Holidays in Ministry

I remember coming home from Palm Sunday service in April, with a full and exhausted heart. I shuffled through the front door of my college house, hands full of overflowing tote bags, into what was an equally full kitchen. I remember being greeted with a dozen high-pitched welcomes and rapid-fire questions that I’d grown to expect (and now miss): How was church? Were you teaching? How’d it go? The conversation quickly shifted back to the previous topic: the sweetness that everyone had experienced at their Palm Sunday services. Friends talked about how they’d cried when the children skipped down the aisles, waving palm branches. They commented on how moving the presentation of the story had been, how tangible the Spirit was during worship, and how relevant the sermons had been. Partaking in communion during holidays usually carries a different weight. I just listened, laughing to myself. That hadn’t quite been my experience… I don’t know what our palm processional looked like because I was in the back, consoling a crying toddler and convincing my middle schoolers that waving palms was still cool. I found myself in the middle of a palm branch duel between brothers, being smacked by the branches as I threatened to take them away. I ran, in my heels, to find extra palms (or, let’s be real, probably a stick from the parking lot) because, inevitably, someone didn’t get one. For everything that’s moving, beautiful, and meaningful in a church service, there’s someone behind it who’s making it happen. I’m specifically talking about ministry-related events here, but the principle extends further: at stores, restaurants, events – whatever it is that...

Casting Nets on Ordinary Days

“Walking along the beach of Lake Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers: Simon (later called Peter) and Andrew. They were fishing, throwing their nets into the lake. It was their regular work. Jesus said to them, ‘Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.’ They didn’t ask questions, but simply dropped their nets and followed.”  Matthew 4:18-20, MSG   How many times did they cast their nets into that sea? How many days of fishing had weathered their skin? How many conversations, laughs, frustrations had that boat seen? But something made that day different. That was the day Jesus stepped into the ordinary. I’m continually reminded that I don’t know the plans of the Lord. We don’t know His days or His hours. We live these “ordinary” days, casting our nets and pulling up fish and yet the Lord is moving all the while. How many moments had they lived; had led up to the moment of Christ’s call? Moments that seemed monotonous, routine, insignificant. Moments spent waiting, wondering if there was more. Moments of laughter and frustration and tears that brought them to that specific boat, on that specific place in the water, at that specific point in time, where their hearts were in the perfect posture to drop everything for Jesus. We get into these traps of waiting for that moment. And while the Lord may be preparing us for something in the future, we don’t know that. What He does tell us is that He’s stepping into every moment. His Spirit is always...

To Not Be Remembered

It was about halfway through the promotional video that I realized they were using my words on the voiceover. Every subsequent word confirmed it. Excitement rose up in my bones: they were using my letter! I would be named at the end of the video! I was surprised that no one had asked permission, but I shrugged if off. After all, it was a public letter, written as a part of Wheaton College’s Tuition freedom day. That year, I’d received a particularly generous scholarship and wanted to communicate my gratitude. Stories of the Lord’s provision and faithfulness. And now, in the official college video, they were using my letter. I’ll never forget the sinking feeling when I got to the end of the 1:34 video and all I saw was the school logo. Where was my name? My picture? Even the handwriting of my letter? I dug through my recall – had I put my name on the letter? Why wasn’t it included? Why had no one tried to track me down? Here was this beautiful, professional video with my words eloquently weaving the piece together. It was my gratitude, my story of God’s provision. And yet, my name was nowhere to be found. The video would come and go and I would never be associated with it. No one would ever praise me for it. I wouldn’t be getting the glory for thanking the donors that year or for being obedient to the Lord in steps of faith that don’t always make sense. Then again, the donors aren’t being praised for their faithfulness either. Most of them don’t have...

The Pace of Christ

We live in a world of never ending demands. The needs were great and at some point, the exhaustion becomes greater. The people of God often run at a Usain-Bolt-type-pace. There’s a reason he only runs the 100m, 200m, and 100m X 4 relay. We may not be sensitive to the biological and physiological issues caused by overworking (though they should also concern us), but we are also often not overly concerned with Jesus’ model for it either. If we’re supposed to be “imitators of God” (John 13:13-16, 1 Corinthians 11:1, Ephesians 5:1-2, 1 Peter 2:20-22, 1 John 2:6), shouldn’t the primary basis for our action, response, and engagement in ministry be that of our Lord? Even the Gospel of Matthew, which seems focused on thematically emphasizing the works and preaching of Christ (Matthew 9:35-38), still makes space to note the significance of solitude with the Father. In one chapter alone (14), Matthew mentions twice that Christ went to be alone and even sent people away to go “up into the hills by himself to pray” (14:22). Matthew is also the only Gospel who records Jesus saying the following about life in Him: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear and the burden I give you is light” (11:28-30). Even the writer who seems predominantly focused on the scope of what Christ is doing finds...

When Jesus Speaks

It’s no secret that I’ve done a lot of prayer these past few weeks regarding where the Lord is leading me. Specific, bold, expectant prayers for clarity and provision. There’s been a lot of asking, listening, and keeping an awareness of His voice throughout the day. What country. What people group. What city. What timeline. What organization. What are you doing, Jesus? Sometimes, I slip into a mindset that says the more others-focused my quiet time is, the holier it is. Intercession has a place and a critical one at that. It deserves more energy and attention than we often give it. I need to spend time everyday praying for specifics and going before the Throne of Grace on behalf of others. BUT, that is not the point of my intimate time with Jesus. I go to Jesus to just be with Him, not for the sake of getting answers about my life. The idea isn’t to walk away with some revelation about what He’s calling me to or where I’m going (although, that’s often a part of it). It’s not to figure things out for someone else. It is literally to just be with the God of the universe and savior of my soul. To read His Word, to worship Him, and to hear His voice. I go before the Father to hear what He thinks about me, because my soul needs to be reminded who I am and who He is. May the magnificence and the humility of that not be lost on us! That we get to approach the Maker and Sustainer of the world with boldness...

The mess that’s called life

**reposted from May 2015. Maddie is still Maddie. She’s now in grad school figuring out the next steps of this “messy life.” She continues to struggle with directions and singing off key, but she’s living intentionally and can often be found resisting the temptation to overthink. Perhaps you need this reminder today.  You probably don’t know me. Hi, I’m Maddie. Here’s a glimpse into some of the things that I call my life: There’s a big difference between the energy I’m exerting when I say I’m “going for a run” and when the METRA train pulls into the College Avenue station and I’m a block away from the platform. The only points I got marked off on my driving test (despite not having actually taken a real driver’s ed course) were for not following directions. Evidently I “left the course” when I was trying to back up next to the parallel parking cones. I didn’t even know that was something you could do. I’m pretty much perpetually cold. So naturally, I decided to go to college in Chicago. Two years later and I still never remember to keep an extra pair of gloves in my backpack. Speaking of being cold, I’m currently in one of my dad’s old sweatshirts that I found in the basement. Don’t tell him I’m wearing it. I’m just freezing and despite having carried 140 lbs of clothes home (literally one of my bags was 57 lbs. The lady at the airport made me take some of the clothes out and wear them – no joke, I walked through the airport with 4 shirts on,) I didn’t think...

How to Navigate Transition

I just fell down the stairs. I was walking downstairs to make a cup of coffee, my drug of choice for writing a month’s worth of Sunday School lessons, and I slipped. It’s been awhile since that happened and I forgot just how terrible it is. I slid my way down half the staircase until finally running into the closed door at the bottom. It was loud, it was ungraceful, my cloth pants only added to the speed at which I was tumbling, and more than anything it hurt. Because drawing an analogy may give some meaning to the pain I’m currently experiencing . . . . . . sometimes transition feels like suddenly slipping down half a flight of stairs. You think it’s all going okay until a few steps down and suddenly you’ve spontaneously lost your footing. Once you start slipping, panic and frustration set in, as you find yourself seemingly unable to stop the fall. So you brace yourself for the crash. Part of why I hate falling down the stairs, aside from the obvious things like throbbing pain and sacrificing my dignity, is that I know it doesn’t have to be that way. I’ve done staircases enough to know they can be done with grace and poise. More than that, I’ve seen enough movies to know there’s nothing better than the feeling of walking down a spiral staircase in a ballgown and having the whole room freeze and turn to watch you descend. I may not have had that experience yet, but I’m convinced it exists and that I need a staircase for it. Not only does walking down stairs...

In My Own Eyes, I Flatter Myself

I’ve been reading through the Bible over the past few months, but during spring break, I took a little hiatus. Galavanting across Europe and changing hostels every night made it hard to find moments alone with the Lord, much less in a state where I was awake enough to pay attention to a whole passage of Scripture. With the phrase “your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness stretches to the skies” stuck in my head, I decided I’d spend the next week meditating on whatever psalm that was from. It would be a nice change of pace from my four chapters of Old Testament a day and manageable, given the pace of our travels. That phrase is from Psalm 36. 1 I have a message from God in my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before their eyes. 2 In their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sin. 3 The words of their mouths are wicked and deceitful; they fail to act wisely or do good. 4 Even on their beds they plot evil; they commit themselves to a sinful course and do not reject what is wrong. 5 Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. 6 Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep. You, Lord, preserve both people and animals. 7 How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. 8 They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from...

Top 8 Lessons from the Past 4 Years

When I started this crazy college journey, I wrote a post with my top ten lessons from the first two weeks. In it, I share, with the honesty of an eighteen-year-old, some of the things that I hadn’t realized would be so prevalent in my transition away from home and into autonomy. Some of them are particularly nuanced to my specific move into a Christian, higher education institution, but some of them are universally applicable when it comes to general transitions. The fact that relationships take time, small talk is necessary, and it’s important to be real with people are things that proved important beyond my first couple weeks in a freshman dorm. Some transitions are more daunting than others. Going away to college is a big one, especially as teenagers stand on the precipice of the “emerging adulthood” life stage. Regardless of how life changing a transition is, the reality is that we all experience a level of shifting emotions when we transition – excitement, unknown, fear, lament, gratitude. New seasons, new experiences, and new relationships change us. It’s important to give ourselves space to reflect on that, both to process unmet expectations and unanswered prayers and to celebrate what the Lord has done beyond what we could’ve imagined. With that, it felt fitting to bookend my time at Wheaton with more lessons that I’ve learned over the past four years . . . 1. Remember that wherever you are maintains a level of imperfection, full of imperfect people and imperfect circumstances. I came into school with a level of expectation – most of which I hadn’t realized. Some of it came out of...

If You Give This Girl a Cookie

I’m sure you know the children’s book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. It tells the story of a sweet little mouse who is hopelessly trapped in a circular tale of desire. He gets the cookie and realizes he wants milk. The milk makes him need napkin. The napkin reminds him that he wants to color. Coloring reminds him that he’s hungry. And so it goes… A couple of months ago, I re-read this book inside Minneapolis’ Wild Rumpus Bookstore for Children. As a chicken ran around my feet and a cat nuzzled my leg, I was struck by this bedtime story’s similarity to my twenty-something life. Then again, isn’t that often how it goes with things that were meant for little ones? Because, for as far as I’d like to imagine that I’ve come, I’m really no better than the mouse. Except we’ve swapped cookies and coloring for larger circumstances, life-related answers, and more adult-sized longings: If the Lord gives Maddie a cookie, she’ll probably wonder where she’s going to eat the cookie. When the Lord tells her where she can eat the cookie, she’ll probably wonder who she can share the cookie with. When the Lord tells her that the people she will share the cookie with aren’t here yet, she’ll probably wonder when they will show up. In waiting for them to show up, she’ll probably realize she wants some milk to go along with the cookie. So she’ll start praying for milk. When the Lord gives her a glass of milk, she’ll drink it (probably forgetting to say “thank you”) and then ask for a napkin to wipe her face with....