Filling the Void

Stuff and things, gadgets and gizmos. It’s easy to let them consume our lives. When we’re not using our stuff and things, gadgets and gizmos, we’re taking care of them– right? Replacing batteries, updating to latest versions, and making sure everything is working properly. I realize technology is constantly changing and there is nothing wrong with keeping up with it. But in our quest to have the latest tools, is it possible we’re missing a key ingredient? Contentment. When is enough, enough? Discontentment stems from not being satisfied. Maybe we’re looking to our stuff for fulfillment, instead of looking to the One who allowed us to have the stuff in the first place. Jesus warns us of running after things: And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. Luke 12:15, KJV A sobering thought when we’re constantly bombarded with ‘newer,’ ‘bigger,’ and ‘better.’ Somehow our focus needs to shift. We need to return to the only thing that will truly satisfy: Jesus Christ (click to tweet). Returning to the Source Solomon was the wisest man who lived, and yet he struggled with contentment. He tried to find happiness in relationships with people and things – yet he failed miserably. What he discovered is found at the end of the book of Ecclesiastes: Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. Ecclesiastes 12:13, KJV When we keep our gaze firmly focused on the One who gave us...

Preparing for Christmas: A Seven-Day Plan

We face so many preparations this month. Christmas is right around the corner, and we have decorations to put up, gifts to buy and wrap, and scrumptious food to prepare. We anticipate spending time with family (and all the joy and frustration that comes with them). And although we have so many thoughts and tasks added to our calendars this month, we also have the usual routines and responsibilities of work, parenting, laundry, grocery shopping, and more. It’s a lot. It’s difficult to refocus once we get in the middle of mayhem. The time to focus is now, early in the month as the busyness begins. Today’s post is for you to print and keep where you’ll see it every morning, evening, or whenever you can intentionally read, reflect, and focus on God. Each day is not intended to be time-consuming (one more thing to add to your list!) but heart-consuming. Empty yourself of your concerns, schedule, and stress, and invite God to fill you with his presence, wisdom, and peace. Instead of inserting God into your celebrations, let him guide every moment of the month ahead, inserting the essentials and setting aside the unnecessary. Day 1. Prepare. The Old Testament is sprinkled with the foretelling of Jesus’ birth. It’s easy to see now, because we live beyond the birth of Jesus. Realizing the accuracy of the words spoken many years before is awe-inspiring. Read Isaiah 53 and let the prophecy soak into you. Day 2. Plant. It’s easy to allow truth to be uprooted. We’re surrounded by clashing messages. The messages with a little truth mixed with a lot of...

How To Get Your Heart Right This Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is just a few days away and yet if I’m being honest there are days in this season of life when it is just plain hard to be thankful. Shocking, I know. I shouldn’t be saying that to you, I should put on my Patty perfect pastor’s wife hat and pretend to have it all together…but, I just can’t do that anymore. You and I both know that being real with each other is so much healthier than some pretend story of how someone else’s life is more put together than yours. Plus, it is a reality that many can relate to right now. I can count my blessings, I can try to be positive, but let’s face it–life is hard sometimes and it’s not enough to know that fact in your head, you’ve got to give it time to get your heart. So, what are you supposed to do when you should have a heart of thanksgiving but your heart and your head aren’t talking to each other? That’s a great question and I’ve found some incredible wisdom for us right here in this verse; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God,which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 ESV Let’s dig right in because this is just too good to wait on…if we are anxious then chances are we aren’t going to have a heart of thanksgiving, will we? We’ll be, well…anxious. Worried, frazzled, distracted and trying...

What is my Reputation?

“I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority.” 3 John 1:9 Ouch! This verse hits home. Would anyone want their reputation to be that they put themselves first? I can be selfish. I often seek the best seat, first crack at the food, or to be first in line. I fall so easily into the trap of thinking putting myself first is the way to be happy. That’s a lie! It’s one tool our enemy, Satan, uses to lead us away from Jesus. It feels like putting self first makes us happy because it does: momentarily. For the moment, we enjoy the comfort, recognition, or convenience self-promotion brings us. But what are the fruits over time? I have found that although I may enjoy indulging self at the time, my selfish cravings are never satisfied. It becomes a black hole that can’t be filled. Self always wants more. Self starts wanting to always be first. There is always another craving. I can’t think of a time that my flesh (as opposed to my spirit) was completely satisfied. Jesus said that anyone who wants to follow Him must deny him or herself daily. (Luke 9:23) Self-denial sounds painful. It doesn’t feel good. Paul goes on to say in Philippians 2:3 that we should consider others as better than ourselves and challenges us not to do anything from selfish ambition. This is the opposite of what the world teaches. But what are the results of living this way? Denying self may be painful for the moment, but choosing to...

The Truth about Success

We all want success. We might define and measure it differently, but we want it. We strive for it. We assess it. And we feel as if we attain it at times. And we know we fall short at times. Success in God’s kingdom seems simple enough: It’s faithfulness. Surely we can be faithful, right? Yet we fall short, because we see the gap between who we are/what we do and what we could have, should have, but didn’t. We make our success about our own efforts, what we can measure, but that’s not how God measures our faithfulness. He wants our willingness, our humility, our attention. He wants our best but knows our best is never perfect. He knows we need Him. And when we know we need Him, we respond in faithfulness. Faithfulness is trust, not perfection. Faithfulness is humility, not self-sufficiency. Faithfulness is responsibility, not control. We decide to be faithful, but God drives our faithfulness. He fuels it. He provides everything we need for it. Our faithfulness is our response to God’s faithfulness. Will we ever completely measure up? No. Does that mean we’re not faithful? Absolutely not. Quit being so hard on yourself and others. Simply choose faithfulness in this moment....

How to Embrace Seasons of Change

Change: we all go through it at some point in our lives and it happens whether we want it to or not. So what do we do when the winds of change start to blow and we simply don’t want things to change? Do we stomp our feet like little kids and cross our arms, forbidding change to happen? Do we jump on an imaginary surfboard and ride the waves of change like a free spirit? Do we go through the motions of change, doing what we gotta do, all the while wondering, “what just happened?” If you are anything like me, you’ve probably done all three at some point or another in your life. This year though, has been different. This year has been all about change in every single arena of my life. Okay, so not every single arena. I am still very much happily married, but pretty much everything else has changed and this has proven to be one of the most emotional, gut wrenching, spirit checking, soul searching seasons in my life. I’ve always pictured myself as an “adventurer” type of person. The one who leads change, blazes new paths, plows right ahead. It wasn’t until everything changed that I realized just how comfortable my life was and how much I liked it that way. Isn’t that usually the way it is in life? You think things are one way, then quickly realize you were off in your view of reality. This has absolutely been the case for me, and while I wrestle with all the change, I’m slowly starting to let the words from...

be Still

In our society, we are always on the go. Our to-do lists are constantly running through our heads and chances are even as we skim over this we are thinking of all the other things we still have to do today. Oh my, sweet friends, it’s time for us to stop the running, the chasing, and the endless pursuit of what the world tells us that we should want– – money – status – stuff – more _______ (fill in the blank) …and stop long enough to simply be still. Just for a moment. Come on, try it. Just be still, take a deep breathe in then exhale slowly. Don’t text, tweet, instagram or update your status (ha, caught you!) — there’ll be time for that later. Right now though, let’s try to simply be still and see what God does. Listen, I’m not great at this either, I’m about as “Dory” as they come, but it is something I’ve been challenged on lately and wanted to share some of what I’m learning through it with you. Here’s what you can do to get started on learning to be still. Ask Him to join you in your be still and silent moment. Release all the distractions clamoring for your attention. Take a few deep breaths in and really start to slow yourself down a bit. Wait for Him to come sit beside you. I’ve found that it’s best to do before your days gets away from you, but here’s a little heads up as you get started. I can guarantee you that it will not be easy at first. Everything around you...

Winning is Helping Others

“What’s wrong with me?” “Why can’t I be like her?” “I’ll never be that gifted.” “If only I was like….” Comparison and jealousy are the problems: not my perceived lack of gifts. All good things come from God. When there is love, it flows from Him. Where there are gifts, they’re from Him. We don’t create our gifts. Our talents and abilities don’t originate with us. Yes, we nurture and practice them. We choose to grow them or hide them, but we did not create the seed. All of our gifts come from God. We are the caretakers. He is the Master. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17 What can we take credit for? Nothing. What will we answer for? How well we invested what He gave us. Did we hide our gifts or use them? Multiply them or let them grow stagnant? Any boasting goes to Him. All glory goes to Him. The call is to see Him in the gifts of others, not competition. See His hand and glory. Jealousy is questioning God and how He chooses to show His glory. We’re all on the same team, running in the same direction. Winning is helping others. Winning is when God is glorified. Self-exaltation is defeat. Leaving others behind, shutting them out, resenting their gifts, not loving others, and putting self first are in opposition to God. “…All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows...

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...

Does Your Life Have Good Lighting?

Evening passed, and morning came. This was the third day. Then God said, “Let there be lights in the sky to separate day from night. These lights will be used for signs, seasons, days, and years.They will be in the sky to give light to the earth.” And it happened. Genesis 1:13-15 While we each experience seasons differently because of where we live, consider the four seasons of the year. What’s your favorite, and why? According to Genesis, seasons are inextricably linked with the lights that separate the night from the day. Isn’t that what often seems to separate our spiritual seasons as well? Consider it from an experiential perspective. Winter is seen as the most depressing and depraved season. There’s a lack of direct sunlight as well as less sunlit hours through the day. Our spiritual winters feel dark. The clouds seem oppressive. The damp cold chills us. We long for direct sunlight to part the skies and shine directly on us for warmth and refreshment. Knowing the depressing effects of shortened days and lengthened darkness through the winter months, some people opt for light therapy or strategic vacations to help them sustain a balance of mental and emotional health. On the other hand, summer’s extended daylight hours and direct sunshine invite us into increased energy and opportunities to stay active through outside work and play. Bleakness is shoved aside by illumination. Chill is blown away by breezes warmed by sunlight. We fully experience life, taking our hats off to feel the sun’s warmth and digging our bare toes into soft grass and sparkling sand. How would you...