him even until the day He comes or comes for me!

This “little miracle” gave us encouragement in the bigger situations we face. We were reassured that just as the Lord saw and met our need in this simplest of ways without our even thinking that He would, He will certainly meet us in the areas of our deepest need about which we ask Him everyday! Are you feeling stretched by your circumstances? Are you feeling tossed about by the storms of life? Don’t forget what God has done, and don’t lose sight of what he is now doing in your life. You will gain perspective, shore up your faith, and you just might gain a testimony that could be useful in encouraging others as well. Until next time…


Monday, May 30, 2011

How Do We Offer A Worthy Memorial?

I awaked from a deep peaceful slumber in a beautiful bed in my oldest daughter’s home this morning and it felt so good! It was warm, comfortable and safe. I rolled over to see my lovely bride soundly asleep and smiling. I could hear the activity of 3 of my 4 children enjoying themselves with no sense of fear, danger or intimidation. As I casually rolled over and contemplated what had I done to deserve such a life of comfort and luxury, the answer was powerful and undeniable – NOTHING!

I don’t present this thought as a guilt-ridden exercise in self-pity but as a statement of fact. The good and beautiful life I enjoy was purchased at the highest price possible by others who devoted themselves to a call of duty that was fulfilled at the highest level of performance and the most extravagant cost imaginable. I am in a very good disposition because others have willingly flung themselves into places and situations of unbelievable horror, often to the point of their own physical, and emotional undoing “that [this] nation might live”.

In another writing, I quoted other words from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, that stand as a perpetual reminder of the duty the living have towards those who have died for their sake. Lincoln asserted that our duty was not just to make dedications or memorials – the work of the fallen in performing their sober duty has preserved freedom in a way that stands as an incomparable memorial rendering our efforts to honor them a mere token of gratitude. Instead, our most important and fitting response is to live out the spirit of their example by serving others and insuring by our service that freedom is proclaimed and enjoyed broadly, continually and abundantly for all humanity.

As a Christian, this call to service is especially appropriate. In a classic hymn by Isaac Watts, the composer asks, “Alas and did my Savior bleed and did my Sovereign die? Would He devote that sacred head for sinners such as I? In other words, “What an astounding thought - to consider that my sinless Lord would willingly pour himself out to the death for the benefit of someone like me!” How do I respond? Similarly, how do I honor the men and women have sacrificed everything for me to enjoy anything my heart desires? What gift appropriately honors that level of sacrifice? Watts has a compelling answer: “But drops of tears can ne’er repay the debt of love I owe. Here Lord, I give myself away, ‘tis all that I can do.” Watts charges that “Our tears are not enough”.

Though our hearts are cut in the deepest places with the enormity of the loss of our finest citizens, our best response is to sacrificially give ourselves away in service to God and others. To this point in my life, my “sacrifices” are merely inconveniences in comparison to the depth of the gifts of our most valiant heroes. Nevertheless, my willingness to be continually inconvenienced up to and including the point of self sacrifice, will ultimately determine whether this nation, “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal” will endure and whether the Good News I assert is of the greatest importance to human kind will propogate for the benefit of all people. Am I up to the task? Are you? The message penned with the blood of those who have preceded us demands nothing less. Give thanks for those who paid the ultimate price, and show your gratitude by serving others to the utmost of your ability until your tour of duty in this life ends. Enjoy your freedom but as you enjoy it, never forget the prices paid for your liberty in the here and now and for the hereafter. How will you respond? I'm attempting to respond with a life of loving service and ask you to hold me accountable to my pledge. Have a blessed Memorial Day! Until next time…


Friday, May 20, 2011

Don’t Fear the Reaper – Dealing With Date-Setting Doom and Gloomers

Worried about the latest “Doomsday” prophecy or preoccupied by confusing messages and strange codes attributed to everyone from The Mayans to Nostrodamus? Don’t be. Consider this exchange recorded in Acts Chapter 1 verses 6 through 8 between Jesus and His disciples before He left them to be with the Heavenly Father. “[T]hey gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” The message is clear. We shouldn’t waste our time looking towards the sky, trying to guess when the end of all things is at hand. Instead, we should be devoted to proving the faith within us as followers of Jesus Christ who confirm the truth of what we believe by the consistent loving power of what we do!

The end of all things will come to all of us – either by way of our individual appointments with our own natural deaths, or by the true, God-appointed end of the age – a date none of us is privileged to know. Until then, keep this in mind: Anyone who claims to be a Christian and more to the point a Christian leader who claims to know the date or time is in error and contradicts the very Scriptures they claim to hold as sacred. By Biblical definition they would qualify as a false prophet and should be ignored (Check out Matthew 24. Thank goodness for a New Covenant – under the Old One, the punishment for predicting something that didn’t come true was death {Deuteronomy 13 & Deuteronomy 18}.

May 21, 2011 will indeed be a momentous day – it will be a day that the Lord has made. It will be a day for serving and loving others. It will be a day to spend time letting our lights shine that others might see our good works and glorify our Heavenly Father as a result! Don’t fear the reaper! Trust the Lord! Embrace every day He gives you, rejoice in them and serve the Lord with gladness!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Every Bullet Has Your Name On It! Updated for Arnold's Fall

AHHHNOLD! How could he do this? How could he be so stupid? How could he do this? How could he throw away a magnificent relationship with a woman who is without peer and the blessing of a lifetime? The airwaves are abuzz with fresh fodder for our consumption and the satisfaction of the angels of our lesser nature in trying to answer these questions. I contend, however, that they are the wrong questions or at least, they are directed to the wrong person! A few years back when a major political figure was found to have fallen in a similar situation, I felt pulled not to derision of that man, but an inspection of my own heart. I’m reposting a portion of what I shared, edited for this latest revelation, with the same introspection and consideration.

it is difficult to discern what could cause an otherwise fine and upstanding man to commit such an act of disloyalty and stupidity. One psychologist attributes moral slides of this nature to a mid-life crisis. Another blames narcissism. Ben Stein, political analyst, commentator and pitch man was stumped at a situation similar to Arnold’s. Commenting on that infidelity, Stein just couldn't make sense of it. He said, "His wife is a knockout [and brilliant]. I can't imagine what this other woman …[is] like!" A part of me understands the psychologists conclusions and Ben Stein's logic, but what I know of Scripture points to something more profound and disturbing. Jeremiah 17:9 puts it this way,

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?

That sounds harsh. But after almost 30 years of ministry and interacting with numerous people from a variety of backgrounds, not to mention knowing myself and my motives and inner struggles, the words ring absolutely true! People who seem to have it all together, sometimes commit the most heinous acts imaginable, and I can even find myself in an unguarded moment entertaining a thought that is simply outrageous. The danger in committing the stupid acts comes from convincing yourself that you are impervious to them.

We see this kind of bravado in all aspects of life, all the time. Mike Tyson's self- proclaimed "Baddest Man on the Planet" title sounds silly now, but prior to Buster Douglas seemed plausible. As a man after God's own heart, King David's character seemed incorruptible, but after his catastrophic affair with Bathsheba, his weaknesses seem all too obvious. For that reason, when it comes to sin and committing acts of disobedience, a very wise mentor of mine put my own vulnerabilities - and his - into these terms: "EVERY bullet has your name on it! Every opponent can knock you out! The second you think you're above falling into temptation is the second you've already lost the battle. You'll never be above falling for some stupid trap. Don't you dare think that there isn't a situation or person you might encounter that couldn't lead you to dishonor yourself, devastate your family and render your ministry impotent. If you remember that and remember that God can provide the escape from your own sinful desires, you have a chance to make it."

The Bible offers several lines of defense to help us when we are highly pressured to give in to temptation. The first is to keep a reign on your affections. Proverbs 4:23 admonishes us to this course of action:

Guard your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.

I can remember back in High School cultivating crushes I knew were not particularly beneficial because there was just something so sweet about being in love, regardless of whether or not it made any sense - especially if the person you were flirting with liked you back. When we play with those kinds of emotions later in life, the results can be disastrous. What begins as "innocent but deep sharing" can subtly evolve into a dependent relationship that given the right circumstances can evolve into an affair that neither party had anticipated, but that neither party wishes to give up because it just feels so good. A monster 70's hit explained, "It can't be wrong, when it feels so right!" Unfortunately it can be wrong and our hearts are more than able to trick us into thinking otherwise.

The second line of defense is to run. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says,

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

When you see the onset of the possibility of temptation, leave! Take the long way home. Shop at another store. Choose a different time to go to the gym or better yet, go to a different gym. Whatever it takes to avoid the tempting situation, do it! The costs will be much less than the cost of trying to repair a broken marriage, torn up family or stained reputation.

Thirdly, remember the battle is not just physical but a spiritual one. Ephesians 6:10-13 gives this command in preparing us to fight against all sorts or evil:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Will power will not equip you to stand against the barrage of bullets and arrows the enemy is prepared to rain on you. Humble dependence upon the Lord and a relentless determination to draw close and cling to Him will protect you when all else seems to have failed. God is able to preserve you when the temptations and tests come raging in like a mighty sea. Isaiah 59:19 comforts us with this reminder:

When the enemy comes in like a flood, The Spirit of the LORD will lift up a standard against him.

God can protect us when all hope seems lost.

As you hear more news on the unfortunate developments in Arnold’s life and the inevitable other moral failures that will be exposed as the world turns, don't gloat and don't pontificate, but rather consider the situation with sober judgement, pray for all those involved, help guide and direct for healing and restoration when you're close enough to be directly involved and truly remember that but for God's mercy and grace you too might stumble in a similar way. As for me, I will not forget, "Every bullet has my name on it!" Thank God for His complete and effective armor! Until next time...

Monday, May 2, 2011

Is it appropriate to celebrate my enemy's demise?

The death of terror mastermind Osama Bin Laden has brought the emotions of US citizens to the surface in a way not seen in a generation. Spontaneous celebrations have erupted around the nation, and the surviving families of victims of Bin Laden led terrorist actions have expressed a wide variety of emotions ranging from relief, to satisfaction. I personally admit to feeling a great sense of admiration and pride in those who carried out the mission to attack Bin Laden and great relief that none of the assault force was injured or killed in the attack. Nevertheless, while the celebratory expressions have dominated the news, there are a significant number of Americans who are wrestling with that reaction and asking if it is appropriate to rejoice at the demise of an enemy, especially for those who are people of faith?

Proverbs 24:17 supports the caution of not rejoicing over a fallen enemy. It says:

“Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice…”

But one might ask, what about the imprecatory Psalms (The ones where enemies are cursed)? What about Moses’ reaction to Pharaoh’s destruction at the Red Sea? In Exodus 15, Moses, Miriam and the entirety of Israel break out into song in a stirring chant of praise in response to the destruction of Pharaoh and his army:

“I will sing unto the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously; the horse and rider thrown into the sea!”

If one reads further, the song goes on to detail the graphic images of pharaoh’s officers drowning with their chariots “sinking like stones”. If that weren’t enough, by the end of the chapter, Miriam, Moses sister, and the women of Israel take up tambourines and begin dancing with great fervor to celebrate this victory over the Egyptian Army! So what’s the appropriate response? Restraint or unencumbered jubilee?

I’m not sure that the Scriptures give us a clear black and white solution to this question, though I do believe there are some guidelines present to take into consideration.

The object of the praise in the Song of Moses and Miriam is the Lord. Moses and the nation of Israel realized that without God’s intervention, they would have been the ones at the bottom of the sea. They were quick to recognize that though the Lord would lead them into other battles in which they would have to engage the enemy more directly than they did in this instance; the Lord was the Source of their victories. Celebration was appropriate, but it was always imperative t realize that their victory was a demonstration of God’s care for them and His mercy, not their superiority or self-sufficiency. God warns His people that it is not because they are any better than other nations that He protects them, but it is because He has promised to care for them. God showed Himself continually to be merciful and made it known that the other nation’s behavior was so repugnant that he chose to chasten them with military defeat. He also warned that those who seek to follow Him can also find themselves in jeopardy of being defeated if repentance, humility and righteousness are not the guiding truths of that nation’s way of life.

It should be understood that the Scriptures make it clear that governments bear arms for the putting down of evil and destructive people. Romans 13:4,5 says:

“For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.”

Though we are instructed not to engage in vengeful actions as individuals and not to indulge in “vigilante justice” on our own individual initiative, those persons who bear arms as representatives of the government exist for the very purpose of keeping or restoring order even by the use of deadly force, if it is necessary. Nevertheless, the question remains, is celebration appropriate? My personal opinion on the matter based on my understanding of the Bible is this:

It is understandable that the feeling of jubilation exists at the apprehension and subjugation of a man responsible for the death and destruction of thousands of innocent people for whom he held no regard or mercy. I especially appreciate his being subdued, because I understand that it was his full intention to continue executing his diabolical plan had he not been stopped by force. I also have deep admiration and respect for the people who have sworn to defend this nation and who have been on the job pursuing this man and his cohorts for more than a decade. Everyone who has contributed to the years of military engagement which led to this especially sweet victory, deserves praise, gratitude and respect for the sacrifices they have endured to bring about this result. Their dedication to see this victory through serves as a warning to anyone who believes they can attack innocent people without facing severe consequences and their dedication deserves recognition and celebration.

Nevertheless, I am fully aware that there are many others dedicated to the same diabolical cause to which Bin Laden devoted himself, and I understand that we must remain ever ready to confront those people whenever and wherever they surface. I also understand that while we seek to stand for justice, we ourselves must live justly if we are to righteously project ourselves as a global force for good. Therefore, as we celebrate this victory and honor those who have served with such excellence , let us be mindful of the way we live, walking in sobriety of mind and spirit, not thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought and taking great care to live our lives with righteousness and humility. These verses from America the Beautiful say it best:

O beautiful for heroes prov'd

In liberating strife,

Who more than self their country loved,

And mercy more than life.

America! America!

God mend thine ev'ry flaw,

Confirm thy soul in self-control,

Thy liberty in law.

A heartfelt “Thank You” to all who serve in the present and have served in the past to protect and secure liberty for all those who seek it. A heartfelt call to righteousness to all who will heed it, that as we stand for what is right, we might stand on a platform of goodness and light, and truly distinguish ourselves from those who propogate evil. May the Lord have mercy on us all and lead us in the everlasting ways of righteousness.

Until next time…


Friday, April 1, 2011

A Dream to Realize - A Promise to Keep

Almost 22 years ago, Maria-Luz Roda Bautista became my wife and immigrated to the United States of America. Though many who casually observed our union assumed she was eager to come to the U.S. and live the good life, all those who truly knew her understood that accepting my proposal and following me to minister in various ministries, missions and outreaches in the inner cities of the US and around the world meant stepping away from deep involvement with a tremendous ministry in the Philippines. In many ways, it was for her a heart-rending decision. When she left, Luz always dreamt of reestablishing a deeper presence of ministry in the Philippines for us. We nurtured that vision through financial support, by sending others to the Philippines as both short-term and career missionaries and always dreaming we ourselves might be able to do more than just participate in a once in a while ministry visit that had to piggy back on urgent family business as a condition of our return.

As I write, My Luz is now on her way to the realization of this 22 year-old dream and the promise I made to her that we would one day re immerse ourselves in mission involvement in the Philippines beyond giving and sending others. For the last 4-5 years, we have been laying the ground work for what we sensed was the Lord’s moving us towards the opportunity to bring our dreams into the realm of reality. Through the pioneering ministry efforts of her Brother Ramon and his wife Nene, we have all worked together to establish a beachhead in the Bohol community with a broad spectrum of ministry that includes very needy families in extremely poor conditions, street children and college boarding students away from home.

Thanks to the involvement of our home church, Grace Church in Racine, we have made significant steps towards building upon the foundational elements of ministry we’ve been establishing in Bohol. For starters, our church collected supplies for over 200 children which we shipped a week ago for the children we have supported in Manila and Bohol. Luz has 4 duffel bags of supplies she is hauling by herself to distribute immediately upon her arrival that not only have those supplies, but contain hundreds of Ziploc bags that will assist us in distributing rice Luz will purchase with donated funds for hundreds of families! It is our desire to assist the growth of the mercy ministries we've help to start there and to partner with local churches to minister on a broad scale including church development, poverty relief and educational support with deep and lasting impact. Luz will recon the areas we have targeted, plot a course for our next steps and prepare the way for a team we hope to send from Grace Church Racine in 2012. Luz is ecstatic and we’re thrilled as a family to be directly engaged in ministries we have prayed for and supported for so long.

The time Luz will spend in the Philippines will be both challenging and fulfilling. I will try to keep everyone abreast of her progress and prayer concerns. Thanks to all of you, our friends, for your encouragement and support over the years and for this mission in particular. This is only the beginning of a great opportunity to serve others and bring greater glory to God. Stay tuned and stay prayerful! Until Next time…


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What Happens In India...Must Be shouted From the Rooftops!

Greetings Everyone! Thank you so much for support our team and families in your prayers, assistance and through your on-going encouragement as we served on special assignment in NE India. There is more to share than can possibly be shared and an abundance of blessings for which to give thanks. Though the volume of information is great, I must share a few highlights to give you at least a taste of what the Lord did in us and through us on our visit.

Our Team experienced some trials – Our veteran member Nancy - was injured on our first day in country and soldiered on for several more days before having to return a bit early to ensure her injuries could be repaired before any major damage was done. Nevertheless, she made sure that several projects close to her heart including a special project to distribute new shoes via the ministry Samaritan’s Feet, were in place before her departure.

Chris Simanek, a great friend and brother in the Lord gets highest accolades in his selfless willingness to assist Nancy in returning to the US. While in India, actually his second trip there, Chris managed to locate and encourage some friends who are conducting some wonderful ministry there, met with a child he is sponsoring, encouraged the child’s family and many of their neighbors, and gave a testimony that warmed many hearts among the men in the community and opened some significant doors for ministry that might have otherwise remained much more difficult to open.

Katie and Karen were the Dynamic Duo of the team, and took the ministry project community by storm. No Bug, Bomb or nasty Bathroom in their path could stop their momentum or quench their enthusiasm as they ministered to moms, children and everyone else they encountered. Their joy and enthusiasm was viral and blessed the children of the project and the ministry staff who serve them day after day during our entire time in NE India. It was not possible for them to fail in sharing the love of the Lord in all of their dealings during our stay!

Though we were blessed to see the Lord work in many ways while there, I was especially blessed by the opportunity we had to minister to the fathers. I had inquired about teaching opportunities that might be available once we arrived. I felt an unshakeable and unrelenting conviction that the Lord had something in store using a time of teaching as the platform. I was struck by the need to connect to fathers once we arrived at the project and began asking more pointed questions regarding how we might reach out. The Compassion Team and Hope Church leaders were very eager to assist and put the word out that we would have a teaching time for dads concerning alcohol use and gambling – two major problems among men who work in the Tea Plantations. We started with a handful in attendance. Nevertheless, as we shared, the word spread and we ended up with over 60 and a request for another session later that week. We were able to have another session two days later where we made even further headway and we’re looking into ways we can incorporate some more targeted assistance and encouragement in the areas of substance abuse recovery and parenting skills into our next team.

I would be very remiss in not mentioning the amazing Compassion Team, their US and Indian logistic staffs and Team leaders, the translators, the Compassion Ground Ministry Experts, the Hope Church Leaders and the Ministry volunteers in place at the project sites. These brothers and sisters set the bar in terms of excellence, dedication and devotion to duty. They were literally tireless in their efforts to serve us and the people to whom they are called to minister. They suffered and sacrificed to allow us to not only serve but enjoy our time in Inida in comfort, style and relative ease. These folks are truly the “Crème de la crème’! Bless them and those like them! Way too few of them around!!

As our time wound down, we discovered that we had made many new friends and identified some promising prospects for ministry in the future. Thank you all for standing with us in prayer. I was truly blessed in my first Grace Church International mission and look forward to other International trips in the future. I, my teammates and others who cheered us on are also extremely excited to inject the same level of enthusiasm and focus into our missions efforts here at home. In fact, I was struck by how similar some of the challenges are between cultures – problems of relationships, family and work. The heartbreak of loss, betrayals and disappointments. The hurdles of cyclic poverty and generational discouragement. The grinding battle of disease and health concerns. I believe that our efforts in other nations help provide clarity to serve in our own backyard, and that service here compels us to share all that we know in other places for God's glory. The Lord has given us much to do. I pray you, our friends, will continue to lift us up in prayer as we press on in His service “Here, there and everywhere”! Blessings on you all!

Your Friend and Servant,

Sam Jackson

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

“Say It Loud! I’m…?” Some thoughts on Cultural Identity and Labels

After returning home from a mission trip to India, familiar sights and sounds flooded my senses and the US Customs official’s greeting soothed my soul: “Welcome Home”. Indeed, there’s no place like home, and it’s especially satisfying after returning from a long journey abroad. This was definitely the case when my daughters greeted me today! The welcome I received from them today must be a lot like the experience one receives when arriving at Heaven’s Gates! How sweet it is! Nevertheless, I often find that my times abroad have an interesting spin as an African-American. In other countries, observers sometimes look at my face and pigment in a more refined way, and can often identify characteristics not limited to one continent. On this last visit to India, one friend pulled me aside and after wrestling with his curiosity directly asked me “Where are you from? I know you’re from America, but I see many people in your face and actions. Where are your people from?” It was actually a very insightful question. Where are my people from? It’s a very important question in a world where many people know who their ancestors are back to many generations and where one’s birth language and name connote a history, a culture and a heritage that definitively informs you of who you are, where you come from and how you view the world and the people in it.

You might be thinking, “Sam, this is a curious topic considering you just came back from a mission trip to India and certainly have many things to report about what you observed.” True enough. Nevertheless, a friend’s question in a Facebook discussion regarding an article addressing racial labels and questioning the appropriate identity for the descendants of slaves in the US triggered my memory of the conversation with my friend in India and just wouldn’t go away. I understood his curiosity and his question caused me to think considerably about the way I describe who I am and where I come from. I also knew that any of the labels we typically use to describe the descendants of African Slaves in the US would be woefully deficient in answering his question satisfactorily. So, I set out to give an abridged history of “the Black Experience” in the US, focusing on what I know of my family history on my father’s side, which can be traced on paper back to a Mississippi slave owner born in the 1780’s. I concluded with the explanation that the people who share a similar heritage have been known by a number of labels over time, the latest of which is “African American”.

In my own lifetime, as the descendant of African slaves, I have been described by a number of labels which have resulted from attempts to create a meaningful identity for me and others who share my heritage. I heard the “N-word”. I’ve been called, “that colored boy”. I have checked the box marked “Negro” and said it loud, “I’m Black and I’m Proud!” I’ve also willingly used the term “African-American” with all of the intellectual processing that helped to establish it. Which one is best? I have no idea. Personally, I feel the term “Black” rolls easily off of the tongue, works great in song lyrics and just has more linguistic strength. Nevertheless, it still isn’t perfect, and doesn’t necessarily make logical sense in describing very light-skinned people of African descent like my mom, who in the eyes of many from outside our family’s context, would not have been easily identifiable as “Black” by a mere visual observation of her physical features alone.

In my evaluation, the persistent wrestling with terminology reflects the complex and painful history that is Black America. We tend to forget that once upon a time in our nation’s history slaves were intentionally and systematically stripped of their names, languages, cultural origins and any directly identifiable ties to the African continent. We also forget that steps were implemented to ensure those origins could never again be regained. The only lasting obvious connection is found in the physical features that remain present in the faces of Black Americans. In his book “Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America” Eugene Robinson postulates that what was once a monolithic Black American culture has now morphed into at least 4 distinct cultures which share a common origin traceable at one point or another to Africa, but having divergent views of the world today and the way each these groups process their places in it.

For those reasons, I’m not tied to any of these labels too tightly. I now check the box that says “African-American” and as late as last month, I’ve even responded positively to a dear older friend of an earlier generation who with no malice or intent to injure, referred to me as “colored”. Inside in my heart of hearts, I’m usually saying it loud, “I’m Black and I’m Proud!” Ultimately, I see myself as a human being and a child of God - a Christian committed to the service of Jesus Christ, seeking to be a peace with all people as much as it has to do with me. It is my greatest hope that others will be able to see Christ in me, and that in the words of the apostle Paul people will know that I desire to champion: “whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Those are all attributes and labels I pray will be applied and that I pray will stick. Until next time…


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Over Yonder!

I will never forget the times during my growing up years when my parents informed my grandparents of our permanent changes of station or one of my father’s combat deployments. The response we’d invariably hear was, “Lord they sending that boy over yonder again!” As a vocational Christian worker, I have had several opportunities to minister in a variety of places in the United States and internationally as well. Those of you who check-in on my Blog and other postings may have noticed a significant slow down in production over the last several weeks. One of the major reasons for my less than prolific prose is that I have been preparing to go “Over Yonder” once more for the purpose of ministry.

If the Lord wills, as of this writing, later today, 9 February, 4 other members of Grace Church Racine and I will have the wonderful opportunity to experience the beauty, wonder and majesty of the vast country of India for an almost two-week period of ministry. We will visit some well-renowned sites and enjoy India’s splendor as well as having the privilege of being of service in some of the places where the needs are great and the opportunity for ministry is abundant. Perhaps the greatest blessing is that we will have the opportunity to work side by side with Indian brothers and sisters as we minister and continue building a partnership whose foundation has been laid by a major Christian relief organization. Our team will get to learn first-hand how our partners in ministry deal with very difficult ministry circumstances while maintaining hope, courage and an unwavering commitment to represent Jesus in all that they do.

Working together with people who are united in purpose and passionate about meeting the deepest need of others though the cultures and home locations may be miles apart, provides a powerful example of the unity the Lord desires to see in His people. The Bible tells us that, "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all" (Ephesians 4:4-6).

I am eager to experience a bit of that oneness over the next week and a half. Pray that our team and our ministry friends will be filled with the joy and peace that comes from walking with and knowing Jesus. Pray that our smiles will not diminish even as our energy may dwindle. Pray that when we reach out over these next days, even in our travel, the love of Jesus will shine through.

You may not hear from me for a little while as our internet capabilities will be spotty at best. Nevertheless, do keep me in your prayers and thoughts. I know I’ll have much to share upon returning and the “presses” will be glowing hot as I attempt to covey what the Lord has done! Keep the light on for us. I look forward to connecting again when we’re back from “Over Yonder”! Until next time…