In the Stillness

When was the last time you just sat? Still in the moonlight? Or quiet in the moments before dawn? Gave your soul time to breath? Found yourself weeping at the beauty of music that rises heavenward where words dare not break the mystery of the moment?

Perhaps now would be a good time to give it a try again…

Sunday Night Reflections

The rain falls constant now. Warm, crisp Thanksgiving days give way to cooler temps. A steady rhythm of rain splashes on the pavement outside. I’m nestled in one of the cozy chairs at Starbucks. Sipping my Awake tea latte and savoring this time alone. To write. To reflect. To give thanks.
 
Thankful for a Thanksgiving visit with in-laws in Cinci. Watching cousins play. Listening to the banter over Bananagrams. Ribbing Uncle Bill for the way he spoils our Madison – the only girl in the family. Air-soft wars and boys running around the backyard. Uncovering five more letterboxes as we hiked in short-sleeves – in November in Ohio!! The best apple pie recipe ever and freshly whipped cream to top it. Knowing that God’s goodness goes beyond anything we deserve.  
 
Thankful for coming home. For loving home and just the four of us again. For laughing in the kitchen with my Rick. And tucking kids into their own beds.
 
Thankful now for some time alone for this introverted girl. Soul stirring as iTunes plays Fernando Ortega. Heart settling. Advent thinking as I Watch For the Light. Blog pondering.
 
 I write. I listen. I settle. And I thank God for Sabbath rest.
 
 
 
 
 

 

Resolve to Reflect

So, how are your New Year’s Resolutions coming along? I always feel a lot of pressure this time of year. Personally, I think the whole idea of a “resolution” sounds a little daunting. What if my resolve isn’t strong enough? What if my lofty goals end up broken promises by the end of January?

In the spirit of resting more and striving less, can I suggest taking some time this week to simply reflect? Take some to think about your life – about who you are now and who you want to become. Think through your various roles and responsibilities. Consider the things in your life that make you feel most alive. Examine your inner life and evaluate the ways that you’re spending your resources (time, money, and gifting). Reflect, brainstorm, evaluate…. and dream.

It doesn’t need to be fancy or formal. There’s no right or wrong way to proceed. Just take the time to do it. Truth be told, there’s nothing magical about doing it at the beginning of a new year. But, today is as good a time as any.

Why bother, you ask? Is it all just a bunch of New Year’s hype?

Actually, two good reasons come to mind: (1) It will give you a chance to celebrate the beautiful! As you reflect on the last year, you’ll be reminded of sweet memories and character milestones. God was at work! Did you see His hand in your life? Sometimes looking back helps us see things we missed in the NOW of the moment. (2) It will force you to be more intentional with the coming year. Perhaps there are ways you’ll live differently or relationships you’ll pursue anew or changes you’ll make in the way you organize your life.  

And let’s face it, we all know that nothing worth having/doing just comes naturally. Disorder is what will happen naturally.  You won’t become a better spouse or parent or friend by accident. It will take intentional effort. Effort that is borne out of this evaluation of your current reality.

Sure, your time in reflection will probably lead to something that looks a lot like a list of resolutions. Call them goals or hopes or whatever you want to call them. But, let me caution you to remember Whose resolve your counting on to make it happen. You can rest in God’s hand even as you reflect and plan.

Here are a few practical tips to help you reflect:

  • Write things down. As you ponder the last year, use a journal or a worksheet to help you stay on track. I’ve included a pdf with some of the questions I use. It’s a compilation from a few different sites and books.
  • Don’t pressure yourself to have perfect answers. If you forget something important you can always add it later. This is a tool. It serves you, not the reverse.
  • Feel free to share your brainstorm (and any goals that are borne out of it) with close friends or family so that you can have some accountability.
  • Don’t fall into the trap of only thinking about physical realities: your finances, your job, your appearance. Research shows that most resolutions have to do with health goals (exercise and diet). Make sure you dig a little deeper to the spiritual, intellectual, and relational parts of your life. They’re not as easily seen and quantified but I would argue that they are more important.
  • Think long-term. How will 2011 fit into the bigger picture of who you want to be? Think 100 years from now. Will it really matter that you had a perfect lawn? Only if you used that lawn to roll around in the grass with your kids or have cookouts that blessed others and built deeper relationships.
  • Include your kids in this process. As you can see from my photos, your kids can do this too! What a great habit for them to form now. Their questions might be more simple (here’s a link to the one’s my kids used). It’s important for them to own their growth and development. And, it will be pretty neat for you to see what they deemed as their favorite moments and their biggest challenges. I plan to save their reflections in a scrapbook for them to have later in life.
  • Don’t stress if you’re a little clumsy with this whole evaluation/reflection thing. Last year was the first year that I had the kids do it. We only got through a few questions and then it got shelved. We never did finish it. Bummer. But, it’s a new year and I’m trying it again.
  • Make sure you have a plan for quantifying your goals and getting them into your schedule. If you want to grow closer to your aging grandmother, then schedule some visits to her house. If you want to exercise more regularly, then put it in your planner. If you want to meet some more people from your church, then get in a small group and go to it! Otherwise, your time of reflection will just be a nice page in your journal that you’ll forget about.  My husband rocks at this step in the process. For me, it’s a real struggle to take this step. His classic line: “Well, Shan, it’s time to pull the trigger.”
  • Lastly, involve God in this process. Let Him shape your goals for 2011. Pray. Seek wise counsel. Look in His Word. Don’t just assume that His best for you is the smoothest, wealthiest life possible. He might lead you some unexpected dreams.

Socrates once said that “an unexamined life is not worth living.” I don’t know if I’d state it quite that strongly (not worth living?!?!) but I think he was on to something. Don’t be afraid to examine, my friends. You’ll be better for the process…

And, I’d love to hear how it goes. Comment or facebook or call or stop me in town and let me know how you’re doing with it. Let’s be “in it” together. 

Welcome 2011!

Finding Treasure Amid the Rubble

It was a time for renewal. Cleaning, organizing, repairing. They were restoring the broken down places, renovating the neglected house.

Not too dissimilar from the spring cleaning you and I do to our own homes. Digging through the closets and the forgotten corners. Sorting the stuff that accumulates. You know the routine: a pile for Goodwill, a pile for the trash, a pile to fix and restore.

But what if in the midst of all that dusting and piling and fixing, you uncovered something precious. Something you (or someone before you) had tucked away for another day. Maybe a box of photos from the old country or a journal of precious insights from your great-grandmother. In that moment, the thing once hastily shoved aside becomes a treasure of sorts.

That’s what happened for these folks. Workmen were there repairing the house and tending to the mess – and then they found it. Under the rubble and the piles of discarded things. A forgotten treasure. A journal of letters from a Lover to His beloved.

The text* tells us that “Hilkiah responded and said to Shaphan the scribe, ‘I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord.’ We are told that Shaphan eventually took the book to the king along with a report about the ongoing work in the temple. “And Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king. And it came about when the king heard the words of the law that he tore his clothes.”

As I read the words my heart broke afresh. All I could think was: How long? How long had they been trying to follow God and serve Him with only tradition as their guide? All the while, words of life and wisdom were right there in the house of the Lord. No wonder King Josiah tore his clothes as a sign of deep mourning.

The text doesn’t really tell us how long. We know that the nation of Judah had a string of good kings and bad kings. Some were horrible men who did horrible things. Others came and restored the heart of Jerusalem by worshipping the One True God. The history is a checkered one.

So how long had it been? How long had they been going through the motions?

Truth be told, some weren’t even going through the motions. Many were in flat out rebellion against God. How long had it taken them to stray away? Without the word to guide them or faithful men to lead them. How long?

And there it was all along. Right there in the house of the Lord. “I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord.”

Of this book King David** had once written: “The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes…they are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.”

Maybe as a boy, King Josiah had heard this psalm from a faithful nanny… did he tear his clothes as whisps of  the ancient poetry came back to his mind? How is it that he understood how precious the book really was?

Oh dear friends, what about us? How long have we been trudging through our days, trying to live this life without the perfect, restoring words of God as our guide? How long will we go through the motions while a Bible lies on the shelf or stuffed away in a closet? These words that have the power to restore the soul, rejoice the heart, give wisdom, and enlighten the eyes. These words that are more desirable than gold. We look everywhere for truth and some way to make sense of our days. All the while, words of life and wisdom are right here, hidden under the rubble.

As I think ahead to this year and my desire that 2010 be a year of dwelling, I pray that it will be a year of dwelling in His Word in a way that I’ve never dwelt before.

That my heart will find its refuge in the pages of this book.

That I will feast on it as it points me ever to the Living Word: the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us.

*the record of King Josiah is in 2 Chronicles 34
**King David’s poem of praise is recorded in Psalm 19

Packing and Pausing

The bulbs are packed, the teapot is back in its box, the decorations lovingly stored away. Another Christmas has come and gone. And with its passing comes a new year.

In many ways I’m ready for it. It always feels good to put the Christmas decorations away and get the house back in order after the holiday hoopla. The packing up also signals a welcome return to routines. The kids get back to school this coming week, our home & work schedules return to normal (whatever that is), and all the specials (special food, special programs, special celebrations) have past. Routine is a good thing for my heart.

I also love the prospect of a fresh new year. A blank slate of days. Can’t you just feel the hope that permeates the air at the start of a new year?

But, if I’m honest, I’m also not so ready for it. What if the hope just disappoints? What if all my dreams for 2010 fall flat on their face? In fact, what are my dreams for 2010? We’re already three days in to the new year and I haven’t really planned or reflected much. Can’t you just feel the pressure that threatens to paralyze your heart at the start of a new year?

I’ll be taking some time this week to plan and reflect. I’d rather tread slowly into this new year than make a list of resolutions that will overwhelm me or cause me to strive all the more. I’ve been there too many times and I know that the striving can only lead in two directions: either it makes me prideful or it crushes my spirit. Neither inspire me.

There are a lot of things I don’t know about 2010. But I do know that I want it to be a year marked by dwelling and depending. Dwelling with the Lord wherever He has me. And depending on His Spirit for a heart that reflects His.

 

As I reflect this week and set aside time to prepare for this new year, I’ll likely be blogging some of my thoughts here. As I do, I hope that you’ll join me in spirit. The start of a new year is a great time to pause and consider who you’re becoming and how you’re spending your short life on this earth. I’d love to hear your hopes and dreams for 2010. Feel free to comment or drop me an e-mail (shannon-mckee@sbcglobal.net).

A Steady Pause Before the Clamor

Early morning beckons. A blanket of darkness still covers our town. I’m cozy under the down comforter wondering again when we will “Fall Back” and light will join me as I wake.

Before foot even touches the floor, the battle begins. Dishwasher needs emptied. Lunches need packed. Did I remember to put Caleb’s jeans in the drier? Now, I’m off on a rabbit trail…Why is that boy so hard on his jeans? Every day is a new grass stain…

I fight to shove it all aside. Just for a moment or two.

My mind leaps back in time to days gone by. Young girl rubbing the sleep out of her eyes as she pads up the long, blue-carpeted hallway. He’s there as usual. In his rose-colored, wing back chair. Right next to the big, bay window. His Bible lays open on his lap. A scrap paper with scribbled prayer reminders has fluttered to the floor. He hears me coming… “Good morning, Shannie.” And so begins another day.

It wasn’t always that way. But, somewhere about the time I was turning nine, God was grabbing his heart. And, for the years that followed in that old house on Shermanwood, morning after morning, that’s where you could find him. Pausing before the busyness of the day set in. He was meeting, in the still of the day, with the One who made him. (And, truly, in a house of four women, it was the only still – the only time there wasn’t chatter filling every nook of the house.)

Those early morning memories blaze a trail for me as I struggle to shake off the sleepiness, push aside the day’s demands, and steal a few moments alone with God.

Early morning companionsI start the tea kettle, light a candle, and start the music. Peace washes over me as the simple piano notes weave their way around my heart. And, I rest. Nestled in the corner of our couch, sitting with my Lord. Sometimes I sit there for a long time. Just waiting for my heart to acknowledge Him. To really recognize that He is there. Other times a journal lies open and I pray. Seeking, petitioning, worshipping, asking. And, then there is the reading. Words breathed by the Maker of heaven and earth and written down in a great Book of hope. “Here it is, Shan. Here is what I want you to know. The most important mysteries of life – I recorded them here for you.” He has given it to us – grandest story of all time. I read and I glimpse His heart. Even just a glimpse and my heart is brimming with the fullness of it. The message of grace and hope that calls out to all of us.

A record of my musingReally, there are lots of ways to slow down. A weekend away. A hike through the bounty as the leaves change. A rich meal with dear friends. A meaningful conversation around a backyard fire. These all help us to pause. To rest.

But this slowing – this daily, early-morning slowing – gives rhythm and purpose to my days. It reminds me of the truth and gives fuel for my soul. My heart needs that reminding. And, my soul craves that feasting.

holy experience

Out of the Misty Lowland

“Oh God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need for further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, for the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, so that I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, ‘Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away.’ Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long.”

 

This prayer by A.W. Tozer (in his book the Pursuit of God) captures well what my heart has been sensing of late. I want to find true joy and pleasure in knowing God. In being His. Not in what I accomplish or how good I can try to be. But in Him. In being loved by Him and in loving Him back.

 

The longing is there; but oh how I do need His grace to follow through on that longing. Somehow it’s just so easy to slip into a mindset of checking off the “God box” on my list of to-dos and not of being in a life-consuming love relationship with the Lover of my soul. But, I don’t need a to-do list; I need to love and be loved.

 

Oh for the grace to rise and follow Him up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long.

Choosing the other life

“The moment you wake up each morning, all your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. The first job each morning consists of shoving it all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.” These words, penned by C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, have struck a chord in my heart.

I know the wild animals all to well. When I rise, my to-do list quickly jumps to the forefront of my mind. And, yet, I know that what I really long for is Lewis’ larger, stronger, quieter life. And, I know that life is found only in Christ. Why do I settle for less? Because the wild animals seem more urgent. And so I let them rush-in instead. No more.

I’m certain that I must begin rising earlier so that I can train my heart to shove the rest back and feed my hungry soul on the truth of God’s Word. What will it take? 6 a.m.? 5 a.m.? No matter. I must do it and trust that God will revive my soul as I wake early and take my life to Him.

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