Monday, December 17, 2012

Merry Christmas from the McKays - 2012

Merry Christmas everyone!!! We're sending out our Christmas letter electronically again this year via email, posted on my blog at http://davesthoughtsblog.blogspot.com and on Facebook.

I hope this letter finds you healthy and enjoying the holidays. It’s hard to believe that another year has come and gone. It’s been a tough year in many ways for our family as we have lost some dear friends and family members, but God has been faithful through it all and we are thankful for His constant grace and mercy and the comfort that only He can provide. It’s also been a typically busy year for us.


           

In March we took a trip to the Lake of the Ozarks for a few days over spring break and enjoyed some nice quiet family time together. In June, the kids spent several days in Chicago with two of their grandparents while Mandi and I enjoyed a few days at a bed and breakfast in Springfield, IL. In July we took another family trip to Kansas City and spent a week enjoying the city and eating a lot of very good food.


Marisa started her last year of elementary school (5th grade) this year and continues to love school. She played volleyball again this fall, where her team qualified for the playoffs after finishing 2nd in their division. She also continues to play the violin and enjoyed a couple of youth group retreats throughout the year.

Sarah started her last year of middle school (8th grade) this fall and is always a very busy girl. She continues to play softball from March to October and basketball from October to March. Her softball team took 2nd in spring/summer ball and she continues to love pitching and just playing sports in general. She worked as a costume designer for the fall play at school and also enjoyed several youth group retreats.

Caleb is in the middle of his junior year of high school. This was a big year for him as he got his driver’s license in the spring and is enjoying the freedom that affords. He started taking guitar lessons this year and is really becoming a very good musician. He loves going to youth group, playing in the worship band, and writing music. He took a trip to Florida in June with his youth group and had fun spending time on the beach with friends.

Mandi continues to work as a Pampered Chef consultant and somehow manage a family that is always going in 10 different directions. I think she is still a little freaked out that she turned 40 this year.

I (Dave) continue to work at Aon Risk Services as an Account Executive for my day job and stay very busy coaching basketball and softball. I still try to get to the gym as much as possible and watch as much football and basketball as I can fit into my schedule.

We pray that this Christmas is a time of renewed hope as you reflect on all God’s blessings. He doesn’t promise that life will always be easy, but He does promise to walk with us in those difficult times with the light of hope ahead of us; the hope that is so brightly reflected in the birth of Christ that we celebrate this time of year.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!

The McKay’s (Dave, Mandi, Caleb, Sarah, and Marisa)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Thoughts Inspired by the Lost Dogs



This has certainly been a crazy summer. We've had the whole Chick-Fil-A controversy, Todd Akin recently making an idiot of himself, and the constant insanity of the presidential campaign. I've been kind of staying away from politics lately, but I can no longer hold my tongue. There's just too much here to not comment on that goes way beyond politics. Some of what I have to say may not be popular, but I feel like our idea of what it means to live as Christ has been so skewed by this American version of Christianity that we’ve forgotten to focus on the things that Christ cares about. Thus the song that inspired this blog, which I’ve included for your listening pleasure. As Terry Taylor says in the video, I hope that this offends at least one person out there.

Let’s start with the Chick-Fil-A issue. I have no problem with the company’s president expressing his opinion on gay marriage. He’s an American and has the right to do so. I also have no problem with those that disagree with him deciding to not go to his restaurant. Again, also they’re right. Both are perfect examples of freedom of speech. What disturbs me is the hatred on both sides of the issue directed at the other side. I’m especially frustrated with the mean spirited so called Christians that angrily attack those that disagree with them. Honestly, I don’t get those that attack homosexuals in general, condemning them to hell. I understand what the bible says about it and would agree with scripture that it is not what God intended or desires. However, I think we’ve forgotten the scripture about taking the plank out of our own eye before taking the speck out of our brother’s. Aren’t we called to love those that are lost in order to draw them to God, not condemn them? Isn’t it up to God to convict their hearts as they grow in their faith? I do have some specific views on gay marriage/civil unions, but in an effort to not make this post too long, I won’t go into them here. Perhaps that’s a topic for a future blog.

We perceive homosexuality as this great sin, while greed, anger, pride, bitterness, selfishness, lust, etc. are not that big of a deal. I have news for you, we are all sinners deserving of God’s wrath and are only saved by God’s grace. In the end we will all stand before God. The only thing that will save us is if we are covered by Christ’s atoning sacrifice. It’s telling that in scripture Jesus had his harshest criticism for the religious leaders of the day, not the sinners. In fact he spent most of his time with those that were considered unclean. I wonder what he would say to the religious leaders of today. I can’t help but think he would be turning tables over and cracking a whip just as he did then.

This brings me to Todd Akin. While you will likely not find someone more pro-life than me, saying things like he did last week shows that he is completely unable to make a coherent argument for his beliefs. His handling of the situation since then has been just as abysmal and he has lost my vote. If you can’t make a case for what you believe without resorting to nonsensical arguments, then it’s time for you to shut your mouth and find something else to do. It does not help our cause to make stuff up. Too many Christians take this same approach on too many issues. They just tow the party line with no real understanding of what they are talking about. Or they are more concerned with pushing an agenda than actually bringing the lost to Christ.

We’ve become so divided that we no longer remember our primary calling is the great commission to bring the lost to Christ, to care for the orphans and the widows, feed the hungry, and be salt and light in the world. That doesn’t mean we have to stand on the corner with a bullhorn ramming the gospel down people’s throats. It means we truly love those around us that are hurting and just need to know someone cares. Like the old saying, preach the gospel and use words if necessary.

The election is the perfect example of how divided we’ve truly become. There is no room for honest intellectual debate. It’s all name calling and telling lies in an effort to get elected. Then, once elected, saying what the majority want to hear to stay in office. I stopped calling myself a republican several years ago and have become a staunch independent, conservative on some issues and liberal on others. The Republican Party has tried to claim they represent Christianity when in truth they really represent very little that resembles Christ. The democrats aren’t any better. Both parties have become so corrupt and incapable of telling the truth that none of them can be trusted. I believe they are leading this country down a destructive path that we may never recover from. What pisses me off the most is that both sides have tried to co-opt my faith for their own purposes. I’m pretty sure Jesus is not a Republican or a Democrat so stop trying to claim Him for your party.

The church often isn’t much better. We’d rather argue about our differences than come together in unity on the core aspects of our faith that we all believe. If we can’t get along with one another, how can we expect to grow the church and show non-believers the love of God? I will say that I have been more encouraged in recent years as I’m starting to see more unity between denominations than I can ever recall in the past, but the progress has been slow.

I know this has been a long post and I appreciate those that have stuck it out. I guess ultimately what I’m getting at is that we need to rediscover what it means to be a Christian. We’ve allowed our culture to redefine it for us and we’ve lost something along the way. We need to treat others with respect and listen to what they have to say. We may find they have something important to tell us that we never considered. We need to have open minds to those that have a different perspective than we do. It’s ok to disagree, but let’s do it in love and in a manner that helps us both grow. In doing so, we will then become an effective tool that God can use. We will then reflect the love of God to a lost and hurting world and make following Christ attractive to those that don’t have a relationship with Him.

Let’s go where Jesus is.

God Bless,
Dave







Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Talkin' About My Generation...And The One Before...And The One Before That, etc.

It's interesting sometimes the things that jump out at you and inspire or move you. My wife and I were in Springfield, IL a few weeks ago and as we were going through the Lincoln Museum and Library, I was really drawn to a lot of the old pictures and documents that were on display. We so often look at these old black and white photos as just objects of the past. The people in the photos seem more like characters in a book. But the more I looked at the faces of the people in the pictures, the more I was moved to think about their lives. Sure some of them are famous people that we are familiar with, at least the mythology around their lives that we often read in history books, but most of them are nameless strangers that died over a hundred years ago. The more I looked, the more I was struck by the fact that they were real people, just like us, working hard to provide for their family, pursuing their dreams, and dealing with life's struggles.

One of my favorite things to do is sit down at a table and talk to my grandparents about their lives growing up. I'm fortunate to have both of my mom's parents (both in their late 80's) still around and even more fortunate to have spent considerable time with them growing up. If I could travel back in time, before going to see any famous people in history, I would go back and see my parents and grandparents at different periods in their life. Who they were then is a large part of who I am now. I would love to see them at the beginning of their lives, full of hopes and dreams of what was yet to come. We so often view the elderly in our midst as always having been the way they are now, a little weaker and slowed by age. But they were not always that way. They were vital, passionate, creative, strong, and hard working with dreams of making a difference in the world (which many of them did). We tend to think that our generation has it all figured out and that those in the old photos were somehow not as enlightened as us.

We couldn't be further from the truth. In fact I would say we are less enlightened in many ways. Oh sure, we are more "connected" to one another. With modern technology we can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But is this really a good thing? Sure it's a nice comfort for us when our teens start driving and we can get a hold of them, but are they really learning to handle issues on their own? Do we really need work to call us at all hours? Is it really essential that we conduct business at 10:00 pm instead of spending time with our families or pursuing a hobby to recharge our minds? And are we truly connected? We can send a text to someone on the other side of the planet in seconds, but how many of us really know our neighbors? Technology can open our eyes to all sorts of suffering around the world, but we too often just say, "isn't that sad" and never do anything about it. We often place those we see on TV and the internet in the same category as those in the old pictures, characters in a book, somehow not real.

Older generations seemed to have a better sense of community and what it meant to live within one. Were they perfect? Of course not, but they knew their neighbors and helped those in need around them. They may not have been connected to as many people, but the one's they were connected with they truly knew and cared about. Isn't that what we are called to do as followers of Christ? What will our generation be remembered for when we've grown old or have passed away. What will the people viewing our photos in a museum think about the nameless strangers they see? Will we be remembered for taking up the cross of Christ and serving those in need around us or will we be remembered as a selfish and greedy generation that cared more for ourselves than anything else?

I would encourage you to spend some time with the elderly around you. Get them to tell you their stories. In many cases, I think you'll be surprised at how interesting and exciting their lives have been and how much wisdom they can pass along through their life's experiences. Take time to look beyond the old photographs and the myths of history and get to know the real people and how they lived. I guarantee it will enrich your life.

God Bless.
Dave

Monday, June 11, 2012

Back from a Long Break

Well it's been way too long since I've posted anything. My last post dealt with the loss of a friend and my wife's grandfather. Since that time we've unfortunately had to deal with more loss. The first few months of this year were maybe the worst we've ever endured as a family. Shortly after I posted my last blog a friend of my 16 year old son took his own life. Needless to say, this was not something I was prepared to deal with as a parent. There were no chapters in "What to Expect When Your Expecting" that dealt with helping your child deal with the suicide of a friend. This was a particularly difficult situation to understand as there were no signs that this was coming, leaving his family and friends to wonder what was going on in his life that would drive him to this extreme. Unfortunately, they will never have the answers.

It's difficult to watch your child's innocence ripped from them at such an early age and know there's not really anything you can do. We're walking through the healing process with him and pray for him everyday, but there just aren't the right words to say most of the time. I have been very proud of him in the way he has supported the family and his friends and the way he has turned to God for strength. I know at times some of that turning to God has been expressing anger at why this happened. As I've told him on several occasions, God is big enough to take our anger at Him. It's always been my opinion that He would prefer we be honest in our feelings with Him because that is when He can work with us. If we are just trying to put on a mask that everything is OK, we can't really progress through the healing process and never really grow in our relationship with God. Besides, He sees through the mask anyway so we may just as well be honest with ourselves.

Needless to say, this situation has really made me take a long deep look at what's really important in life and take a deeper look at what it means to be a Christian in such a screwed up world. A world where a teenager, who was a follower of Christ, was involved in the church, was a good student, an athlete, and had a lot of friends felt that he had no hope and the best option was to take his own life. I plan to get back into blogging on a more regular basis now that I've had some time to process all this and at this point some of what I have to say may offend some of you. It may be a little more personal, a little more critical of the church and American culture in general. I feel we've lost our way and taken our focus off of what it means to be a follower of Christ. We've become more worried about our political agenda and have failed to love people for who they are, image bearers of God.

Not that I'm exempt from my own criticism. In fact I'm as guilty as anyone, but I have some things that have been rolling around in my brain for some time that I'm starting to put some structure to. So we'll see where this goes in the next few months. I hope you come along for the ride.

God Bless.
Dave

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Life is Short...

I'm sitting here in my dining room watching the sun set listening to some Over the Rhine. Dusk has always been one of my favorite parts of the day. I find it very relaxing and it always puts me in a very contemplative mood. Add to that Karen Berquist's amazing voice filling every corner of the room and washing over me and I felt like I had to write something. I'm not really sure where this is going, but I'm glad you're along for the ride.

It's been a tough year so far and it's only the middle of January. On January 1st we lost a friend in a tragic accident. I admit I'm still struggling to get my arms around it and see God's purpose in it. You just don't expect to lose someone at 47. An amazing wife and mother of 3 girls, she devoted her life to them and in service to others through church. You will be missed Susan. Bob, we will continue to lift you and the girls up in prayer each day.

On Friday, we lost my wife's grandfather. While at 88 this one is a little easier to understand, it's no less difficult to deal with. He was an amazing man, surviving the beaches on D-Day and coming home to raise a family. A very hard worker and a very nice man. Bill, you will be missed, but we are comforted that you are now reunited with your lovely bride, who I know you've missed greatly the last couple of years.

Two funerals in the first month of the year are two too many. It has really hit home how short and fragile life is. It makes me not want to miss one minute with my wife and kids. The short time we are given here on earth is precious and I pray that I would spend it focusing on the things that really matter because we never know how much longer we have. I pray that my life would honor God above all other things in whatever time I'm given. I pray that I would pass things on to my kids that will make a difference in their lives: faith in Christ, unconditional love, laughter, the confidence to pursue their dreams despite the obstacles. I pray that they would always know that I love them no matter what they do and that I always have their back and support them. I pray that they would forgive my mistakes as a parent.

I pray that my wife would always know that she is the love of my life, that I enjoy every minute we get to spend together, and miss her when we're apart. I pray that she would also forgive me for my mistakes as a husband. I pray that our marriage would be a model to our kids that they can look to as they mature and eventually start their own families. Not that we have a perfect marriage, but quite the opposite, I hope that they see when we screw up, we forgive each other. That even when we're upset with each other, it doesn't change the fact we love each other.

I know I'm rambling. It's just that going to funerals and listening to all the stories of those that have passed away, makes me wonder what people will say about me when I'm gone. What kind of an impact have I had on those around me? What kind of legacy have I left my children? What will people remember about me? I suppose it's kind of selfish to think of such things, but I guess it's part of how I deal with the loss. Maybe it just keeps me from fully dealing with the pain of loss or maybe it's God re-focusing my life on what He wants me to see as truly important. Perhaps it's a little bit of all that.

I like the idea of celebrating someones life when they have passed away, but there also needs to be a time of grieving. As the writer of Ecclesiastes says, "a sad face is good for the heart." This sounds strange at first, but grieving allows the heart to heal. It's truly a roller coaster of emotions as we grieve and celebrate at the same time. But God is there with us on the roller coaster. As I've said many times before, God doesn't promise we won't suffer, only that He will be with us when we do go through dark valleys.

Ultimately, what I come back to is that death is not really the end. As believers in Christ we have hope in the resurrection and eternal life with God. An eternal life with no pain and suffering. So while we miss those we have lost, we will see them again some day. In the meantime, to quote The Choir, "we miss you down here... give Jesus a kiss for us."


Click here to listen to "Hey Gene" by the Choir: http://youtu.be/7hUxqFLT6G8

God Bless,
Dave