It’s Friday…

…but Sunday is a comin’. I am grateful for both. Deep down in my gut kind of grateful.

A Proper Easter Attire

Easter FlowersIn one week’s time my friends and I, we’ll be celebrating. Rejoicing over the single most profound event in all of history. Pondering the most baffling truth in all the world. As if taking on tiny baby flesh wasn’t enough… now the exalted King of all things has traded places with me and made it right again. He’s taken all the broken places and made them whole again. He has gathered up all the shards – the shattered relationships, the selfish acts, the greedy thoughts; He’s swept them up and fashioned them into something more beautiful than the original sculpture. All at His own expense.

How is this not the best news ever heard? How is it that most of us would rather talk about bunnies and pastel eggs and new bonnets? Can’t we just talk about something sweet? Maybe tulips or lilies? Anything to distract us from having to really focus on the shock of what Jesus has done.

Why? Why do we push it away? Why do we let other things overshadow this profound truth? Don’t we want the broken places fixed?

I think I finally understand it. I think we DO want them fixed. At least many of us do. We know something is wrong. We see the shattered mess of the world. And we really want it fixed.

We just want to do it ourselves.

And there’s the rub. Easter Sunday is only truly a celebration if we are convinced we’d be hopeless and desperate without it.

John Stott captured it well in this short piece entitled Naked Pride:

“As we stand before the cross, we begin to gain a clear view both of God and of ourselves, especially in relation to each other. Instead of inflicting upon us the judgment we deserved, God in Christ endured it in our place… This is the ‘scandal,’ the stumbling-block, of the cross. For our proud hearts rebel against it. We cannot bear to acknowledge either the seriousness of our sin and the guilt or our utter indebtedness to the cross. Surely, we say, there must be something we can do, or at least contribute, in order to make amends?”

Yes, isn’t there something? Maybe I can be a little nicer to my annoying neighbor. Or go to church a bit more. Oh, and, I’ll totally stop cussing when the kids are around. Yes, I can pull this thing together if I just work a little harder. Put my nose to the grindstone and all of that. Come to think of it, what’s the big deal about Easter anyway? Oh yes,  another religious holiday. Sure, I’ll go pay my dues. If God is lucky, I’ll even throw a little something in the plate as it goes by. Better yet, I’ll contribute to one of those clean water well projects in Africa. Yes, that’s what I’ll do. If we all just did something like that, this world would be a better place.

Ah… but Stott cuts across such platitudes, “The proud human heart is there revealed. We insist on paying for what we have done. We cannot stand the humiliation of acknowledging our bankruptcy and allowing somebody else to pay for us. The notion that this somebody should be God Himself is just too much to take. We would rather perish than repent, rather lose ourselves than humble ourselves…

“But we cannot escape the embarrassment of standing stark naked before God. It is no use our trying to cover up like Adam and Eve in the garden. Our attempts at self-justification are as ineffectual as their fig-leaves. We have to acknowledge our nakedness, see the Divine Substitute wearing our filthy rags instead of us, allow Him to clothe us with His own righteousness.”

And it is right there. In that naked place of realization. There that Easter Sunday becomes the grandest celebration. The best news we’ve ever heard.

May your preparation this week be blessed. Both as you ponder your own nakedness and as you embrace the beautiful garment offered to clothe you.

Grace and peace,

Shannon McKee

Sister to Sister {Christian Accountability}

SONY DSCOver the years, I know that some of you have heard me talk about my Accountability Group and how much I appreciate the five women there who come alongside me in so many ways. In fact, many of you have asked me about it. So, this week over at The Better Mom, I’m sharing about us. It’s a two –part series – yesterday’s post was some of the heart and vision behind our group. Today, I’m giving practical suggestions for those who want to start something similar.

Come on over and see what’s on my mind…

Keeping Quiet {Even When the List Screams Loud}

They’re all out the door now. The flurry of backpacks and lunches is past. I’m finally alone with my day. I’m weary. I can feel it. I can remember it from the way I treated the kids yesterday when they pushed my patience. Within a moment, the list begins to run frantic through my head. It’s calling to me screaming at me. Of all the things to be done.

Because my “command central” looks like this.

Monday's Mess

And my calendar still says this.

Wrong DayThe 7th was like five days ago.

Because my parents were in town for a whole week. And Caleb needed all his gear because he starts Lacrosse practices in earnest this week. And the first phase of Madison’s electric project was due today. And Grammy turned 90 this weekend. And I’m prepping to speak at a women’s retreat this weekend for a church in Michigan. And our own church is growing like crazy – 40% or something nutso like that. And blog posts have deadlines – especially the work ones. And the kids don’t turn their socks right-side out when they put them down the chute so I sometimes have to wash them twice. And my inbox had 147 messages in it. (How is that even possible?) And the raisin canister for Rick’s oatmeal is empty, as are some of the shelves in the frig. And I think the kids had cheese for dinner last night. Just cheese. (Did Rick and I eat anything last night?) And I was last-minute on the form for Caleb’s mission project. And the office clean-up project I started on last weekend is still half-finished, mocking me every time I go to the basement. And that dumb dog won’t obey me like she obeys Rick. And, by the way, didn’t I just vacuum those floors? And, and, and.

All these things screaming for my attention. These are my realities. I can’t just ignore them. I don’t want to ignore them. Because I like having parents and a Grammy and kids who are active and smart. I like blogging and caring for our home. I like that our church is growing and I can’t wait to speak at Saralynn’s church from one of my favorite books, Colossians. I even like that dumb dog. (But don’t tell her… or Rick.) I do not like my email inbox though. Just for the record.

QuietI guess in some ways, I like the list. Except when it screams. But, now I’m here, on the cusp of my day, standing in the quiet after everyone has gone for the day. And I see it there. The candle I lit to soften the morning as the kids got going. Burning so sweet and soft and steady there. Suddenly it seems foolish to let the list scream at me like that. To let it interrupt the quiet. And now I know that I’m not talking about the quiet in the house… but the quiet that should be in my soul.

Because I have a set the Lord before me. “I have set the LORD always before me… therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices…” Remember that, Shan? The LORD. Not the list. I won’t set the list before me. Just the LORD. The One who gives meaning to lists.

Because let’s face it, no matter how well I do at tackling the list, it won’t make my whole being rejoice. Oh, I might feel good about it for a second – if I can even begin to catch up and do it well. But, it won’t fill me up. Or make my heart glad. Not really. And it’s just a gross lie to think that it will.

We’re in a pretty busy season as a family right now. And that means I need to live well. With my list. But, really, what’s the point if my Savior isn’t my motivation? In one thousand years when I’m before Him, the list will be a distant memory. In the meantime, I live with list. I go after the list. Because these are my realities and people are counting on me for things like cheese. And raisins. {wink} But I won’t let it steal my gaze. No. Not this day. “I have set the LORD always before me… therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices.” Amen.

Quiet

Will you join me in the quiet, restful place of joy?

I hope so,
Shannon McKee

My Exceeding Joy?

“I have set the LORD always before me… therefore my heart is and glad, and my whole being rejoices…” – a song penned by King David of Israel

For the last 10 weeks, I have been gathering with 70 other women from our precious church family every Monday evening to ponder this very idea. What does it mean for me to set the LORD always before me? For starters, who IS He, anyway? What’s He like? Can I know Him? And, furthermore, can that – just setting Him before me – really make my whole being rejoice? Really?

I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I experience that on a day-in, day-out basis. Oh, I have moments of joy. When I’m laughing with my family. Or when I’m having a great conversation with a like-minded friend. Or when I’m on vacation, walking along the dunes in quiet. Or when I’m singing hymns of praise and I sense the weight of my words back to God. Or when I’m reading an epic story like Lord of the Rings.


But, I’m not sure my whole being rejoices. And, if it does, it’s not for more than a minute or two. When the song stops or the laughter turns to bickering or the book ends or the coffee shop closes or it’s time to come back from nature into the grind of life. The moment passes and with it, sadly, so does my joy. It gets crowded out by all the rest of it.King David goes on in that same song to say that “in {God’s} presence there is fullness of joy.” Fullness. Not just a little crumble of joy that passes with a momentary pleasure. But fullness of joy. Like a cup that is brimming over with abundance.

The dictionary says that joy is the pleasurable feeling caused by the acquisition or expectation of something good. Can you think for a sec about the times over the last year when you experienced joy? What are those good things in your life that make you feel that way?

That’s a for real question. Not a trick question. And don’t say “Jesus” just because you think it’s the most spiritual thing to say. Think about it and jot some things down.

I don’t think those things are bad. It’s not wrong that laughing with my family brings me joy. But, I do think they are just a taste. Because, as Mary Kassian points out in her book Knowing God By Name, then it follows that the greater the goodness, the greater the joy will be.

Did you catch that? The greater the goodness, the greater the joy. So, if a walk along Lake Michigan dunes brings me a little bit of joy, wouldn’t it follow that focusing on the God of Splendor who thought of and created those dunes out of nothingness, would bring me A LOT of joy?

I think it might.

When Friends Grieve {5 Tips When You Want to Help}

When she saw me coming she wavered. Before we even started hugging she was releasing her pent up tears. It would continue for the next hour or so. Her melting into the arms of friends and family. It’s a lot of emotion for one person to carry alone. Here she was, saying goodbye to two of the most important women in her life. Within the span of one week both her grandma and her mom had died. And now she was doing calling hours and funerals and grave-side services. That’s a lot of emotion for one person to carry alone.

But she doesn’t have to. We are there. Holding up some of the burden with her. Her community is surrounding her – her husband, her pastor, her friends, her extended family. We are there. And, that’s it really. We are just being there – some of us physically and many of us in spirit. It’s a powerful thing to know you’re not alone when you’re hurting.

A lot of people have been asking me what they need. How we can help. We want to DO something. Something tangible. To take some of that ache away. To carry just a little bit of the burden for her.

It’s a beautiful scene really, watching people want to surround her like that.

As I’ve been reflecting on it, a few things have come to mind. I’m no grief counselor, mind-you. Just a friend watching another friend struggle through a month full of sorrows.

  1. Pray. Like for real. For them and with them. Sometimes we feel like praying is the “only thing we can do right now.” Like it’s the second-best option since there is nothing else we can do. Can I just take a sec to remind you that approaching the throne of grace to talk to the wise, loving, all-powerful  King of the universe on someone else’s behalf is NOT second-best? Go to Him and ask Him to scoop her up into His strong arms and comfort her in her time of need. Do it often and tell her that you’ve done it. And, when you can, do it with her. She might sob through the whole thing but there is something very moving about being prayed for with people you love and trust.
  2. See if there are any tangible needs that they do have right now. But be specific and be patient. Sometimes they don’t know WHAT they need. They’re too overwhelmed to make sense of lots of “what do you need” requests. Right now, my grieving friends have meals coming regularly through the wonderful website Take Them A Meal. And they are getting help with the daily needs of their kids. Those are the two most urgent needs that most families have in times of crisis. Beyond that, they just need to get through the week and let the dust settle.
  3. Offer to take things off of their to-do list. If she was supposed to run the PTA bake sale this weekend, offer to take it over for her. But don’t assume. She might WANT to do something mindless and unrelated to hospitals and funeral homes. Cleaning her house might be a burden that she would be blessed to have done by someone else. On the other hand, it might be very therapeutic for her to get on her hands and knees and scrub the floor. Ask, sincerely offer, even push a little bit to let her know you’re serious; but don’t assume.
  4. Text, email or facebook them just to let them know you care about them. A simple message can go a long way. But don’t be hurt if they don’t reply. They probably won’t. Because they just can’t always.
  5. If you really want to do something tangible but the meal schedule is already full and they are covered on childcare, think outside the box. Maybe a gift card for a family outing or dinner out would be nice for them to look forward to once the dust has settled a bit. Tuck it inside a card with words of love and encouragement. And mail it! In this digital age of ours, a real card with handwriting is a precious gift! The most important thing is just the communication that you are “in it” with them. Grief can be a lonely, tiring place.

Remember that as you come alongside hurting people in your life, you are showing them a little bit of God Himself. You are messengers of His grace and love for them. Just be willing to be used as He leads you. And, that will make all the difference.

Bible Reflections

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that one of my great passions is God’s Word. I want to continue to move toward viewing with longing, not as a duty.

Today, I’m over at The Better Mom, sharing some of that passion. Will you join me over there?

 

And, if you’d enjoy some further reading on the topic, here are a few of my other favorite posts from the archives. They are all on the topic of falling love with God’s Word.

Blessings on this Sabbath Day,

Christmas Dissonance {More Advent Thoughts}

I have long struggled with the reality of living in a busy culture. A culture that has certain traditions and expectations (not necessarily bad ones either). A culture that is run by a clock with deadlines and appointments and places to be. Constantly.

And, especially during any kind of holiday. Like, oh say, Christmas.

I wrestle with it because I have conflicting emotions. On the one hand, I bemoan the hectic pace and the expectations. The December to-do list can be crushing. On the other hand, I really like doing some of the things I do. I like making teacher gifts. I like decorating the tree and baking cookies. I like the added events like Christmas parties and concerts.

As a result, I feel a great dissonance. I want to keep Christmas simple. Even though I know it has become a circus. But I don’t totally want to kill the circus. Because it’s fun. Even though I know the circus can be a little distracting. And so it goes. Dissonance. In my soul. Over Christmas.

Usually, I just try to be more organized. I don’t truly simplify. I just organize the chaos a little better. But even THAT only sort-of works. Because I get halfway through December and realize I’ve been making Rick’s favorite Christmas cookies for other people. But not for him.

Last year, I was super proud of us because we decided to only send our Christmas card/letter/picture thingy out every OTHER year. I know, right? Just every OTHER year. Whew. Those McKees are really taming the circus with that one. Impressed, aren’t you?

Well, I can’t say that I’ve solved the dissonance in my soul over this whole thing. I haven’t. I’m still wrestling. BUT, I’ll leave you with a few words from my Advent devotional. I’m glad for voices that challenge me to keep wrestling. (Otherwise, I’d probably just believe the Target commercials and give into buying more stuff to make my house more perfect and my kids more happy.)

This entry is penned by Loretta Ross-Grott, an American author and dramatist.

The intensity and strain that many of us bring to Christmas must suggest to some onlookers that, on the whole, Christians do not seem to have gotten the point of it. Probably few of us have the faith or the nerve to tamper with hallowed Christmas traditions on a large scale, or with our other holiday celebrations. But a small experiment might prove interesting. What if, instead of DOING something, we were to BE something special? Be a womb. Be a dwelling for God. Be surprised.”

Well, there you have it.

Advent Reflections {Sharing from Watch for the Light}

As I mentioned yesterday, I’d like to use my blog space to share snippets from the Advent book I’ve been reading this year. It’s a great collection of thoughts from various authors/speakers.

This is one is by Madeline L’Engle. It’s just a couple of paragraphs but I love the imagery she conjures:

Was there a moment, known only to God, when all the stars held their breath, when the galaxies paused in their dance for a fraction of a second, and the Word, who had called it all into being, went with all His love into the womb of a young girl, and the universe started to breathe again, and the ancient harmonies resumed their song, and the angels clapped their hands for joy?”

Think about that for a sec. Don’t you just love image of it? All the universe pausing at this one moment in time at the wonder of it.

She goes on: “Power. Greater power than we can imagine, abandoned, as the Word knew the powerlessness of the unborn child, still unformed, taking up almost no space in the great ocean of amniotic fluid, unseeing, unhearing, unknowing. Slowly growing, as any human embryo grows, arms and legs and a head, eyes, mouth, nose, slowly swimming into life until the ocean in the womb is no longer enough, and it is time for birth.

Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, Christ, the Maker of the universe or perhaps many universes, willingly and lovingly leaving all that power and coming to this poor, sin-filled planet to live with us for a few years…

Yes. This.

This is Christmas.

 

How I Learned Thanks From a Faraway Blog Friend

Several years ago I stumbled upon a blog that impacted me deeply. I was new to the blogosphere and really found it because I was doing some research for a retreat at which I was to speak. It was filled with the words of a Canadian farmer’s wife and homeschooling mama to six. God used her words and her photos to stir my heart. Our lives were as different as day and night – me living in a liberal college town, a preacher’s wife, and public school mama to just two. Nevertheless, our love of Jesus and His grace made us sisters and I felt like I had “met” a kindred spirit.

When she started blogging about everyday graces and being purposeful about giving thanks, she planted an important seed in my heart. It was a seed that I desperately needed to let take root – in a place that had been given over to grumbling and criticizing. For I am a woman who loves to evaluate ideas and think critically. I know that critical thinking can be beneficial. But, it’s a good quality that can lead to bad character if left unchecked. To being judgmental and critical. To looking for the next, better thing instead of enjoying the current situation. In a nutshell, it can lead to a lack of gratitude.

Of Blogs and Books

So, I joined her in keeping a journal of thanks. I started soaking in the everyday and thanking God for even the little blessings or the hard moments. As I began to really notice my life, even the way I took photos changed. A pile of laundry became a thing of beauty. An unmet expectation transformed into an opportunity to trust.

And then, I read her book. It was the food and water that brought the seed to fruition – gave it roots and a place to grow.

Since then, it’s been a process of embracing gratitude and seeing all of life as grace. It’s not a new concept – it’s clear as clear on the pages of Scripture. Right there in the beginning. Pretty much all sin, right back to the first sin, stems out of an unthankful heart. A heart that demands more is a heart that can’t see the bounty of God’s goodness. It’s a heart that doesn’t trust the Giver. And, a lack of gratitude is an easy companion to pride and selfishness.

Ann says it this way: “Our fall was, has always been, and always will be, that we aren’t satisfied in God and what He gives. We hunger for something more, something other.”

No, it’s not a new concept at all. It’s just that Ann wrote into a void. There’s just not a lot out there about gratitude. Just take a look at the most-read articles or the most-popular books on the shelf. Most people want to know how to get more, not be happy with the less you already have. We compare and we covet and we fantasize about another life. And unless we do something obvious like rob a bank to get that life, we can hide these “little” sins behind a good work ethic and the American dream  – maybe even hide them from ourselves. An extra-marital affair at work usually gets discovered; but you can be envious of your friend’s life for a lot of years without ever recognizing the lack of gratitude (and the damage it does to your heart).

So what?

Yesterday I told you I was going to give you some tips and traditions for November. I did compile a list of links and ideas to help you celebrate gratitude. I think I’ll actually save them for this weekend.

For now, the only tip I’ll give is the one I gleaned from Ann. Start counting. On a scrap of paper. In a journal. Use her printable. Just start jotting them down. And be specific. Maybe it would go something like this: #1 the way his breath sounds next to you when you wake up in the middle of the night, #2 the bright green of the moss that grows in-between the bricks of your walkway, #3 seeing her handwriting when the mail came last week… etc.

When Ann first started counting, her goal was to record 1,000 gifts. But once she started, she decided to never stop.

Can you imagine what it would be like to live life this way – not just in November but all year round? No matter the circumstance? Sometimes, I like to imagine all of our thanks rising up to heaven like great big bowls of incense. Wafting up before God and bringing Him great pleasure.

For He delights in giving to us.

Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow.  – James, the half-brother of Jesus

Could we try it together?

To help with the counting, you can join me over at our Facebook page. Each day in November, I will post  a new quote about gratitude on the In A Mirror Dimly page. Below it, you can comment and list another thanks (or two or three) for the day. I know some of you are already doing this on your personal Facebook pages. But, how cool would it be to also do it together in one place? To rejoice with each other and see a growing list of thanks?

 

Related Posts with Thumbnails

© 2011-2014 In A Mirror Dimly All Rights Reserved -- Copyright notice by Blog Copyright