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 (or walking to class and swiping into the dining hall), 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...

It Is Well

You may not know the story, but you definitely know the song. This famous hymn, “It is Well with My Soul,” was written by Horatio Spafford in the 19th century. He was a successful lawyer in Chicago. He waited until his thirties to marry the love of his life, Anna. They had four daughters and a son. Their Christian fellowship included the family of Dwight and Emma Moody. They were living a beautiful life in ministry, serving the Lord and loving people well. Life was brimming with blessing. Until everything was shaken. Their only son caught Scarlet Fever and died at the age of four. Then the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed all of the investments they had spent years building. Horatio did what any good father would do. Sensing his family’s need for space and rest, he planned a trip to Europe for his wife and four daughters. Held back by some sudden, unexpected business, he would meet them overseas and then travel to a evangelistic campaign in England. Family, ministry, rest. He was only supposed to be a few days behind them and then they would be joyously reunited for a much needed time of healing. As he finished up work in the States, he got news that there had been a collision. The boat had sunk. His four daughters had drowned. Only Anna survived. With unimaginable heaviness, Spafford boarded the same means of transportation that had just claimed the lives of his beloved children. He knew that his grieving, devastated bride, the woman who had held her young daughters while the waves ripped them from her arms, waited for him on...

Watch What I’ll Do

Today, I wanted to share something I wrote on my blog during Advent. The Lord met me in a rather unexpected way as I was wrapping presents for kids I don’t know, reminding me of His faithfulness with my little offering of obedience . . . Wheaton College does this Christmas outreach called Angel Tree. Students pick the name and gift request of a child whose parent(s) are in prison. On each tag is a note from the parent. Most of them read something along the lines of “mommy/daddy loves you! I’m so proud of you. I’m sorry I can’t be there this Christmas.” It’s okay if you need to take a minute to imagine what it would be like to be separated in that way from your family on Christmas. Feel free to take a minute to pray for these families. I needed a minute when I was reading them. I need a minute now. Not shockingly, I saw Jesus as I read these notes. But it gets better. I ended up picking out two girls, a three year old and a ten year old. It gave me an excuse to wander into the children’s clothing section and pick out the sparkliest pink sweater I could find. But that’s not the point. After multiple trips to Wal-Mart and Target, I brought my gifts back to the Office of Christian Outreach to wrap and return them. That’s where Jesus met me. After wrapping one of the gifts, I took it over to the desk coordinator. She commented on my wrapping and we talked for a second about how much life it gives us to really care about these presents...

Whatever is True

We all know Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” You’ve probably been in Bible studies where you’ve gone through all these adjectives describing what we should be thinking about. You’ve probably made lists of honorable, pure, and lovely thoughts you should be having throughout the day. Instead of going crazy deep into this verse, I’ve found myself stopping on the first three words: Whatever is true. What does it mean to meditate on what is true? How often do I choose to look at what is true, whether that’s the Lord’s truth in Scripture or what’s true about the circumstances He’s put me in? One of my strengths (according to StrengthFinders) is futuristic, so maybe part of it is that, but I think we all have a natural tendency to dream. It’s part of the reason we love Netflix, books, and movies. It’s why we think it’s fun to look back through photo albums or old Instagram feeds. We love ideals. We love imagining or remembering the best. There’s a necessity for hope when it comes to walking with Jesus and expecting Him to move. But what do we do when hope gets muddled with our desires? When what we want blurs the lines of what God is actually doing in our present? This is where He calls us back to what is true. What’s so freeing about meditating on what is true is that it doesn’t...

When You’re Called to Make Your Block

The other night, wrapped in one of my dad’s oversized sweaters, I had some much-needed introvert time. I found myself sitting on the floor of my bedroom with a peppermint mocha and some Christmas-themed worship music, flipping through old journals. I came across the following words from the middle of my senior year of highschool: “One day, I’m going to sit in eternal fellowship in Heaven and I’m afraid I won’t have any glorious stories to tell.” February 23, 2013 The truth that there won’t be any sin, crying, identity-issues, or comparison in Heaven (Revelation 22:3-6) didn’t stop my heart from questioning it’s worth before both the Lord and other believers. What was I doing and was it enough? Was I enough? Was I living in the fullness of the extraordinary life that everyone talks about having in Jesus? Because writing papers, meeting with middle schoolers at Starbucks once a week, and trying to keep up with a blog that no one really reads didn’t feel like enough. Depending on the Lord looked like my trusting him in small things and I just wasn’t convinced that a story of his faithfulness in having grace with my siblings or building new friendships was what someone was looking for on a testimony night. But then I came across this article. Have you ever heard of Bert Elliot? Me neither. He’s the brother of the missionary Jim Elliot. I was surprised that I’d never heard of Bert, given my admiration for Jim and Elizabeth Elliot. Honestly, there’s a chance I wouldn’t even be at Wheaton College if it hadn’t come up while I was reading The Journals of Jim Elliot the summer before my senior year. The Lord has used their stories and books to shape me in some pretty formative ways....

The Power of Prayer

I hate to admit it, but I sometimes go through waves when it comes to prayer. I wish I could say I am 100% prayer warrior all the time, but if I’m honest, I go through seasons. Sometimes I believe prayer has the power to change the world and the idea of praying unceasingly comes naturally. Then there are other seasons where, though not from a lack of love for the Lord, praying just doesn’t feel all that important. Prayer is always powerful, but sometimes it is easier to let that truth grip my heart and sometimes I have to fight for it. I’ve gone through moments in the past few months that have been the latter kind of season. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to pray, it’s just that prayer lost some of its priority and significance in my heart. As I wrestled through different life circumstances, I began to question the true impact or power of prayer. And then some seemingly small events in the past couple of weeks reminded me of the significance of prayer. The truth that the Lord hears and delights in responding to our petitions. The fact is that He loves to have our hearts aligned with His. With these recent musing on prayer, I found a post that I wrote my senior year of high school, a time when I believed and saw the tangible reality of prayer. My hope is that by dusting off some of these old truths, they will breathe new life into your hearts. It has for me. April 2013 “I have felt the impact of your prayers these past weeks....

Trusting Him from the Stroller

It was the appropriately coined “solo day” on Wheaton Passage, the transition retreat for incoming Wheaton freshmen. This was our final stop after a day of fasting, prayer, and silence. Another park, this one a little less beautiful than the one before. As I sat there on the patchy grass, trying to keep my thoughts off my rumbling stomach and lack of new thoughts to journal about, I rested my back against a less-than-comfortable tree. My wandering eyes roamed around the open Bible and journal on my lap and eventually fixed upon a woman with her son a few feet in front of me. I couldn’t help but smile as I watch the young boy chase a squirrel in circles around the tree, his mom resting her arms against the back of the stroller. And as I sat, content to watch the young boy’s joy and delight in the simple things of life, drawing parallels for my own need for delight in life, the moment was interrupted. Just as my my heart was settling into the sweetness of the moment, the mom came behind the boy, scooped him up, and proceed to strap him into the stroller. He began to kick and scream, protesting the abrupt end to his playtime. I watched as he pulled his shoes off, his patient mother picking them up and pushing the stroller away. Flashbacks of babysitting flooded my mind. The boy has had his fun and now it’s time to go home. It’s what’s best for him. It’s about dinner time anyways. He’s probably hungry, although he was probably too distracted to realize it. In the...

Gratitude is Changing My Heart

People have been telling me for years to keep a gratitude journal. In my flesh, my reaction was always something like, “my relationship with Jesus is deeper than just a superficial list of things that I liked during my day.” A little less prideful reaction would be something like, “I just don’t want to ever be more focused on the gifts God is giving me than I am on God Himself.” Either way, I was convinced keeping a list of things I’m thankful for was too childish for my obviously spiritual mature ways. Ha. Oh Maddie, when will you learn. . . A few weeks ago, the Lord convicted me, through His Word, in my quiet time, through chapel speakers, friends, and mentors, that I was not keeping an attitude of thankfulness. The posture of my heart was focused on what I couldn’t control, things I felt like I’d failed at (or other’s had failed at), and the things the Lord was doing that I didn’t understand. I figured it couldn’t hurt to try writing down a few things every night, specific to that day, that I saw the Lord’s blessing in that I was grateful for. At the very least, it was an excuse to buy a new notebook and the worst that could happen is I would waste $2 on said notebook. And if it did turn out to be a source of joy and renewal, well then yay Jesus. Gratitude is changing my heart. I don’t say that lightly. And I know other, more eloquent and wise people have already discovered this, but I’m serious. It’s changed the...

Do You Trust Me?

“I don’t know why it’s been so hard to trust You this semester. I don’t know how this fits with increasing my faith – it doesn’t feel like I’m trusting you for bigger things than I used to. It kind of feels like I’m going backwards. So even in that I have to trust that You are still leading me forward, in your will and love. For Your glory and my good. My Jesus, I love you!” November 19, 2014 Set Me continually before you. You can’t put your hope in people and then expect your trust in Me to follow. See Me as the Ark of Covenant going before you. Trust that I know where I’m leading you – including your emotions. You’ll be amazed when you look back and see the story that I do. I’m increasing your faith for later things you’ll believe me for – even if you don’t see that now. Trust me with your heart, with your emotions. I don’t let hard things happen or hurt without purpose. And have grace for yourself because I have unending grace for you. I look on you with such compassion and love. I’m overflowing with eternal and faithful and trustworthy love for you. Lean into my unfailing nature, even when you don’t see how I’m fighting for you. You only see in part. Don’t miss the part you can see. Trust me with the part you can’t. I’ve got you – I won’t let you fall or misstep. I’m holding you and your heart. Let me speak to you, let me remind you of these things every...

Letting Him Lead

My freshman year of college I learned to swing dance. I’ll never forget when one of my friends pulled me out into the middle of the gym floor after I had learned the basic East Coast Swing step. We began moving our feet in sync, but the tension in my arms indicated my trepidation as I hesitantly responded to his movements. My eyes were glued to our feet, as I tried to predict the next step we would take. One failed spin too many, I finally got a laughing, “Mads, stop. You have to let me lead.” I’ve since learned a lot about swing dancing from my irregular attendance to the lessons and dances over the past two years. I’ve learned the wrong flats will give you terrible blisters. I’ve learned how  spandex shorts under dresses are a girl’s best friend. I’ve learned I’m not actually a bad follow; I just need to be dancing with a lead that I trust. Even when I trust my lead, I have to keep my eyes off our feet if I want to stop trying to predict the next move and actually enjoy the dance. I love empowering women but for swing dancing to work you have to have a lead and a follow. It’s just how the dance works. Partner dancing where two people are trying to call the shots is always a mess. He initiates the spin and I respond by spinning. He catches my back and I lean into the dip. While my time at the Wheaton swing dances wasn’t spent drawing parallels to my spiritual life, the passage my pastor read on...