Sister to Sister: I Just Love this Story!

Unknown-4I hope you are enjoying the week as much as we are at the West Huntsville church. It’s Family Bible Week and the excitement is over the top. Kids are learning and adults are, too. My skit this year is a re-enactment of the parable we call “The Prodigal Son” so I’ve been thinking lots about that boy who chose the money over the security and about how we, enamored by the world’s cheap glitter, often do the same. I’ve thought about how you could never have talked him out of going to that far country when the silver was jingling in his pockets and how that you could never have talked him out of returning home when it was gone. The difference, of course, was all in that moment when he “came to himself”—you know, the pig pen moment. The pig pen moment is a moment of the heart (called repentance) and we all have to have it before we can come to (or come back to) the Father. I hope you have had your pig pen moment. I have had several.

I’ve thought about the Father, too—how he released the son to go and waste his substance. I’ve pondered how many people I know who are in the faraway country today because God never makes anyone serve him. He never keeps you against your will. I’ve thought about how you can be a prodigal even on the church pew every Sunday. If your heart is in the pig pen, then sitting on the pew doesn’t make you any less filthy. Teens get to choose between the Father’s house and the pig pen even if parents are forcing them to be in the worship assemblies, because the pig pen is all about the heart. God releases us. He allows us to choose. It’s free moral agency and it’s what sets us apart from any other creatures He made way back on the sixth day of history.

I picture Him as he rested on the porch. I do not believe it was an accident that he saw His son “a great way off.” He was watching and anxiously waiting for him. But His work was done. He had a place—a home—ready and waiting for the homecoming of the one that was astray. He did not go looking for the Son. It was the “seventh day” for this Father. Everything he had done for the son was good. It was all up to the boy now. Of course, I am the boy in the spiritual analogy. There is nothing more God can do to bring me home. The choices and faith’s response of obedience are all up to me.

The best part is that the Father ran. That’s right. When the boy came down the path, haggard, dirty, lean and lost, the Father ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. God runs. When a prodigal turns his heart from subversion to servanthood, God runs to forgive.

He rejoiced, too. My Father makes merry. What a tragedy when all things are ready for a feast, but I keep the long-suffering One waiting on the porch.

He reclaimed. Notice that the son asked to be a servant. That position is much more than he deserved. But the Father restored him to the position he claimed before he ever left the house. “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!”

He reconciled. You have to love the way the Father approached the elder brother whose body was in the back yard, but whose heart was in the pig pen. The Father wanted the elder brother to be pure, not only in practice but in his heart. He wanted the love of the Father to be in that boy. It’s interesting that John tells us that if we love the world (like the prodigal was doing in the faraway country), the love of the Father is not in us. (I John 2:15). But the same passage tells us that if we fail to love our brethren, we are still stumbling in the darkness (I John 2:9). How many nights did the prodigal spend stumbling around in the world without the love of the Father in his heart? How many nights did the elder brother spend stumbling around in the Father’s house of light because he failed to love his brother?

I just love this story. It is my favorite parable of the Lord. I have been the prodigal. I have been the elder brother. It’s interesting that our Lord left the “jury out” on the heart of the elder brother. Perhaps the “pig pen moment” is harder if you’ve never physically left the Father’s house. But may I always remember that I can stumble in the darkness even in His house. I can be in dire need of “coming to myself” even when I am physically in the presence of the family of God.

I just love this story.

A Great Idea for an Outdoor VBS!

nonameIt’s family Bible week at West Huntsville this week. One hundred adults have convened nightly for about the past week putting together some very animated versions of three eternally important stories that our Lord told while here on earth, along with assembling another center about laying up our treasures in heaven. They’ve also gone all out putting together a plan and materials for age appropriate crafts, planning an art contest and a “tribal time” sing-along for kids. It’s the time of year when there’s the most excitement about Bible classes and, best of all, the time of year when we have more non-member visitors than at all the other services during all the rest of the year combined. Look for pictures and a report about the week later on. Better yet, come on over and see it for yourself—through Wednesday night beginning each night at 6:45.

 

But today, I’d like to share with you some photos of another Bible adventure hosted by the West 160 church in West Plains, Missouri. On the property of the Kirby Cole family and open to church and community, it proved to be one of the best attended events of that church in recent history. I think the pictures will give you an idea of the theme and the unique outdoor flavor of this day. What a unique way to bring the scriptures to life for our children! One family had an idea, other Christian families pitched in and a re-enacted trip to Canaan happened, complete with crossing the Jordan and piling up the rock monument.  Best of all, lots of people left with a new zeal for reaching our promised land. (If you click on a photo–wait–then click on it again, the pics will enlarge!)

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Run!

runningThere’s only one chance at the wreath that awaits

Only one lifetime to strive.

Only one finish that counts in this world.

And only the time you’re alive.

Only one manual, one trainer, one chance.

Just time between you and the goal.

Only one foe to disqualify you

But this enemy runs for your soul.

This race is for brave-hearted, die hard achievers

For buffeting, disciplined focused believers.

For those who can throw off the weights that would slow them

For those who have studied the rules and who know them

For those who lean heartily on practice and skills,

But also on faith and an undeterred will.

So run, undistracted.  Run fast toward the goal.

Keep steady, breathe deeply, and run for your soul.

The world is now small in the distance diminished.

The wreath soon you’ll wear..You’re approaching the finish!

The glory of this wreath dies not with applause.

This glory’s forever, for it’s in the cross!

 

 

Crazy-Happy

daily-glow-photogallery-zit-zappers-woman-with-towel-on-face2I love days like today. The neighborhood was Sunday-morning-quiet at 6 am when I did my two mile walk. Even the bull dog who passed me on the Pike was friendly. I had about 36 hours at home between trips and I was thankful and planned to use every moment of it expeditiously–laundry, unpacking, repacking, picking blueberries, studying for three lessons I’m doing this week, and most importantly, worshiping the Lord; praising Him for the first-world life of material blessings and renewing my desire to place them in after-world investments. He is so good.

And just as I began to get ready to leave for worship, my phone rang. Nuris. Now I love Nuris. We’ve been studying the scriptures together for the past four years, on and off. Nuris is from El Salvador, a wife and mother of two sweet little girls. I knew that Nuris was close to making the most important decision of her life. Hearing her voice on the phone with a baby crying in the background, I knew she was intent about something on this early Sunday morning: “I am trying to come church, Cindy. But I just found out my car is broken and my husband has to fix. So I don’t think it will be fixed in time.” (I love her sweet broken English. She is learning so quickly.)

So I threw my wet hair in a quick braid and I was out the door. Nuris lives pretty far from me and she lives pretty far from the building where we worship, too. As I was on my way to pick her up, she called again. Long story short,  her husband ended up bringing her, because he needed to get a car part in town, so I turned around to go back home and retrieve my husband. I forgot the card I was supposed to deliver to someone. I forgot the books I was supposed to deliver to someone else. There was no time to go and look for the frog costume (yes, that’s what I said) that I was supposed to take to yet another person. I did throw a baggie of fruit loops and a doll in my purse for sermon-time entertainment for  Nuris’ sweet little four year old.  I remarked to my husband, “You know, my life is just crazy!” I was out the door for the second time.

My life IS crazy…crazy happy. When the sermon was over this morning, my friend Nuris walked down that aisle to put on our Lord in baptism. I came with her, baby carrier in hand and a four-year-old in tow. My sweet sisters Holly and Emily met us all down front to lend hands with kids, towels and sweet hugs. We filled up that front pew. I love having a front row seat to hear that sweet confession. Then on the way to the baptistry, Nuris said, “I am not out there in the world anymore. I am of the Lord. You know, Cindy, the devil put so many things in my way, but I am not going to let him stop me.” I hope she never lets him stop her.

I heard this afternoon that there were people who had crazy-happy days like this in the states of Tennessee and Virginia today, too. I hope there were people all around the world who could rejoice with the angels today. It is not everyday that you get to play a tiny part in a process that moves the finger of God as He writes a name in the Book of Life. But I wish it was.

 

It’s Finally Time Again: West Huntsville Purity Day! Register Now!

 

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West Huntsville has a teen girls’  Purity Day only once every four years. It’s a day that chock full of encouragement to teen girls; encouragement to live now for the security and happiness of their future lives. What they can absorb in just a few hours truly can make the difference between regret and fulfillment for years down the road. The speaker is Hannah Colley Giselbach. The date is August 2nd. The text is the Word of God. There is no charge for the event and if your group would like free housing on Friday night before the day’s activities, that’s available, too. Where else can you take teens for instruction and KNOW that the manual is flawless? I mean it has all the right answers for the problems that challenge those sweet teen sisters who are looking for the answers that the world around them just doesn’t offer. Hannah plans to give personal, practical and, most importantly, truthful information for maintaining purity of mind and body…a tough goal in 21st century teen America. She will challenge the minds of the girls on topics like sexual morality, their media use, and modesty in demeanor and dress.

I hope you will bring your daughters and the girls between the ages of twelve and twenty in your congregation. I hope you’ll bring their moms and their older mentors. There will be singing, fellowship, lunch, and materials available for later use. Your girls will leave with more confidence to say “no” to the world and “yes” to the Word.

I hope that, even if you can’t come, you will join me in praying for Alissa Clarke and the teen girls at West Huntsville as they work and plan, for their mothers who will also be working, and for every heart of every girl who attends. I hope you will help us get the word out to all who might be able to come. We would love to have many churches represented, but please encourage those in your community who may not belong to the Lord’s church to come with you, too. I cannot think of a better venue for evangelism.

Finally, at the risk of being too open with you, let me say that i am thinking of one young woman, as I write, who came very close to making a huge mistake in her teen years. She stated “ I was about to relinquish everything I knew was good and pure in a moment of passion. But I thought, in that moment, of something Hannah had written in her book “GIFTS”, and it gave me the courage to say ‘Wait, I have changed my mind. I can get out of this situation and live without regret.’” And so she did. She is now the wife of a faithful minister. This is a true story. It is not because of Hannah that she found the strength to choose wisely at that crossroads in her life. It is because of the power of the Word. But it takes time in the Word to build that resolve. I hope you can take some time in the Word on August 2nd. Register here: www.purity.westhuntsville.org. Feel free to Facebook me with any questions you may have.

 

 

 

Sister to Sister: Like Mother, Like Daughter–Conclusion

SI ExifJezebel and Athaliah

Mother/Daughter Bible Study—Conclusion

Between the Two of You:

Adult/Adult Study (If you are an altogether adult mother-daughter team)

Discuss or email back and forth your thoughts on the following:

  1. Read Proverbs 31. Mark the verses between 10 and 31 that are blatantly uncharacteristic of the lives of Jezebel and Athaliah and notice how the Proverbs 31 woman is different from these two women. How was the beauty of Jezebel vain in the end?

2.  Jezebel and Athaliah were definitely FIRST and CHIEF in many ways in this lifetime. Use your KJV     concordance to look up the words “first/last”, “chief/servant”, “greatest/least”, “humble, humbleth/exalted” within the gospels. See if you can come up with 13 passages in which Jesus told us who it is that is truly great in the end.  Make a list of five ways you can exemplify servanthood in the coming week.

3.  Is the biblical concept of greatness similar to the world’s concept? How is it similar or how is it different  in the field of politics, in the public school system, or in mainstream religions in America?

Adult/Teen Study (If you are a mom and teen daughter team)

 

  1. Read together the following blog post: http://thecolleyhouse.org/questions-and-answers-is-it-okay-to-want-to-look-pretty
  2. Discuss together each of the suggestions and see if you agree or disagree with them. Make a list of your own of things you believe can help the two of you to focus on inward beauty.

Adult/Child Study (if you are a mom and child team)

(Be sure you tell your daughter, in age-appropriate terms, the material from the last post about Athaliah.)

 

  1. Talk about the two choices that people get to make about where they will go when they get finished living here. Read Matthew 25: 31-46 from your child’s Bible. Make a plan for something you can do together that will be of service for someone this week. Try to think of something specific that falls into one of the categories of verses 35 and 36.
  2. Make a list of people (from the popular stories that your daughter is “all about” right now) who are pretty on the outside but not on the inside or vice versa. Examples might be the wolf that was dressed up like a grandmother in the story of “Little Red Riding Hood” or the  Beast in “Beauty and the Beast.” Talk about how important it is to be pretty all the way through. and then read Proverbs 31: 30 together and discuss what it means to fear the Lord.