Your Family Is Bigger Than You Think

Eight months ago I left my church family that I’d been worshiping with for 8 years.  I had grown to love those folks so much but God had clearly shown us that it was time for us to move to Florida.

With that move came the task of finding a new church. Much to my surprise we landed in a church immediately.  I thought since we’d found a place right away, it would be much easier to make the transition. But, I was wrong. Transitions are never easy, especially for someone who struggles with even small changes. After 8 months, I am finally beginning to make some connections. We’ve joined a small group that meets weekly and I’ve joined the teaching team for the womens’ bible study on Wednesday evenings.

But I still walk into the auditorium on a Sunday morning and find my seat  along with 1500 other people who I don’t recognize. In a church with a membership of over 3000 I think I can put names to faces of about 20 people.

Recently I was sitting in the worship service and suddenly thought about someone I’d gone to church with years ago. Someone in the congregation reminded me of that person and it made me smile. Then I began to think of others I’ve worshiped with over the 40 years that I’ve been a Christ follower.  So many wonderful, loving folks that I had the privilege of walking part of the journey with. People  who are taking a different path now or have already arrived at the final destination of worshiping forever in the presence of Jesus. The faces of those special friends came to mind one after another.

As I closed my eyes I could imagine that they were all right there with me, worshiping the Lord as I was.  It brought me comfort but also reminded me that God is not bound by time or space.  Even though I am not in the physical presence of the precious ones that came to mind, and may never be again in this life, I can trust that we are still all part of the same family. We are still worshiping the same God “together” although we are many miles apart or even separated by death.

And one day, we will all be together in Eternity.  One day we will see Him face to face. One day we will gather together and there will be no strangers.

When I opened my eyes again, I didn’t see a vast sea of unknown faces.  I saw brothers and sisters in Christ. Family members that I just haven’t met yet.

Perhaps you have had the same experience. Perhaps you too have felt alone in a crowd. Remember, there are family members all over the world that you just haven’t met yet. Perhaps it’s time to reach out to them and introduce yourself.  They may be looking for you too.

Ephesians 2: 19-22   ” So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.”

And Here They Are: Maxey Memories #3 and #4

This has been a busy week.  Sometimes things are moving along so fast that we can miss some important moments. This week we had one of those moments and we almost missed it but I think God prompted me to take notice and we were able to savor the making of a memory.

We’ve been in this living arrangement of 3 families totaling 15 people living in the same house for just over 8 months now.  It hasn’t been without it’s challenges. But this season is coming to an end.  Josh and Maggie are making the final arrangements to move into their own apartment in just a few days.  While you might not think it’s a big deal that we will ONLY have 13 people living here now, their presence will be missed. I will miss saying good morning to them and hearing about their workdays.  I will miss listening to them interact with a 2-year-old when she barges into their room uninvited but always welcomed.  I will miss having them at the dinner table.  That is what prompted this memory, Maxey Memory #3.

At dinner the other night we were all there. Doesn’t happen that often since a couple of the boys work the dinner hour at Chick-Fil-A most evenings.

resizedIMG_3605But this night we were all together and it suddenly dawned on me that it would be the last meal we would eat as a family sharing the same home.

To be sure, Josh and Maggie will be back and will eat meals with us in the future, but this was the night that would end an 8 month adventure that none of us will forget.  I am excited for them and their next chapter, but there is also a sadness that something is ending.  They are so happy to be finally setting up housekeeping in their own place and that is as it should be. But I  know that what we experienced, with all it’s struggles and challenges, changed us all. We will never be the same after having to learn to share our space as we have. Life moves on and the adventure continues, with a few adjustments ahead!

The other memory that I wanted to share was a once in a lifetime adventure. We had the opportunity to experience “The Beach.”

resizedDSCF0210  Not your typical Florida beach with sun and sand. This was an elaborate interactive art exhibit in Tampa Amalie Arena (usually used by the Tampa Bay Lightning Hockey Team). They filled the floor with over a million white plastic balls and set up beach chairs and tables on the “shore”.

resizedDSCF0072 We had a wonderful time pretending to be at the beach with no water. The exhibit was only here for a month and will be packed up and travel overseas for it’s next stop.

resizedDSCF0139 We were so excited to have the chance to make this memory, Maxey Memory #4.

What kind of memories have you been making?

Make No Mistake

Make no mistake, God does not make mistakes.

We hear it all around us. The questioning of God’s ways, both from skeptics as well as believers.

We hear things like “how could a good God allow this (or that) to happen?”  We also hear those who would question the actions of God recorded in the Bible. We just can’t understand the motives and decisions of God and it bothers us. For centuries the skeptics have tried to discount God’s infallibility by pointing out the presumed contradictions in the Scriptures.  But God is clear in His own defense ( as if He needs any).

Deut. 32:4 “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” (NIV)

Psalm 18:30 “As for God, his way is perfect: The LORD’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.”

Romans 12:2 “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

The disciples thought that the death of Jesus was a mistake. They didn’t understand, even after walking with Him for three years, that He came to die on purpose. It didn’t fit into their logic. They thought He had come to free them from Rome and when He died they were sure that it was a mistake.

Still today, His followers are often puzzled by the way God works in our world. It doesn’t make sense to us. But would we really want to serve a God that made sense to our limited human intellect? Probably not!

When we see injustice and tragedy in the news it’s hard not to ask why. When we face painful circumstances in our own lives or the lives of loved ones, it’s hard not to think God made a mistake.  But we must remember what the prophet Isaiah told us. In Isaiah 55:9 he says “”For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” That means we can’t even begin to understand what is in the mind of God. When we try all we do is get confused and discouraged. Instead, we would do better to focus on trusting Him to do what we cannot do for ourselves. Trust him to not only make our circumstances work for our good but to take our own mistakes and bring good from them as well. He is able to make all things work for good. That means the ugly things we see in the headlines every day as well as our own foolish mistakes brought about from our misguided motives and selfish desires. We can let God bring good from all of it if we will trust Him. He knows what He’s doing.  Always.

 

Immediately!

While reading the Gospels, have you ever noticed how many times the word immediately is used? Some versions say “at once” or “right away.” In every case, the intent is clear. When Jesus is present things happen.  In Mark chapter 2 it says that the paralytic man and the leper were healed instantly when Jesus said the word.  And when He raises the dead, it doesn’t happen gradually!

Sometimes we think because the Lord encourages us to be persistent in prayer that we are in for a long wait to see an answer. At times, that will be the case. But I think we make our God too small when we assume that it will take Him a long time to come up with an answer for us. The fact is God can answer immediately if he chooses to.  He doesn’t have to wait on anyone. He can change people and circumstances in an instant.  Sometimes he will even answer your prayers before you complete your request!  And when He does…give Him the glory!

John 14:13-14   Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. 

Moments and the Making of Memories

Perhaps I need to start something new. With so much stress and challenge in my personal life and in the world in general I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the weight of the day.

Perhaps others feel the same way. We constantly hear people say life moves too fast. Every day is busier and more stressful than the day before. We get so busy just trying to maintain the pace that we lose track of the moments.

Moments can often be those times when something happens that is unexpected but you suddenly just decide to run with it. I would like to become more aware of the “moments” in life. To be more intentional about choosing how to spend each moment.

I don’t mean finding a way to schedule all the minutes in my day or fill all the hours of each day to the fullest. What I mean is choosing to do the things that make memories.

This morning was the perfect example.  It was raining. That’s what it does in August in Florida. It rains. We usually find indoor activities to occupy ourselves knowing that in a month or so the weather will change and we’ll begin enjoying more outdoor activities again. But this morning we woke to a steady, heavy rain.

The grandkids looked outside and began asking if they could go out and play. They wanted to play in the rain. After gaining permission to do so since there was no lightning, they excitedly began looking for swimsuits. I went back to my room content to get a few things done while they were all playing. But then a thought whispered in my ear.

“Go with them.”

I smiled and dismissed it. Maybe another time. But suddenly I stopped. Why not? What would it hurt to put my agenda aside and play in the rain?

I quickly changed and grabbed a towel. I was so excited by this time that I didn’t realize until I saw the pictures that I’d put my gym shorts on inside out!  Didn’t matter one bit!  The next 30 minutes were filled with the giggles and squeals of 6 little ones having a grand time playing in the rain with grandma.

3untitledI got soaked. I got dirty (boys love to splash in muddy puddles). But we had so much fun! When we were done I came in, took a shower and went on with my day. And I’m glad to report that I got all my clothing on right side out this time!

What would I have accomplished in that half hour? Nothing that measures up to the memories I made by choosing to embrace the moment instead of letting it pass me by.

So, here’s what I’m thinking.  This is another opportunity for God to teach me to live life more intentional.  For the past 2 years I have focused on being thankful.  I’ve kept a “thankful journal” where I write the things that cause me to say “thank you, Lord.”

Now I want to become more conscious of living in the moments. I want to intentionally choose instances where I invite God to make a memory. Today I was paying attention and now have a wonderful memory. As I collect these memories I will have more to smile about. I cannot think of a better way to find joy in the midst of the chaotic days of life.

untitledSo, with this, I offer you…

Maxey Memory #1. Playing in the rain.

Stay tuned, there will be many more to come!

And, I challenge you to do the same. Share your moments. It will be good for all of us.

 

What Does a Door Have to Do With Trust?

I remember watching a television game show called “Let’s Make a Deal” hosted by Monty Hall when  I was a little girl.

The premise was that the contestant had the opportunity to win a nice prize if he could guess which of the three doors held the prize. He had a chance to win a car but he might end up with a goat if he chose the wrong door.

We sometimes feel like we are in the same situation. We have several opportunities before us and wish someone would tell us which door to choose in order to get the prize we seek. So we ask God for guidance.

Problem is, God’s idea of the prize and mine is often very different. It might just be that the goat IS the prize.  It’s seems easy to ask God to direct me in choosing the right door but sometimes I’m not particularly  pleased with what lies beyond the door He opens.

And sometimes He chooses to close a door that I didn’t want to see closed. Does it require more trust to move forward through a newly opened door or to allow God to close the door behind me and lock it?

Last week I received news that could change some things in my future.  I learned that I have something called Dupuytren’s Contracture, a condition in the hand that causes the slow contraction of the fingers.  The fingers bend toward the palm of the hand and cannot be straightened.  What I thought was a simple surgery for trigger fingers has turned out to be something much more difficult to manage.

Is the door of “normal” going to close behind me with the new development? Will I lose the ability to do the things I love like quilting and writing? Can I trust God to change the way I view the future? Can I trust that His plan for me is still good?

I have crossed a new threshold. Not sure of the outcome. I know God can heal and I know He can cause me to not lose the use of my hand. but what if he doesn’t?  I got pretty upset about the possibility of losing the use of my hand. But what if it was my sight? or my hearing?   What about something even more important, like my family?  We can’t really rank what we would find more difficult to lose.  I don’t think God wants us to spend time on that.  What He wants us to do is trust that He has already figured it out.

We are quick to ask Him to open doors and close doors as a way to direct us in our walk through life but are we really willing to trust his choices?  The sacrifices God asks us to make seem too big sometimes.

So here’s my question.  What if God places a new door in front of you and you are only  allowed to walk across the threshold  if you are willing to let the door behind you close and seal forever? No turning back. What if everything you love is behind you and the future is unsure?

Are you willing to walk through the door if all you’ve acquired and all you’ve accomplished is behind you and only Jesus stands before you?  Could you allow that door behind you to slam shut forever and believe that Christ alone is enough?

Can you believe that Jesus is the prize and nothing else can even come close?

Philippians 3:7-8  But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.

God has used a couple of songs lately to draw me to himself. I include them here and hope you are blessed as well.

Christ is Enough

Thy Will Be Done

 

So, We Just Had Christmas, Sort of…

This weekend was Christmas at our house. Well, not really but we had to find some way to break up the endless 95 degree days with pop up thunderstorms every day.  Listening to Christmas music helped change the mood for a while.

On Saturday we baked six kinds of our traditional Christmas cookies. We have about fifteen varieties that we make every year in December. This was just a sample. This time we had a special treat. Aaron’s girlfriend brought homemade Italian Cannoli that her father made for us. Delicious!

On Sunday, after church, we watched Charlie Brown’s Christmas and also the old Mr. Magoo Christmas Carol.  We cooked up a small sampling of the foods we enjoy at our family Christmas Eve celebration. It’s a spread of dishes made with recipes that have been with our family for at least three decades.  Everybody helps cook. And of course everybody helps eat!

After our meal was enjoyed and cleaned up  the real fun began. This year we had 16 people packed into the living room. In the middle of the room was a pile of plainly wrapped white elephant gifts. 32 of them.  We had a great time opening and then stealing from each other. Lots of laughter, lots of bargaining and mostly happy people. We had one little one who melted down for a moment when his gift was stolen but quickly recovered when he realized he could steal from someone else!

One of the things I love about our current living arrangement is that when we have these kinds of celebrations nobody has to go home! Of course there is a certain amount of chaos but by now we are used to it for the most part. What I love is that we are making memories that come as a surprise. I never imagined we’d have this opportunity. On the days when the challenges seem almost insurmountable I remind myself what we are building. I think about the memories we’ve made. Some of them have come from not such great circumstances, like the backed up plumbing

God’s Works Last Forever

There is so much truth in the book of Ecclesiastes. If we could remember just how brief this life is and try to pay more attention to the eternal consequences of our actions we would be so much better off. But of course we don’t.  Instead, we tend to live for the moment and when it’s all so unsatisfying we wonder why. Then when we read something like Ecclesiastes we can become discouraged and be tempted to conclude “what’s the point?” just as Solomon did.

 That’s when it’s good to remember a few of the specific verses in the book that give us hope.

Eccl 3:12-14 “ I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime; moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor – it is a gift of God. I know that everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has so worked that men should fear Him.”

God is in complete control! He will see it through until the end, and best of all? If we persevere we will receive the blessing.

Eccl 7:8 clearly reminds us, “The end is better than the beginning!”