Monday, October 15, 2012


I have been told that I am difficult to argue with. In attempting to take the criticism to heart, I have poured a lot of thought over this stone of contention, and I think there are two conclusions I have reached.

The first will not be very enlightening: I am a Jackson male. Jackson men are notorious within the Jackson family for a stubbornness that rivals a certain animal that shares a similar character flaw as well as a namesake (for a good laugh, insert a colorful name for a mule between "Jack" and "son"). At family gatherings, good sport is had by all by way of pointing towards this well understood fact, especially by the significant others who have to endure such behavior. It's not that we're inherently contentious so much as strongly persuaded in our beliefs.

The difficulty comes in the form of pride. It is easy for me to be sure of myself and questioning of others. I don't think this is a Jackson tendency as much as it is a shared trait of the family of mankind. I can be blinded by my own sensibilities rather easily. I have learned to tread carefully through the paths of confidence, and am working hard to question each step. The ironic part is that with each step, I become comfortable, complacent. Falsely confident. And the trail slips away on a turn I didn't see leaving me lost in the woods of my own ego. Again.

It's one of many daily internal struggles we all fight. If you see me stumbling in the woods, I'd appreciate any sincere help you may have to offer. I hope that I would be able to respond to such charity appropriately. For your own sake, tread carefully. I'm a little stubborn. Bear with me while I work on it.

The second conclusion I have come to is a little trickier. It's easy to confuse confident deliberation as an arrogant display of the previous affliction. Naturally, it's easy to disregard what is being said with this assumption in mind. But discernment reveals that motive is the difference between pride and concern.

Might I suggest that we, as people, are so timidly arrogant as to run at the first sight of confrontation. In today's environment, there is no room for addressing a person directly. As previously stated in other posts, our American sense of individualism pervades all such that I keep to myself and you keep to yourself. Anyone who says otherwise is obtuse and offensive. The easy way out of this dilemma of "uncomfortability" is to avoid it at all costs. If it doesn't make you feel good, it must be bad, right?

Where, in such an environment is there room for the dissemination of wisdom? Doesn't such behavior promote stagnancy and inhibit growth? Isn't fellowship meant for purpose and not platitude?

As previously attested, I choose to reject the theory that a true friend is an enabler. When presented with a problem, I elect to face it head-on. I need to make sure that I approach the scenario out of love and concern for the other person and not selfish reasons. Yet, not approaching the problem is to pretend it doesn't exist. If I were the sole possessor of the knowledge that cancer existed in a friend, would I not inform them?

I am not the sole possessor of any knowledge. All knowledge that I have obtained is not my own. 

"That which has been is what will be,
That which is done is what will be done,
And there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything of which it may be said,
'See, this is new'?
It has already been in ancient times before us.
There is no remembrance of former things,
Nor will there be any remembrance of things that are to come
By those who come after."

I have spent most of my "unique" life, if I am honest with myself, in emulation of those whose walks I treasure and respect. I have learned on the backs of others multiple times more intelligent and insightful than I will ever be. It is for this reason that I have confidence in presenting what I believe to be truth: these truths are not mine.

If I have conviction, it is because, like most everyone else,  I have grasped blindly for answers to difficult questions. If I have conviction, it is because I have listened to the voice of honesty in the darkest hours before dawn. If I have conviction, it is because I have stumbled headlong into despair and sought out the source of all knowledge. If I have conviction, it is because righteousness is not something I can grasp, but exists outside of me. I can neither define nor manifest it without perverting it with my own failures.

If I have conviction, it is because the authority that determines morality is not of me, but of the One who commands all wisdom.

Perception perverts truth. But truth transcends individualism. I will champion truth. Others may choose to see it as personal perception. But my confidence is derived in that it is not of me. With such conviction, I will not bear the injustice of fear. I will not be paralyzed with selfishness. I will not render love lifeless with indulgence. If I am convinced, I must live as one convinced.

Job 32:8

© 2012 Seth Alan Jackson 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


I had quite an adventure this morning. In the midst of dreaming, around 4:30 this morning (something about killing a mountain lion with my bare hands to heroically save my damsel wife), I was ambushed by a set of workout clothes and a heart monitor. I don't know when or how they attacked, but I woke up halfway to the staircase fully dressed to run. Don't be fooled. The real victim here is the Under Armor that had to stretch its poor self over my out-of-shape gut. Poor workout clothes. If only they had a real athlete to wear them to the finest competitions instead of seeing the same three miles every morning.

As I paused at the top of the stairs trying to will myself to wake up (I advise against falling down a flight as a warm-up regimen), I glanced out the window and almost jumped for joy. Snow. A late, March snow. A freak storm kind of snow that you know is going to melt, but for the moment: SNOW! It was only a couple, beautiful inches, but there it was telling me to go back to bed and sleep in this morning. I almost did.

As I strapped microspikes onto my running shoes, donned my headlamp, and trudged off up the road, I thought, "This is ridiculous. I'm going to get run over. I should turn around and go home." And then I saw deer tracks in the fresh snow. Two sets. And I knew that something sacred was happening; this time was not to be thrown away lightly. For reasons other than the weather, this was not going to be an ordinary run. I ambled on.

It wasn't my best run time, for obvious reasons, but a few things dawned on me as I tried to find a "snow-pace" that worked. I was amazed at how well my feet knew my route. I couldn't see anything on the side of the road save the occasional mail box and the ditch (into which I was prepared to jump  should a car get a little squirrelly). But, somehow, my feet knew every dip, pothole, and man-hole cover. I found myself being carried in and out of the road to avoid obstacles I knew were there but could not see for the white blanket trying to deceive me. It was a strange sensation to trust my feet and not my eyes. In one sense, it was frightening to be so blind. Yet, it was also exhilarating to experience the unknown; to have faith enough to run headlong into...

I am a fool. If only I had this kind of faith every day. The kind of faith that sees the white world everywhere and is undaunted. The kind of faith that doesn't know what the next step is going to be like, but is patiently ready and persistently fruitful. We face a perpetual series of unknowns. Everywhere life is covered in a blanket of fresh worries and newly fallen cares. Trouble and disaster are buried amongst them. Sin could crop up anywhere at anytime. Somehow we're supposed to navigate through it all, to persist to the end. Not by trusting in what we can perceive, for we don't perceive clearly. But rather confiding in that which His Spirit tells us.

Sometimes it can feel lonely and difficult. Sometimes we slip a little. Sometimes snow builds up in your microspikes and you have to dig it out so you can get traction again. Sometimes it gets cold. But that is all just worries of the world. Would we really trade the experience so we can be comfortable in our own beds, spiritually lifeless? Or would we step out?

One of the best things I experienced this morning was something that caught me completely off guard. I never knew there could be so much joy found in another pair of tracks in the snow. I don't know if both sets belonged to the same person. I'm inclined to think they weren't. One set was on the upper portion of my run and one on the lower, and they didn't seem to be connected in any way other than the fact that someone else had been out here. Before five in the morning. Not out to get a newspaper, but to go for a walk or run. I felt a kindred sense of solidarity to these people whom I've never met. I never would have known their presence but for the snow. I thought I was the only idiot crazy enough to run in the pitch-black pre-dawn.

Sometimes, if we are out running the race, we get to see evidence of other runners. We may not get to meet them or share fellowship with them. But they are there all the same. Their tracks are evident. They may not be moving the same way we are moving. They may not have the same calling or destination. But we are not alone. There are other pilgrims struggling through the snow trying to reach that ultimate goal. They, too, must trust in strength found not in themselves. They, too, are being guided through the dangers and pitfalls. Their work is not our work, but its fruitfulness is encouraging to other travelers.

May the Lord always guide your steps amongst the tempests and blizzards of life. May His Spirit show you the small joys of stepping out in faith. May He help you to form habits that will protect you against the unknown. May He show you the occasional footprint of those who went before you to encourage you. And may you never be daunted by the cares and worries of this world, knowing that the Father is behind everything, steering you home one step at a time. We need only walk with God.

© 2012 Seth Alan Jackson

Friday, February 10, 2012


The groundhog is a poor prophet. In the pomp and circumstance of this year's Groundhog's Day, the reclusive rodent predicted another six weeks of winter. It was on every major and local news network, as it is each year. Yet Punxsutawney Phil has only been on target 39% of the time. Seeing as his odds are 50/50, a coin toss would have been a more precise methodology of determining the start of Spring. It begs the question as to whom is more foolish. On one hand we have a small mammal who, when surrounded with a teeming mass of humans formally dressed and staring at him, tends to "see his shadow" and run back to safety (100 times vs. the 16 times he "predicted" an early spring). On the other hand are humans who worship said mammal and interpret his behavior as an irrefutable proclamation of the weather.

I take it back. There are no questions as to whom is more foolish.

For those of us in Washington State who chose not to read too much into an oversized gerbil's predictable behavior, we have had the joy of copious amounts of clear skies and bright sunshine. For the past week I've been attacking the weeds and bushes, trimming the roses to make way for new growth. I occasionally paused to take pleasure in the low sun's increasing ability to send its rays through to my bones, warming my soul. It tells me that Spring is already here. As do the young crocus and forsythia shoots poking their way through the ground.

My mother taught me to find joy in the ground's labors and it feels like winter lingered far too long, as it always seems, preventing the simple pleasure of tending to our yard. It's all too easy, in these tenuous first glimpses of changing season, to be deterred by the hint of drizzle or the occasional chilling gust. But these are small obstacles to overcome in order to obtain the greater prize found in labor's completion.

There is peace when surrendering to the humbling presence of creation.
There is satisfaction in the calm sweat of perseverance.
There is hope encapsulated in the frailty of seed.
Hidden faith awaits revelation with the removal of weeds.
There is manifest joy seen in the blossom of life.
There is a harvest of purpose in the culmination of love.

As I set about relishing the return of the cultivation our yard, I rediscovered a fundamental truth of gardening. You're going to get dirty. And I love playing in the dirt. The contrast of warm, fresh air with the cool, damp earth reinvigorates that inner acknowledgement of existence. I feel alive. I don't mind in the slightest when I notice my hands personifying the nature of a chameleon. I watch as they turn various shades of brown and green as everything I touch leaves traces of themselves on my palms. It reinforces a truth I've known for a long time, but so easily forget.

We casually compliment the verdancy of the largest digit of those who have lush and vibrant gardens. We use that old colloquialism that denotes that there is a gift hidden in the genetics of those who are good with plants; some talent that others do not possess. I tend to think, however, that the origination of referring to others as possessing a "green thumb" wasn't rooted in the awe of their resultant work. Rather, I think it referred to their hands being stained the color of their toil.

Like so many things in life, practice makes perfect. The practice of gardening develops the skill necessary to produce a pleasant garden. There is wisdom to be gleaned from skillful gardeners, to be sure. Yet, some wisdom can only be unearthed with the spade of experience. It becomes a badge of honor to have one's hands stained with the green of chlorophyll and the brown of earth. Even after thoroughly scrubbing them, there are always traces left behind and I don't mind in the slightest.

It makes me wonder what other signs are visible on my hands and what they reveal about me. I hope beyond all else that I am tending my Savior's garden first and foremost. I long to bring my Father glory. I pray that I can learn to put myself aside, to let go of my own identity, and be a reflection of His sacrifice. I fail miserably. Yet, I cling to the hope that perhaps tending His garden is much like tending my earthly garden. With practice, He can bring forth abundance. I just need to get down to the task at hand. I need to remove the weeds, turn over the dirt, allow to Him plant the seeds of His Spirit, and patiently wait for Him nourish all things with the blood of His salvation.

My greatest desire is to be caught red-handed.

© 2012 Seth Alan Jackson

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


The department I work for is old; over a hundred years old. It has a rich history filled with many traditions. Some are remarkable. Others leave something to be desired. One of the most difficult traditions to grow accustomed to is the communal bunkroom.

It is at this point that I will apologize to my co-workers. While I refuse to name anyone out of respect, they will, in all reality, probably recognize themselves in the following passages. I hope you can forgive me.

I will begin with the issue of sleep. Specifically, the snorers. Suffice it to say that all of us have, at one point or another, slumbered with an augmented, audible expression of the function of our nasal passages. But there are those amongst us who are champions. My favorites are those with rhythm. They exhibit a sonorous repetition akin to a lullaby. Although slightly annoying, it fades with time into the expected sounds of the night and can actually soothe one to sleep.

Yet, as much as there are some who dance with fluid grace, there are also those with two left feet. These individuals are unsure of the poignancy their presentation. They alternate from deep, raucous tones to soft, melodic whispers, only to abruptly interrupt themselves with disgruntled snorts after which they roll back over into a full-on roar. Although initially entertaining, their unpredictability results in a cacophony of chaos that forces the listener to fixate on the subject's every dynamic.

Worse than this is two of them. Sometimes they comically complement one another. This is rare. I don't know if it's the overwhelming abundance of "Type A" personality in my profession or just the competitive nature of man. Yet, where two or more snorers gather, rivalries will inevitably ensue. I have heard two individuals incrementally alternate who was more dominant until the resulting sound caused the very windows to bow back and forth in surrender to each breath. Oh, there are brief intermissions in this orchestra of the obnoxious, but only enough to excuse oneself to the bathroom, get a drink of water, and return for the second act.

The absolute worst snorer, however, is the individual who can't decide whether or not they want to continue breathing. I know apnea is a real problem that prevents many individuals from getting a good night's sleep. But let me give you an example from the perspective of the observer. Here I am laying in my bed, slowly drifting off to sleep to the sounds of a snoring friend on the other side of the room, when all of the sudden the snoring stops. Now, I can't really explain to you how this happens, but after 2-3 years of listening to them snore, you get to know their sounds. You know when there is a change of pace or an increase in intensity. Subsequently, you become fully aware beyond any shadow of a doubt, that with this particular cessation of sound there is positively no exchange of air going on in that bed. At all. They've completely stopped breathing.

What happens next is a rapid series of firing neurons that abruptly wakes you from any slumber into which you were drifting.

Ten seconds go by.

"Should I go shake them and make sure they're okay? Maybe he just stopped snoring for a second and he'll start his crescendo again soon. Was that a breath?"

Twenty seconds.

"I'm sure he's fine. Any second now he'll start up again. I'm overreacting. His brain is bound to want oxygen sooner or later. Feel free to start snoring any time you're ready."

Thirty seconds.

"Okay. He's got a wife and kid at home. I've got to do something. How could I look them in the face knowing I could have done something and try to apologize. Ten more seconds and then I'll go....wait. Was that him? No that was the paramedic who just started snoring to fill the present void. Crap."

Forty seconds.

"He's dead. I know it. He's dead. I need the BVM, O2 bottle, an airway adjunct, airway kit, suction unit, med kit, and probably a backboard. Should I wake the paramedic first or just go get the gear? Has anyone ever called 9-1-1 from a fire station? I should probably just use the intercom initially. Should I grab the IV tray, too?"

Fifty seconds.

I throw back the covers and just about the time my feet hit the floor this poor individual takes in a massive, rumbling snore that immediately throws the paramedic's rattling back in its place. Crisis averted. Thank God. Until fifteen minutes later when the cycle starts all over again. I don't sleep well at work.

Proceeding onward, there are the tosser-turners. It doesn't matter what position they are in, it's the wrong one. I confess there's a small amount of getting comfortable that needs to occur before I can drift off, but once set, I usually wake up wherever I resigned myself. Not so with these individuals. Their limit is about 20 minutes. Then, like a rotisserie chicken, they need to turn. Then again. Whoops, we missed a side. Now, somehow, we got inverted, gotta right this ship. There goes the pillow. And a bedcover. Now we're cold and searching for the blankets. What boggles my mind is how they manage to sleep throughout this ritual. It's actually quite amazing. Upon waking, they manage to say something truly astounding like, "Man, I must have slept wrong or something. I don't feel very rested."

Probably the most disruptive, however, is the category into which I must classify myself: the talkers. I can't apologize enough for the reality of the fact that I talk in my sleep. It's the most disruptive not because it's unnecessarily loud or grating, but because it piques curiosity as to what is going on. It draws the individuals who have yet to drift off smartly to attention wondering, "What in the world is going on in that alternate reality over there." Apparently I mumble with such adamant compulsion that I must be the moderator at a sheep-counting debate. "I see your point, sir, but the quantity of sheep is not the most relevant portion of the project. The gentleman is correct in assuming that black sheep are worth ten points. Daffodils are strictly extra credit and offer no reward other than.............zzzzzzzzzz." I have been told that I am so rude as to laugh in my sleep without even having the decency of letting others in on the joke. Again, I'm sorry.

And this is just sleeping. Consciousness is another arena altogether. It's comical to enjoy those nuances of social living whilst one party is unaware of their actions. It is another thing entirely to enjoy their subtleties of choice.

Let's begin with the thermostat. I was always under the impression that, generally, people were most comfortable within a range of 68-74° F. Boy howdy, was I off-base. Survey says? 99% of people are only happy when uncomfortable with someone else's preference. Thus there is no ideal temperature except all possible temperatures. This only presents a problem when one has so cheap a thermostat that it fails to recognize individuals as they walk in the door and instantly surround them in a "climate bubble" customized to their mood/predisposition for that specific day. You get what you pay for.

None of this accounts for those who have rejected the thermostat as a viable means of controlling climate. Like some sort of natural purist, these individuals must have the window open at all times. Including at night. In the winter. In 30 degrees with snow coming down. With cars honking and cats fighting and raccoons mating and fireworks exploding. Don't ask me why raccoons are mating under a car that is doing donuts in the snow while explosions of leftover bottle rockets penetrate the frozen air. I don't know. It's Bremerton.

Then there's the gas. That's right guys, I'm outing you for all the world to see. Ladies, take note. If you believe for even a minute that your husband farts only as is occasionally necessary and normal, come spend a day in the firehouse. Starting at 8 AM at the beginning of your 24-hour shift and proceeding until 07:59:59:99 the next morning, it is glorious tradition to compete with your coworkers in the prestigious Fartathon. This works great whenever these participants are grouped together on the same shift. But sharing is caring and our shifts care enough to share the wealth with everyone. Which means you usually have one to two individuals who gas out the entire shift. There's a reason we stock air freshener in bulk.

This diatribe could go on, but I think it would be wise to wrap it up with this last little treat of communal life. The absolute and utter lack of any form of privacy. You want to watch the soccer game? Too bad. We couldn't possibly interrupt this 14-hour Deadliest Catch marathon to accommodate your "gay sport". You want to relax and take a nap in the bunkroom? Sorry, but we need to watch this episode of Man vs. Food for the seventh time. You desire a little peace and quiet to allow for immersion in a book? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, books. He reads books. They don't even have pictures.

With all these justifications for standing against the theory of cohabitation, you would think I would be the first to advocate the obvious solution: individual dorm rooms. But as I laid in bed trying to sleep amidst the noise of two snorers, an open window, a winter storm sending in tendrils of frigid air, and the scuffling of a raccoon wondering where all his lady friends were tonight, I realized that I would always support communal bunkrooms.

There are many reasons, but the essence of it is this: I don't like who I am without it. I know I could get more reading done, have a more peaceful rest, not have the odor of the wrong end of man incessantly permeating the air, and maybe be warm for once. But that's the point. It is all of it, selfish. When exposed to my brothers in communal living, it forces this introvert out of his shell and causes him to consider others. It's a struggle, to be sure. But one fully worth the hassle in order to learn about my responsibility towards them.

As a society, we are drawing further away from real relationships. We invent ways to mimic having relationships. We watch the news to feel a sense of community and believe that we are "in the know." We use Facebook and Twitter to pretend like we are communicating with others while leaving out tone, body language, and personal expression allowing for misperception and shallow relationships. We find forms of entertainment to distract us from real growth and thereby bury our heads in the sand. Our experience is daily becoming so exclusionary as to question our existence as a society at all. And it's dictating how we interact in the Christian community.

There is no room in the Christian life for exclusivity. We need knowledge of one another as individuals fully disclosed. Instead, we worship a pride of American individualism, a desire for separation from the prying eyes of another. But there is no place in the Christian walk for secrets. We are called to confess our sins to one another, worship together, learn from each other, and admonish in love. It's a calling for community, for painful honesty.

One of my favorite passages in Scripture remains a simple proverb. "As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend." May I never desire the dullness of a life unshared.

© 2012 Seth Alan Jackson 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Spiritual Things

"The spirit of a man will sustain him in sickness, but who can bear a broken spirit? "
- Prov. 18:14

I've been struggling for the past month on this last entry, not quite sure of how it should be approached. I guess it's because I'm still in the early stages of putting the principle into practice that I have difficulty molding it into words. I don't feel very qualified to speak on the matter. Like a dog imitating its master, I'm a comical misrepresentation of the truth. Yet, I feel so strongly on the need to address this subject that I can't go another day without trying.

I'll start this thing off right and apologize now. Then maybe you can forgive the hodgepodge of thoughts to which you are about to be subjected should you actually elect to read further. Maybe I'll just put it up for a little while and delete it once I confirm how foolish and ignorant I really am. For what it's worth, I'm sorry. Someday I might figure it out and be able to draw up an addendum. I'll probably just end up arguing with myself. Here goes.

I had a dream last night. Or maybe it was a thought. Or maybe a dream of a thought. I thought I dreamed I had a thought once upon a dream (I hope that isn't copyrighted by any major animation studios. Can't you feel yourself getting excited already? Aren't you motivated to return to whatever you were doing before you started reading this? I know I am.)

I dreamed I was blind. Surrounding me in all directions were the sounds of others in desperate need. I faintly remember an earthquake and the ash of debris suffocating my every breath, but all my thoughts were dominated by the sounds of pain and despair about me. I tried to reach them. I tried to help. I crawled stubbornly over indiscernible masses of concrete, wood, metal, and glass. But every time I felt myself getting close to someone, they fell silent. Like some perverse game of "Marco Polo", I found myself wretchedly stumbling in circles. Lost. Helpless. Everywhere around me, I could hear the cries of those with more dire needs than my own.

It got me thinking. About life. About how we interact with one another. About the absurdity of our efforts. About how we turn simple relationships into a masquerade. How the act of co-existing becomes a carnival of functionless lights and sounds; a purposeless panoply of self-indulgence.

There is more to man than the physical. There is something inside that cries out for recognition. An aspect of personhood dwells within, which is more than the sum of its bodily function. For all the intricacies of the known biological process of thought, we sense that there is more that takes place than the simplistic firing of synapses. Science has yet to fully understand and explain in clear terms the fullness of consciousness. Its shortcomings, however, do not negate the fact that there is more to man. 

How does one attest to that which is intangible when everything by which we evaluate our existence is distinguished through the senses? It is difficult enough existing in this physical realm, providing for the basic needs of survival, let alone deciphering and attending to the person within.

It seems facile to bastardize our spiritual nature by cohering together a lump of fleeting emotions. While easy to describe our nature with love, fear, anger, joy, anxiety, guilt, serenity; it amounts to merely painting the fringes of a portrait. Emotions are not our soul. Emotions are a response of our spirit to outside influences. They have the potential to reflect an aspect of our spiritual nature, but they can also be deceptive and misleading. Evaluating the experience of life simply by emotions makes us subject to the fallacies of our own perception.

"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?" 
- Jer. 17:9

Ideally, if we take the time to discipline ourselves, we can control our emotions. Admittedly, this is profoundly difficult to do. However, the wise amongst us somehow manage to reach that point where they are not subject to their emotions, but rather, their emotions are subject to them. Which then relates emotions as subject to our true selves. Worshiping emotional responses in our lives fails to recognize our true spiritual nature. It is an oversimplification and one we as a society blindly overlook.

Yet, we accept this oversimplification. We focus on how we feel. We seek out ignoble desires. We perceive blindly. We treat each other as though a veil shrouded all our vision. We forget to step into another's shoes and walk their path with them.

The older I get, the more I tend to build layers of protection around myself, sociably attempting to "master" how I present myself to others. Occasionally, this can manifest honestly through sound wisdom and allow for reaching out and connecting with others. More often, we use this ability selfishly to deceive, to hide, to protect ourselves from the discernment of others. Or worse yet, in an attempt to control the perceptions of others. But these deceptions only separate us from one another. It might shelter us from the hurt that can be perpetrated when our closeness to others gets abused. The tradeoff is that it quarantines us from any real fellowship.

The physical and spiritual worlds end up getting separated. What once lived in harmony has the wedge of selfishness and sin driven between them. We prioritize the here and now; what we can control and influence. The spiritual things become hard for us to perceive. They are elusive, hiding amongst a thick fog of our own apprehensions; present but intangible. So we ignore them. We focus on the fog. We do not give credence to that which God calls us, to the attendance of harmony in the merger of the physical with the spiritual. We become blind, aimlessly pursuing desires that can never satisfy the calling of our inner self. 

But we still catch glimpses of the spiritual nature of our souls. We know that there is more to mankind. It is this inner identity that God is attempting to perfect. It is those innermost aspects by which we are defined that the potter is molding into a new creation. Stubbornly, we refuse His touch. We seek out that which is our basest selves and do not pursue the process of peeling away our layers to expose the hidden nature within. How can we destroy the old man and don the new when we surround our true nature with layers of lies that allow us to deny its existence? When we allow ourselves to perpetuate the old way of thinking?

The World is lying to itself. We are lying to ourselves. We project an ownership of reality when we're all just grasping at fragments of a shared dream. There is One who sees all. One who knows the truth of all things. When we are silent enough to allow His Spirit to speak to us, we can glimpse His truth. When we see things through His eyes, we can look past the masquerade and attend to those spiritual things in the fullness of His compassion. To do so we must know Him as we are known by Him. We must love Him as we are loved by Him. We must abide in Him as His Son's purchase allows His Spirit to abide in us. We must fear Him in all His glory and power. We must run to him as little children to our true Father.

Then we must reach out to one another. We can easily attend, especially in the affluence of our nation, to physical things. We can donate to good causes and send out missionaries to do the work on our behalf. But that's not the full extent of what we were called to do. We were called to live in communion with one another. To reach out to one another. To love. To guide. To admonish. To nurture the spirit. To minister to the soul.



Somewhere, there is harmony. Somewhere my physical and spiritual sides stop struggling against one another and focus instead on the things that are meaningful. The purposes that last beyond this life.

© 2011 Seth Alan Jackson 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

True Freedom

I've long been a fan of the musical group Jars of Clay. The depth of their lyrics always seem perfectly attuned to the melodies around which they spin. Their enlightening messages are driven by elusively powerful riffs and are artfully accented with intriguing sounds that one might not think "musical" until heard. Most of their songs are simple and elegant, but some of their best work is so subtle as to seem poetically hidden. They are quiet, concealed waterfalls that cascade miles from known paths, except to those that have traversed them previously and returned to meditate on their flowing wisdom.

As I was struggling my way up the perpetual ascent of the stepmill in the subdued peace found only before dawn, one of my favorite songs came across my headphones. It was one of the songs from their debut album. The album most individuals would know for "Flood", a song so universal that it crossed over into mainstream music and touched many souls, some of whom accepted Christ as a result. But the song that came on was "Art in Me." Another powerful and superbly understated piece of musical genius.

At this point I have to confess. I have enjoyed the intricacies of the music for years. (The gentle melody of acoustic guitars supporting whimsical accents of a violin while a piano and some sort of hand drum dance quietly in the background). It's a thoroughly enjoyable tune. Yet, the message, which always piqued my curiosity, remained shrouded slightly in ambiguity.

I've never been good at singling out lyrics. If I don't have them in front of me, I usually insert the wrong ones, so I typically avoid plugging in my own and just enjoy the song. I also never bothered to read them on the CD insert. It just wasn't something pressing on my mind. So I typically glossed over the song on to the way to the next favorite that I knew was coming. Yet, in amongst all the touching instrumentals, one could pick out a sense of discord lightly addressed in the verse that provoked wonder as to what they were truly attesting.

I had my ideas. But I know now I was always just a little off. This morning, the Spirit opened my eyes a little. Curiosity converted to knowledge in the wisdom of life and forced me mentally to my knees (who were screaming at me to stop climbing the stepmill).

I hate to address the song's meaning directly, as subtlety is the true art of poetry. But for the sake of discussion, I'll indulge in the briefest of summaries. The song, I think, is deliberating on the dysfunction of this world and it's desperate dissension against God.  A profound concept for a Christian.

"Wait a minute, Seth. What do you mean 'profound'? I would think it would be an apparent and simple concept as it's the essence of Christianity. Recognizing man's depravity in his fall from God's grace and God's miraculous reconciliation of us to that grace through belief in the sacrifice of His Son is the entirety of the salvation He offers. This isn't profound. This is Christianity 101."

And yet...

"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." Romans 12:1-2

Here I am sitting, waiting, wishing for Christ's return. I see the world about me. I know what He wants me to do. His Spirit attests to it daily. There are things in the world I shouldn't enjoy, but should separate myself from for His sake. The TV comes on and the humor found in popular shows ridicules society in a crass and coarse manner. I stumble. Music comes on the radio that is worldly and steeped in self-indulgence despite the enjoyment to be found in the depth of musical talent or complexity of lyrics. I trip. A movie is selected by friends and I know it will be saturated in the shallowness of society, but I don't wish to offend anyone. I fall flat on my face. I'm tired and just want to relax and my household needs my attention. I entangle myself clumsily in the hurdles, sprawling all over myself. My patience is wearing thin and I lash out angrily at someone. Was I ever standing upright to begin with?

And the worst one. The world seems to be imploding. Death, wars, pain, and suffering are rampant. Selfish, shallow entertainment and divisive, partisan politics are the focal point of the media, spun expertly to capitalize on foolishness. Greed is the perpetual, driving thought of society. Community, responsibility, and self-sacrifice are forgotten. Love has become a byword of sensuality and romanticismInto the corner I huddle, petrified. Turn out the lights. Let me lay here in ignorance. I'm so tired.

"For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Matthew 11:30

His burden is so light, I can not bear to hold it up! His yoke is so easy, I toil and struggle to work its righteousness! I feel constantly a failure!


It's so simple. Christian men and women I plead with you now. Remember.

Remember who you were. What brought you to the cross? Who made clear the path to the Father? If not for His salvation, where would you be? Lost in sin. Lost in ourselves. Desperate. Destitute. Delusional. Depraved. We were apart from God and apart from true joy because we were stumbling in sin.

"But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness." Romans 6:17-18

Oh, Christians, it's so simple. We complicate matters. We separate ourselves from those teachings we learned in the newness of Christ. We've forgotten the widow, the orphan, the needy. Most importantly, we've forgotten the righteousness of our God. The same righteousness we were called into. We have slipped into sin. When we indulge in sin, we can not bear the weight of righteousness.

We need only submit to return to Him! We need not wallow in the muck any longer. He will wash us and set us apart. Freedom is ours for the taking. He's paid the price. Free to be slaves! How glorious a thought; how wondrous a joy! Slaves to something we had no right to claim. Slaves to perfection that none of us deserves.

Submit to God. You know what the Spirit has spoken on your heart. Live it. Pursue righteousness for the perfect gift that it is. We will stumble. Will we learn? Will we truly give it to the One who has already done everything to reconcile us to Him? Will we stop clinging to our desires and turn them over?

Praise God that His Son submits to the authority of the Father! Praise God that His Son is One who would not be deceived by evil temptations! Praise God that His Son refuses to cave to selfish desires! Oh, that I would be like His Son and honor our Father!

© 2011 Seth Alan Jackson 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


There were many times in my life when I wished I had a brother. Someone who knew genuine masculinity and sought to challenge me to pursue it. Someone who understood what it meant to push the limits of the envelope. When my sisters wanted to play "tea party" and demanded I participate, I wished I had a brother. When my sisters would dress the cat up and I wanted to don camouflage and liberate it from it's insidious torturers, I wished I had a brother. When there were birthday parties with numerous giggling girls chattering on until the wee hours of the morning, I wished I had a brother. When my sisters were chasing me down to put headbands on me like some comedic doll to accessorize, I wished I had a brother. I learned to hide headbands.

Forgive me ladies, I do not mean to ostracize you today. I am thankful for my wife and the many ways in which she is beautifully feminine. I celebrate how she pursues adopting the persona of the Proverbs wife and the numerous ways in which she has succeeded. It is a challenge and a blessing to pursue treating her with Christ's gentleness and love. May He and she forgive me for the many ways I fail. I am thankful for my sisters. They have taught me much in life outside of my distaste for headbands. I am thankful for my mother. Her love and generosity is a profound reflection of Christ's.

But I really wish I had a brother. Even more so today than when I was growing up.

Our world has changed. The modern church has changed. We live in a day when it is considered a sin to admonish one another, even in love. Our sense of American individualism has trumped the call to the communal life that our God has given us. Oh, we go to church and sit in the seats and sing the songs and pray the prayers. We partake of the table and then trivialize the entire process. We justify the ritualism we have embraced in the church by claiming the grace of God. (Praise God for His grace!) We seem to have forgotten the fear of God. For no sooner have we been partakers in the gift of fellowship, than we go back to our homes and indulge in the distractions of life.

Entertainment has become the dominant driving force in our lives. I could indulge in the plethora of forms we use to distract ourselves, but I think "entertainment" is more than sufficient. This is the American idol. We are no different than Rome with her Coliseum. We have pushed escapism through media to the point that we have difficulty identifying ourselves in community without it. We associate by what we watch, hear, and play through our modern and not-as-modern (de)vices. So much so that we don't know the names of our physical neighbors. And we slip into complacency. Complacency is the breeding ground for sin. Stagnancy is a symptom of being separated from that Godliness to which we were called. And then when someone points out that we are stagnant and complacent, we run and hide in our distractions.

Perhaps that is a significant part of human nature, but when the fellowship of the Church gathers and perpetuates it, we find ourselves in a real struggle. The modern church is constantly evaluating itself on its ability to entertain. We evaluate our "church experience" on the enjoyment of the music. We drown out the congregation with worship teams that strive for greater and greater "professionalism". We seek an emotional high and then ascribe spirituality to the significance of what the service has done for us, its ability to make us smile, applaud, laugh, and cry. The funny jokes the pastor used. How nice and religious the choir sounded. It's a pale comparison to the true fruit of the Spirit.

Then it takes a turn for the worse. We as a Christian society become so fixated on pursuing that emotional high that we disdain anyone who detracts from the "positive" experience. The feeling must not be interrupted! Anyone who does so is a dissenter and must be silenced! Iniquity is tolerated within brotherhood because to do otherwise would show a lack of "love" and be placing "judgment" on others. We are quick to defend our iniquity with Christ's words, "Judge not, lest you be judged."

But since when did Christ indulge iniquity? Did Jesus say to the woman found guilty of adultery who the crowd brought to Him, "Go, and worry not for the perpetuation of sin in your life, for you are no longer accountable for your sins?" No! He said, "Go and sin no more." So many read the passage in Matthew 7:1-5 and reference it to protect themselves from confronting their own sin, but they seem to have forgotten Matthew 18:15-20; Ezekiel 3:18-19, 1 Corinthians 5:9-13. Jesus said to remove the plank out of your own eye so that you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother's. Judgment and admonishment are not the same. We are not to avoid admonishment.

And yet this pervasiveness of avoiding confrontation is found throughout our "modern Christianity". We have diminished the fellowship; watered it down to tastelessness. We have become bland and tepid. All for the fear of being seen as unacceptable in this life, this world. We so strive for popularity such that we avoid true fellowship. We run and hide away from deep, personal relationships with the body of Christ, His Church. We have become, "of the world."

I long for a different day. A day when we can be open and honest about ourselves such that we can be straightforward with one another. I long for brotherhood. Those who aren't afraid of accountability. Those who put on true masculinity, the kind of masculinity that confronts itself and doesn't shy away for the sake of self-preservation. The kind of accountability that boldly proclaims the purchase of the Lamb; that we are not our own.

"In daily, earnest living with the Cross of Christ the Christian loses the spirit of human censoriousness on the one hand and weak indulgence on the other, and he receives a spirit of divine severity and divine love." -Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

How can we trust ourselves to bear each others' sins for accountability's sake if we can't hold ourselves to the concept of accountability? If you are incapable of receiving correction and instead choose to indulge in iniquity, how can I trust you to hold me accountable to my iniquities?

For how do I know, if you choose to indulge the sinful nature, that my sins will not be used to justify your own? How can I trust you to not turn them against God?

I do not desire accountability in order to obtain a feeling of self-righteousness or as vindication for my own sins. To do so would be sin. The fact that I embrace a high standard of accountability should in itself prove that I desire to be held accountable.

But I am also not seeking an accomplice in perpetuating sin!

I am not seeking brothers who will condone my actions in order to justify their own!

I am seeking mighty men of valor who shamelessly don the armament of Christ and turn fearlessly to face their sin and stamp it out for the testimony of our Savior!

There is a Light in this world. In Him is no darkness. We stand at the perimeter of this Light, dancing timidly at the outskirts of righteousness. This Light will not tolerate darkness for He has already paid the price for our sins so that He may obliterate them from our personhood. To step into the Light will require exposing our true nature so that we might submit it to Him in service to His divine will.

Do we then remain stagnant in the shadows in order to preserve our individualism, our false sense of ownership to identity? Or do we step into His light in submission to the price He paid to cleanse us and make us His? Will you step into the light of Godliness which is true Christianity with me? Will you help me to expose all darkness and eradicate it before His light?

Can we be brothers?

© 2011 Seth Alan Jackson